Out of obscurity: Helping in Grand Bahama

Hurricane relief follows effort with island's Christian Council

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — Humanitarian supplies donated by the Church and distributed by ministers of various congregations have helped bring the Church further out of obscurity in the Bahamas, where it has been established since the early 1980s.

J. Patrick Kelly and his wife, Chloe Ann Kelly, who recently completed a mission on the Grand Bahama Island, said the Church continues to progress in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, an island chain lying off the coast of Florida populated by some 300,000 people. The Church gained legal status for all the Commonwealth of the Bahamas on March 18, 2004. Prior to that date the Church was legal only on New Providence Island.

A second level of legal status is being reached on the island of Grand Bahama with a license from the Port Authority that will allow the Church to build on property it purchased, he said. This permission is being granted from the Grand Bahama Port Authority, which leases 250,000 acres of Grand Bahama, including most of the population center of Freeport.

Brother and Sister Kelly, members of the Oak Hills 9th Ward, Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake, served from 2003-2005. He is a retired business professor from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and BYU.

Brother Kelly said that when he and his wife began service on the island, they felt impressed to begin visiting the ministers on Grand Bahama to clarify the many misperceptions about the Church. There were many to visit as the population of 48,000 people has some 185 congregations. After meeting with the first minister, they learned of the Christian Council, a ministerial organization, and they met with its president, the Rev. John C. Wallace.

They gave him a packet of Church materials and began to explain the Church. In the meeting, said Brother Kelly, "Thoughts and words came to me. . . I spoke for over an hour, and the words I used were not my normal vocabulary." After it was over, the Rev. Wallace said, "I felt the Spirit here today" and, after reading the First Article of Faith, agreed that the Church was eligible to join the Christian Council.

The council later issued a formal invitation for the Church to join. After receiving permission from Church leaders, Elder and Sister Kelly joined this organization.

Their first assignment was to serve on a committee for a night of recognition for the 15 past presidents of the Christian Council. This assignment afforded them the opportunity to meet with the island's leading business owners to solicit door prizes. They also met each of the past presidents of the council. This was an excellent opportunity to again clarify many of the misperceptions held by these ministers about the Church.

Not long after the event, Grand Bahama was struck by Hurricane Francis in September 2004, the same hurricane that damaged Florida.

Church humanitarian supplies were sent and the Kellys worked through the Red Cross and the Christian Council to distribute the initial shipment of 1,500 boxes of food, later adding another 800 boxes. Then a second hurricane, Jeanne, struck in October of 2004, leaving more damage in its trail. The Church shipped additional supplies, along with a 40-foot container of humanitarian materials. Many ministers, including those from the Faith National Church of God helped in the distribution, and among those who helped unload the trucks and make the distribution to needy families was Reverend Wallace.

Following the hurricanes, Elder Kelly volunteered as a consultant to local retail businesses to help them rebuild. Much of the Church's efforts were covered on local television, radio and by newspapers.

"This favorable publicity brought the Church out of obscurity in the Bahamas," said Brother Kelly. — John L. Hart

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