Dorian disaster: no word yet from Bahamian churches and pastors

Among Hurricane Dorian’s many victims are the pastors and congregations of nine churches of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of the Bahamas.

And that has CBF Florida Coordinator Ray Johnson eager for news from the devastated island nation.

Ray Johnson

“We are still trying to assess things,” Johnson said Tuesday morning. “In general, it’s an incredible disaster. Words just fail me as we try to assess what we can do.”

The Bahamian churches work in direct partnership with CBF Florida, Johnson explained. They have often sent teams to help in the aftermath of disasters in the United States. Johnson said he has been working directly with them for 15 years.

So it’s especially worrisome that Johnson has not heard directly from any of those ministers or lay people since the then-Category 5 hurricane made its initial landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday. Authorities there say at least five people were killed in the storm that lingered over the island more than 24 hours.

Johnson said he is trying to determine the condition of up to 500 members of four churches on Grand Bahama and four on the Abaco Islands, which are among the hardest hit areas. Another church is located much farther south on Acklins Island, he said.

Johnson said he’s learned second-hand that John McIntosh, the coordinator of CBF Bahamas and pastor of New Hope Baptist Church on Abaco, and his wife are safe but lost their home to the hurricane.

File photo of John McIntosh, front left, worshiping with Suzii Paynter, then-executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“Our churches are seriously impacted by this storm,” Johnson said.

And getting help to them isn’t going to be easy or quick.

As of Tuesday morning, Johnson said he’s aware of only one working airport in the Bahamas. But roads leading from it are submerged, leaving responders stuck in their staging areas.

“They can’t get aid from the airport to the people who need it.”

CBF and CBF of Florida are not first-responder agencies, he added. Instead, they focus on long-term disaster recovery.

“We are going to need funds for the long-term rebuild that is going to take years” in the Bahamas, Johnson said.

The appeal for those funds has begun in earnest.

In addition to prayer, CBF has called for financial contributions in response to Dorian’s devastation of the Bahamas and for its yet-to-be-seen impact on Florida and the Carolinas.

Through its blog, the Fellowship provided links for financial donations and for individuals and churches available for future disaster-relief trips.

Paul Baxley

CBF also said emergency supplies will be delivered via boat later this week to the Bahamas on behalf of CBF and CBF Florida.

“They will be delivering tents, water filters and chlorine generators for purifying larger volumes of drinking water,” according to the blog.

But it’s important to remember the importance of prayer in this situation, CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley said in comments published by CBF.

“I ask all of our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship community to join me in praying for all of the people of the Bahamas, and especially for our CBF Bahamas partner congregations as they experience the terror of this storm,” he said. “Our calling is to pray fervently for the safety of our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Bahamas and to give generously toward the relief efforts that will be needed.”

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