Two Living Word attendees, Jay Englar and Bob Sears, had the pleasure to recently serve those in need in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. Both Jay and Bob are chaplains with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). During their 8-day trip, they were part of a group of six chaplains from BGEA who were there to serve those in need and conduct training for local churches on how best to respond in times of crisis.
“Basically, our goal when we go is emotional and spiritual care,” Bob said. “We go in and introduce ourselves, talk with the residents that are there in the shelter, and we ask them their story and let them tell us what they experienced and how they’re holding up.”
“We try to be an encouragement to them,” added Jay.
There are several shelters operating in the Nassau area. Jay and Bob were able to visit three. They were also invited into a school to speak and pray with the kids there. “Most of the people that we talked to had faith in God, that God saved them, and that he had a purpose for their life,” Bob shared. Most of those in the shelters expressed gratitude to God for saving their lives.
“It’s a very rewarding experience to be able to go in and help and provide hope and encouragement,” Bob said. “We are also energized and charged by being with them. When you’re out helping you get energized. It’s such an amazing service that we can provide.”
Bob and Jay heard many powerful stories of what people did to survive and where they hid. During the worst of the storm, 18-25 foot waves were crashing onto Abaco. To survive, people had to make their way to medical stations to be evacuated. In the confusion of evacuation, many families were separated. “Everything in Freeport and Abaco was really torn up. They evacuated everyone onto New Providence, where Nassau is,” Jay explained.
Bob spoke with a young man, Michael, who had to swim for his life. He tried to keep hold of his dad, but he lost him while attempting to swim 100 yards to safety.
Many of those on the island were Haitian migrants, who now face the possibility of deportation.
For both men, the highlight of their trip was passing out Operation Christmas Child boxes to the kids in the shelter. Jay said, “These kids were there 3 weeks. They left with the clothing on their backs. When they got those shoeboxes, you can imagine the smiles on their faces.” Jay and Bob watched as one kid took the hairbrush from his box and gave it to his mom.
Bob and Jay have traveled all over the United States as part of their chaplaincy work. They will typically go to an area where there has been a mass shooting or natural disaster. In 2 weeks, they will go to North Carolina to help rebuild homes that were destroyed in Hurricane Florence.