Children’s television icon Fred Rogers used to tell children who were scared by the disasters they saw in the world, especially on television news: “Look for the helpers.”
And in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian’s destructive path through the Bahamas, many of those helpers are coming from Christian organizations.
One example: WORLD tells the compelling story of Randy Crowe, who pastored a church in the Bahamas for 12 years. He now leads a Florida-based ministry called Island Outreach. On a spotty satellite phone connection, he told his friends in the Bahamas, “The cavalry is on the way.” He then pulled some of the seats out of the ministry’s Piper Cherokee Six 300 airplane and headed off to the Bahamas with a load of essential supplies.
Missionary Flights International has a larger plane, a DC-3, that has begun making trips to the Bahamas with supplies and disaster relief experts. Samaritan’s Purse has a huge DC-8 that has been shuttling supplies, emergency shelters, desalinization units, personnel, and a mobile 40-bed hospital to the islands.
Convoy of Hope, a Christian ministry based in Springfield, Mo., has joined this Christian cavalry. It is ferrying tents, tarps, and food from Fort Lauderdale. Convoy of Hope leaders had anticipated the need, and had used its huge 18-wheeler rigs that helped give the ministry its name to pre-position at least five tractor-trailer loads of supplies in south Florida.
Though many church buildings in the Bahamas were destroyed, relief efforts are proving the old adage: “Church is not the steeple. It’s the people.” As millions of pounds of freight are pouring into the Bahamas, warehousing and distribution could be a problem. Not so for Christian ministries, who are utilizing local churches for their distribution efforts. Local pastors, who often have connections with local government officials, are cutting red-tape for these mainland ministries and speeding the delivery of food, water, and other supplies to those in greatest need.
These relationships are doubly important because the government’s emergency help – not to mention media coverage – quickly subsides. But Island Outreach’s Randy Crowe told WORLD, “Those churches are going to be there.”
No one expects the work to end soon, though. The death toll in the Bahamas has passed 50, with hundreds still missing. Many of the missing may turn up as recovery efforts continue, but it is also likely that many victims were simply swept away by the storm.
That’s a horrible reality, a tragic consequence of life in a broken world. But the story doesn’t end in that tragic moment. Indeed, as Fred Rogers said, “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know there’s hope.”
He’s right. The story of Dorian or any other disaster doesn’t end in the tragic event itself. It continues, and it is a story of restoration and hope.
And God’s people are helping to write it.
If you would like to be one of “the helpers” in these restoration efforts, here’s a list of Christian ministries working in the Bahamas:
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.