Devastation clouds over the remains of the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian, with telephone poles and wires lying sprawled across streets, empty concrete slabs where homes once stood and debris littering lawns, roads and what remains of homes.
Patrick Styers, district superintendent of the Florida District of The Wesleyan Church, recently travelled to the Bahamas to aid in relief efforts for the people of his district with help and coordination efforts from World Hope International.
“We first and foremost wanted to get on the ground with our pastors to see their situation, to be an encouragement and to pray for them,” Styers said.
But Styers also emphasized the great importance of obtaining immediate emergency relief — something he believes would have been highly improbable without the coalition efforts and God-timed networking through World Hope International.
Because no commercial flights were travelling to or from the island at the time of his trip, World Hope connected Styers with one of their partners, Sol Relief, Inc., a non-profit, emergency aviation relief organization aimed at “providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.” Sol Relief flew him to and from the islands.
“On my arrival back to the U.S., a gentleman said to me, ‘You’re the first.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘We’ve been taking planes in since last Monday (September 9), and no one has come back and actually seen the island. We just fly the plane in, drop the supplies and pick people up. But people haven’t been on the island to talk to the people or see the reality of their situation,’” Styers said.
Despite the island’s minimal visitors, however, relief is continuing to progress.
The two Wesleyan Church pastors of the Bahamas, Rev. Dwight Rolle of New Beginning Wesleyan Holiness Center and Rev. Raymond Simonze of Lighthouse Wesleyan Outreach Ministries, are serving as the leads on the distribution of emergency relief supplies throughout the island.
Additionally, as of Thursday, September 12, another nonprofit coalition arrived to set up a water purification unit at one of our Wesleyan Churches on the island. The unit pulls around 600–700 gallons of clean water a day.
“World Hope’s coalition of partners and how they connected me to them all has been an amazing effort because we couldn’t get in without the aviation company; we couldn’t do anything serious with water without this water purification unit and coalition,” said Styers. “World Hope is all about a clean water effort using natural resources therefore mitigating the problem of clean up or environmental pollution of plastic bottles.”
So, while Styers has been overwhelmed by the catastrophic effects of Dorian on the island, he said he is amazed at what is accomplished when God’s people come together to serve one another.
“It’s been neat to see the Church be the Church — and to see World Hope and their relief agency work with other nonprofit relief agencies in this coalition partnership effort to really do God’s work.”
Styers encourages believers to continue prayers for the people of the Bahamas. While as many as a quarter of the population has fled the island — with no intention of returning — many still are left without loved ones, homes, possessions or means of employment.
“I’m just so happy that our pastors and their congregations are alive,” he said. “There’s no loss of life or even anyone that’s been seriously injured [within our congregations.] But they’re now having to make tough decisions on how to put the pieces of their lives back together.”
Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas earlier this month, and other tropical storms are projected to follow in the coming weeks.
For more information on WHI mobilization, click here.