I woke up to this reading on Tuesday morning, after going to sleep the night before with images of destruction in the Bahamas etched in my mind.
“Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written for you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11)
To fully express the range of emotions that I experienced would be a long, and perhaps self-indulgent task. My mother’s beloved Lime House was partially destroyed, floodwaters lapped against the doors of the bakery where the road used to be, and favorite restaurants like Nippers were totally destroyed. While the loss of these structures alone is terrible, for anyone who has been there or who knew my mother, their loss was felt on a much deeper level than the mere destruction of concrete, glass, and wood.
The “thief in the night” came for my mother a little over three years ago, or more accurately, with her cancer diagnosis in January 2013. When she faced that darkness, the beautiful island of Marsh Harbor was her reprieve, so seeing the heartbreaking images of Hurricane Dorian’s wrath drew an instant correlation in my mind. As I watched the news and prayed, I could not help but wonder what my mother would feel, think, do, or say if she were sitting next to me. While I do not intend to speak with authority on what her response would have been, I did spend some time pondering her love of the Bahamas, and I feel I have a pretty good idea of what it would be.
For her and for many, the Bahamas was an escape, a tropical paradise that happened to be right next-door. It was a reprieve from ringing telephones, the urgency of meaningless daily tasks, and the pressures of living in a fast-paced culture that placed so much importance on so many trivial things. In the Bahamas, as they would say, my mom found it to be truly “better.” She found peace and quiet, for sure, but what she discovered beyond that was a joyful, kind, and caring group of people who treated their foreign visitors as a magnanimous host would treat an honored guest. In other words, she found her counterparts, because if anyone knew my mom, they knew that the most important thing to her at a given time was taking care of the person in front of her.
So, as much as she loved the ocean breeze, the bright, vibrant buildings, and peace, I think what she loved most was stepping off the plane and being greeted by Don and other smiling faces at the airport. She loved driving through town and waving to the man who was making fresh conch salad by the dock. She loved driving up to the Lime House and giving a big hug to Peter amongst the blooming bougainvillea he nurtured to vibrant life. My mother loved the Bahamas because she loved the Bahamian people. She cherished getting to spend time, not only visiting the island, but also visiting the people she considered her friends.
If I look in my mind’s eye and imagine my mother sitting next to me seeing and hearing the news of her beloved home’s destruction, I see a grieved look on her face and I hear her expressing the deepest sympathy for all the people who have lost everything. I imagine her wanting to do anything she could do to help her friends.
Maybe this would have been her reaction and maybe it wouldn’t have been. Regardless, the sobering, bitter fact remains that the very people who treated my mother, my family, and many other visitors like their own family have literally lost all they have: shelter, food, water … everything. If we are to be “children of the light,” as Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians, then the time is now for us to “build one another up,” and shine light into the dark days that hover over the Bahamas.
There are several ways that we can help. Below are some links where you can send relief, whether you live in south Florida or not. First, they are literally starting from scratch as the winds and floods created total destruction. Here is a list of supplies that the Bahamas needs:
Next, if you live in the area and would like to donate supplies, collections are being taken at my brother Christian’s house in North Palm Beach. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for directions if you need them.If you live out of town or do not have supplies to give but would like to contribute money. You can do so at:
Of course, whether you are able to give supplies, donations, or not, please keep the people of the Bahamas in your prayers.