The Burden of Blight by A-ChuckAllen
When humans exist in an elongated period of sorrow, loss, tragedy, or poverty, they can fall into a state known as human blight. It’s that place where hope seems to have been gone forever and hurt seems to have taken up residence in the human heart.
Human Blight is what I experienced on the Abacos Islands last week. I arrived into Nassau Thursday and immediately hopped in the back of a Piper Cub and flown into Marsh Harbor. Marsh Harbor is truly a disaster zone, but it was nothing compared to what I saw on Man-O-War Cay or Hopetown. These are just two of the complete disasters in the Abacos Islands.
What I saw would crush any person’s heart. What was an oasis of beauty and what was once quaint little beach towns, untouched by the rapid westernization and chain hotels and restaurants, is quite literally destroyed. Nothing is left that is green. Every leaf and every tree – gone. Every colorful hamlet – gone. Most every boat sunken, capsized, tossed into parts, or picked up and carried miles inland. While flying about 300 feet over the islands on the way back to Nassau, I spotted boats that had been picked up by winds or by storm surge and placed entirely miles inland in the middle of a chicken farm.
The natural disaster left in the wake of Dorian is overwhelming. The task to clean up and rebuild seems impossible. There is more debris than the islands can burn or bury. Every home is either destroyed or already covered in mold. Every resource is down. No running water, very little electricity, and then comes what I believe to be the worst disaster of all. The catastrophe of human blight.
People are destroyed under the enormous loss and chaos created by the sustained 185 miles per hour winds and island swamping water surge. What didn’t blow away, has been washed away. To add insult to injury, there is very little mass coordination regarding the relief efforts, and of course, there are the sin-filled and evil people that are seeking to profit from these folks’ misery and lack of resources. I wouldn’t consider myself an angry or violent man, but some folks need to have their hind parts beaten because of their insensitivity and wicked ways. And just to put the rotten cherry on top of the spoiled whipped cream, these tiny ports are under stress to manage duty on the incoming relief supplies in container ships. Small ports used to handling wholesale goods to mom and pop shops are trying their best to adjust to the new demands…and not terribly well, quite yet.
I honestly could talk for hours about the problems, and the pictures do no justice to the damage as you can see in most pictures the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean just beyond them. So what are we regular, American folk to do? Here are what I believe to be the best avenues to help, considering that it might take three years to restore these gorgeous islands.
The burden I feel for these folks is more than I can carry and more than our church can carry alone. I’ve been so blessed to have become a part of a vast network of organizations and people that can help.
- PRAY! Pray for these poor folks. And yes, I mean sick as in economically, spiritually, and emotionally. The only way that these gracious people recover is by the hand of God and the sweat of God’s People!
- Start with rebuilding and restoring the churches. Most of the small churches on the islands were completely demolished. Start with the easiest to restore and get them rebuilt, dried in, mold-free, and operating. You cannot imagine the importance of the local churches and their pastors on the islands. The church is the center of hope, food, restoration, recreation, and health. These churches aren’t worried about how big they grow, but how they love their people – Great concept, right? One church, like the church I pastor, could rebuild and sweep debris away from the local church and set up extraordinary temporary structures in one week! Sugar Hill Church will start with one and restore as many as possible! Please, join us!
- Restore the homes of the local pastors. Many of these folks have had to relocate to shelters. If this were the American church, I’d say, restore them last, but the people of Abaco see their pastors differently. These leaders are more than pastors. They are the connection of God to a tiny part of the world, filled with the similar strife that we Americans deal with, minus the affluence. Sugar Hill Church will start with the pastor’s home of our first church and continue to restore as many as possible. Will you and your church consider helping us?
- Restore dignity and hope into the lives of the Bahamian people, Bahamian-Haitian people, and Haitian migrants, both legal and illegal. Yep! You heard that right. The Bahamas has a much smaller immigration challenge, but a challenge for sure. They also have a race problem. All three of the people groups I mentioned have great need, and none of them are immune from to blight of hopelessness. As a supporter of the Prime Minister and the government of the Bahamas, I want to support and aid their rebuilding agenda…but not at the loss of human dignity and human rights of the Haitian people. Sugar Hill Church will help rebuild homes and start providing help for any people. We aren’t that big, but human dignity requires very little money. It does require a great deal of empathy and compassion. Will you and your church consider helping us?
I know this may feel cold, as this short agenda seems focused on rebuilding things, but friends, this is about restoring hope, health, and order found in the love of Christ Jesus and the power of the Divine God of all Creation working through His people and His church. We do not have much time to wait and get structured. I’m building a website that can update people on how they can travel to help, pray to help and give to help. I’ll also pass along ongoing work with a few heroic organizations that have been on the ground from day one. One such group, led by a superhero, Austin Holmes, has already restored the structure and dried in six churches. And every one of those churches held worship gathering s last week (more to come). As soon as the site is live, I’ll connect you guys.
More to Come – Go in Peace,