By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PELICAN POINT, Bahamas (LBM) – Louisiana Baptist, community leaders, and Bahamian officials were among those who gathered at St. Matthew Baptist Church July 24 to re-dedicate facilities leveled by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
Louisiana Baptist Missions and Ministry Team Director John Hebert, Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief Strategist Stan Statham and Louisiana Baptist DR Volunteer Reggy Saxon were among more than 220 guests, leaders and officials that gathered inside the 4,655-sq.-ft. multi-purpose facility to celebrate the completion of three years of work. The building features a new worship center, covered driveway, restrooms, library, pastor’s office and choir room.
During the dedication, church leaders thanked Louisiana Baptists for the prayers, financial support and the numerous volunteers who steadfastly labored despite facing multiple hurricanes, severe floodiing, and ice storms themselves.
The church also recognized the efforts of Gibbie McMillan. former Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief strategist who was instrumental in organizing the rebuild. McMillan passed away in August 2021 due to complications from COVID-19.
“The rebuilding of the church is a perfect example of how the Disaster Relief Ministry is used by God to bring help, hope, and healing to those impacted by disasters,” Statham told the Baptist Message. “The community began to rebuild only after the church started to rebuild.”
Hebert said the rebuild has been an encouragement to the community to press forward on the reconstruction of their own homes that were damaged by Dorian.
“It was only after the rebuilding of St. Matthews was well underway that people in the community started rebuilding their own homes,” Hebert said. “When they saw this work, they believed they could make a comeback. It’s always a blessing when the church represents that kind of hope. It was literally a physical manifestation of the hope of the Gospel.”
Saxon, who participated in seven rebuild trips at the church, was grateful for how God worked throughout the project.
“We could see the hand of God from day one,” said Saxon, a member of Trinity Baptist Church, Lake Charles. “Our people just rolled up their sleeves and went to work, even though they were dealing with our own weather-related problems. Every time we had an obstacle, God provided.”
Louisiana is among several states participating in ‘Bahama Rebuild,’ a partnership with the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board SEND Relief. Since December 2019, Louisiana and Mississippi have sent numerous teams to rebuild the church while the Baptist state conventions of Alabama and North Carolina have sent additional teams to undertake other projects on the islands.
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.