By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PELICAN POINT, Bahamas (LBM) – A Louisiana Baptist-led effort to help St. Matthew Baptist Church rebuild three years after Hurricane Dorian leveled their facility is nearing completion.
According to Stan Statham, Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief strategist, 90 percent of the work has been completed on the Pelican Point facilities. Remaining work includes installation of doors, air conditioning system and restrooms. Leaders are anticipating an April dedication of the facility.
“Our volunteers and churches have committed to seeing this rebuild ministry through to completion for the glory of God,” Statham told the Baptist Message.
St. Matthew Baptist is one of nine Baptist churches (there are a total of 13 Baptist churches on the island) severely damaged or destroyed by the storm that packed 185- mile per hour winds at the height of Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 2, 2019.
Louisiana is among several states participating in ‘Bahama Rebuild,’ a partnership with the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response. Louisiana and Mississippi have sent numerous teams to rebuild the church while the Baptist state conventions of Alabama and North Carolina are sending additional teams to undertake other projects on the islands.
Since the first team arrived in late December 2019, teams have completed the foundation, driveway, walls, ceiling, floors and electrical lines.
But the project also encountered some difficulties:
— In July 2020, the Bahamian government closed the borders to most U.S. travelers because of COVID, and for the next 12 months Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams were unable to work in the country.
— Additionally, costs of building materials have risen. Now Louisiana Baptists are nearing the finish line for the project.
“Louisiana Baptists have done a great thing for this community because they could have never accomplished this on their own,” Louisiana Baptist Mission and Ministry Director John Hebert said. “This community is remote, and it would have taken a decade or more for these people — with no homes to live in themselves — to reestablish the ministry at St. Matthews. What we’ve done is given these people in Pelican Point a jump on their ministry by a decade so they can continue to offer their community a hope for the future.”