Churches, relief agencies rally to help Dorian victims in the Bahamas
Days after a devastating hit by Hurricane Dorian, members of Churches of Christ on the Abaco island are being airlifted to nearby Nassau, capital of the Bahamas.
“This is more of a marathon than a sprint.”
The Christians’ homes were destroyed when the Category 5 storm hit, along with most everything else on their island and the neighboring Grand Bahama island. After the storm, 15 church members had spent the last few days sleeping in a van, trying to figure out their next move.
“It’s hard for us to understand the scope of it,” said Joseph Smith, vice president of Healing Hands International, a Nashville, Tenn.-based humanitarian aid organization associated with Churches of Christ.
Healing Hands is working with church members on the various islands to assess the needs and begin the long process of helping them recover.
“This is more of a marathon than a sprint,” said Smith, whose ministry helped after past hurricanes in Haiti and Puerto Rico. “It’s going to be a long, long time of helping the church members rebuild their homes and church buildings.”
At least 30 people are dead in the Bahamas, but that number is expected to rise significantly as cleanup begins, according to multiple news reports. Hundreds are reported missing.
The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 200 people in the Bahamas since Dorian began. The guard continues to work in the area and expects to be there for weeks.
“Everyone seems to be shell-shocked right now, a PTSD reaction to coming out from where they rode out the storm,” Smith said.
“It’s hard to recognize the surroundings because the normal buildings and intersections have been wiped away.”
The Marsh Harbour Church of Christ, a congregation with about 100-members on Abaco island, had roof damage, but its building was otherwise unharmed.
Healing Hands says repairing the building will be essential to helping the church help the community. Once repaired, the building can be used as a “central place” for the community — for relief supplies and even shelter, Smith said.
The families airlifted out of Abaco will stay with church members in Nassau temporarily.
The Freeport Church of Christ, on the island of Grand Bahama, has reported to our contacts in the area that more than 60 church members lost everything. The good is no members were killed or injured.
“This will be a rebuilding project and will take years.”
While the capital is in better shape, the needs are still extreme. Power is out in many places and likely won’t be restored for months.
In many areas, repairing buildings is simply out of the question, said David Caskey, a member of the Gulf Coast Church of Christ in Fort Myers, Fla.
“This will be a rebuilding project and will take years,” said Caskey, who works closely with churches in the Bahamas.
Both Caskey and Healing Hands say they are prepared to be a part of the long-term rebuilding efforts.
While the needs of those in the Bahamas are still being determined, financial donations can be made to either Healing Hands or the Gulf Coast church.
“We hope the churches here will empower Healing Hands to help the churches in the Bahamas now and for the years to come,” Smith said.
Donations to Healing Hands can be made through its website, hhi.org.
Donations to the Gulf Coast church can be sent to: Bahama Mission Church of Christ: David Caskey- Missions c/o Gulf Coast Church of Christ 9550 Ben C. Pratt/ Six Mile Cypress Pkwy. Fort Myers, FL 33966.