Among the reported casualties in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, as a result of Hurricane Dorian are two individuals connected to EPC churches. Bryn MacPhail, Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, reported that a member of Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor and a cousin of a St. Andrews Ruling Elder are among the casualties.
As of September 9, more than 40 deaths in the Bahamas have been attributed to the storm, with hundreds of people still missing.
Of the three EPC churches in the Bahamas, two are located in areas directly affected by the storm: Kirk of the Pines (Abaco), and Lucaya Presbyterian Church in Freeport (Grand Bahama). Nassau received little effect from the storm, so St. Andrew’s is the staging point for the EPC’s relief work in Marsh Harbor.
In response to the storm’s destructive impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, more than $73,000 has been donated to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund as of September 9. The request for donations was issued on September 2.
Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said that he has been in daily contact with MacPhail and Gabe Swing, Pastor of Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor.
“Gabe and his family were in Tennessee when Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas,” Jeremiah noted. “His return has been delayed twice, but he hopes to arrive in Nassau this Wednesday. The challenge the Swings face when they return to Marsh Harbor is that their home has been described as unlivable.”
Lack of power and wifi connectivity in Freeport since the storm prevented contact with Ken Lane, Pastor of Lucaya Presbyterian Church, until Saturday, September 7.
“Ken reports that the island of Grand Bahama also received significant wind and flooding, although not as extensive and devastating as on Abaco,” Jeremiah said. “The good news is that the Lucaya building did not endure flooding and suffered only minor exterior damage. When the banks in Freeport re-open in the coming week, EPC emergency relief funds will be sent as requested from Ken, who is still assessing the needs this weekend with his leadership.”
MacPhail reported that the recently constructed Kirk of the Pines building received minor damage, but is “standing strong on the main road” of Marsh Harbor—one of only a few structures in Marsh Harbor still intact. An estimated 13,000 homes in the immediate area of the church have been destroyed, including the homes of many Kirk of the Pines families.
Initially planned as a center for EPC relief efforts in Marsh Harbor, MacPhail noted that a pending mandatory evacuation order has put those plans for the Kirk of the Pines facility on hold.
“Sending supplies to Marsh Harbor appears to no longer be prudent at the moment,” MacPhail said via email. “Receiving teams to help rebuild also seems like something that will need to wait until we hear what the government intends for the city.”
MacPhail also noted that many of those evacuees are coming to Nassau.
“Two of our Sunday School classrooms have been converted into temporary lodging. Bedding, towels, and other necessities have been purchased and church members have supplied groceries.” At least eleven Marsh Harbor evacuees will be housed in this space, MacPhail said.
Jeremiah described three specific areas for prayer focus:
“First, pray for Gabe Swing as he returns. With the evacuations to Nassau, there are now more members of Kirk of the Pines in Nassau than there are in Marsh Harbor, so pray for Gabe as he ministers to his dislocated flock.”
The second prayer request is for a mental health team that MacPhail’s wife, Allie, serves with.
“She is a certified therapist and part of a mental health team with the Family Medicine Center in Nassau. They have been at the Nassau airports to provide evacuees with what has been termed, ‘Psychological First Aid.’ Pray for this team as they perform this incredibly important ministry.”
The third prayer request is for protection against looting.
“Looting is already a major problem in Abaco and Freeport,” he said. “Pray for the protection of those supplies, the safety of those protecting them, and of course, the recipients of that help.”
MacPhail requested prayer for the St. Andrew’s congregation and leadership as they assess the best way to meet needs in both their community and among evacuees from Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“I sense that we are being forced to wait before we get a clearer sense of where, and how, to best assist,” he wrote via email on September 8. “Our elders meet on Wednesday evening. Please pray for us as we meet and attempt to discern the best way forward with relief assistance.”
Donations to EPC relief efforts can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief. Contributions are sent directly to EPC churches in the affected areas for needs they identify in their local communities.