Sunday on Eleuthera

When I first came to Eleuthera in 2006 all of my students were black Bahamians except for two men from the island of Spanish Wells Just north of Eleuthera

Donald and Jared

Donald and Jared were from a congregation on the island called The People’s Church. My first encounter with them (they may forget) was their questioning why I was giving them a additional textbook since they already had one for church history (I went through and distilled the book to bring out the most important people, events and dates). Well I told them to help them take notes. They ended up thinking that was a great idea, thought it was great of me to think of it and right off the bat we hit it off. One of the things that I try and stress throughout the entire course is the Biblical truth that God blesses his church when the gospel is the center for all of life, ministry and mission. I talk about how the church at large and individual people throughout church history were constantly “recovering the gospel” and impacting the church in great ways. It turned out they and several in their church were “rediscovering the gospel” as well. They were learning from teachers and through their personal experience that we are not nearly as good as we think we are and that the gospel is incredibly more deep than we imagine. I particularly remember how they were very encouraged when I shared with them a story that Rose Marie Miller used to tell about speaking at a conference at one point and standing up and saying: “My name is Rose Marie Miller and I am a recovering Pharisee”. One of them (I can’t remember) shouted out “That is what I am a recovering Pharisee! Now I know what I really am”.

Well we struck up a friendship that sadly could only be carried forward on Facebook and via email. That was until the next year when the People’s Church invited Eleuthera Bible Training Center to teach their two year curriculum on Spanish Wells. That I meant that in 2008 I was asked to return to Eleuthera and teach Church History on Spanish Wells.

Again it was a great two weeks with me establishing new relationships. I was able to renew some of those relationships today as I headed north to catch the ferry to Spanish Wells to worship with them. Jimmy Buffett (most of you know I am a big Buffett fan – one of you who helped finance this trip actually sold me a Buffett CD once at a local store in the ‘Boro – and I have found that Buffett definitely sounds better in the Tropics) has a song entitled “I Have Found a Home” about living in the islands and he says: “The days drift by, they don’t have names”. That is certainly true here and there are times I have to figure out what day it is. That did not happen today but the time is always hard for me to figure out. The clock on my computer is central time, I set a clock for eastern time (the time in Eleuthera) but the electricity goes off so often here that the clock is often wrong. I was planning on attending worship but did not plan on going to Sunday School. After all I am here serving the Lord and need some time off!

Well somehow I got there and hour early. I really don’t know how that happened. As I replay the morning I cannot figure out how I left an hour early but it was clear after getting there that our Father wanted me there for Sunday school. Sunday school was on the Jesus. Nothing new, nothing novel just a gentle reminder of who Jesus is and what he did for sinners like me. No matter how many times I am reminded of the fabulous truth is never enough. Donald taught Sunday school and tried over and over to remind all of us there that Jesus is always enough.

Then for the sermon it turned out that Donald was preaching as well. Donald is what Presbyterians would call a ruling elder but the church is without a pastor and so on many occasions Donald is taking the responsibility for bringing the Word. He preached very courageously from Colossians 2 on the uselessness of man made rules and regulations for sanctification. He stated several times that Jesus is sufficient for justification and for sanctification. Spoke to and encouraged my heart. If you look at the sign you can likely figure out that Jesus is the antidote for religion. So it was a great Lord’s Day on Eleuthera and Spanish Wells. Returned to the center to eat supper with a group of young adults from a church in Greenville who are here on a short missions trip helping with outreach to Jame’s Cistern. It was a great time of food and fellowship.

Donald teaching Sunday School

The Slow Pace of Life

Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse is the closest thing you can find to a chain restaurant on the island of Eleuthers. There is the original

Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse

in Nassau and four other locations on Grand Bahama but I believe that this is the first one they have established  out the outlying islands. Real twin brothers, Buddy and Danny McCardy are from Hatchet Bay on Eleuthera where they open the restaurant and where I decided to have lunch yesterday. I usually fix breakfast at the center and the students take turns bringing “snacks” for class (which usually turn out to be meals), so I have the open opportunity of the day to sample the wonderful Bahamanian cuisine.

The Twin Brothers was recommended by several of my students from Hatchet Bay and it certainly lived up to their recommendations.

After being here for two entire days I finally was able to enjoy one of my favorite local

Conch Fritters, worth the wait

dishes, conch fritters. They were some of the best I have had with a very spicy remoulade sauce. Along with the fritters I had an excellent fried grouper. The sides included rice and beans (the Bahamanian variety, not red beans and rice), some red cole slaw and some of the famous Bahamanian mac and cheese. They have their own special way of cooking it here that really is wonderful

I came prepared to wait to be served, brought a book with me (Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson – one of my three major reads hopefully for this trip). No one is in a hurry here and the food is prepared fresh, so I have learned to be prepared to wait. I have looked at several Eleuthera  restaurant reviews online and it amazes me that people are often complaining about slow service at eateries on Eleuthera. I assume that these are written by Americans like myself who are usually in a hurry. I want to write back and tell them that you really don’t come to Eleuthera to do things quickly Information found at Twin Brothers(except cover the entire history of the church in 9 3 hour lessons!) so just relax.

More information found at Twin Brothers

Twin Brothers

I find that having opportunities to wait on Eleuthera are good for me. I have eaten at two restaurants so far. The other, The Front Porch, also in Hatchet Bay was very good as well and I found out that it is owned by one of my students. It was very nice as well and the service was nice but slower we American expect . I have found, however, that the laid back way of life is not only enjoyable but is also a great tool for learning patience. My wife and children will tell you of my regular struggles with patience. I tend to be in a hurry (when I am not in Eleuthera) so being here is a great help in that department. It also makes me examine my approach to what we tend to call our work ethic. I know that if things everywhere moved as slowly as they do here in Eleuthera that productivity would greatly decline but I also wonder if there is a bit that we can learn about slowing down and enjoying the company of others, slowing down to rest and refresh, slowing down to take some time to notice the “rumours of glory” that God lays out for us everyday. I know that I need to take time to look for the reality of God’s grace all around me

Decor at Twin Brothers

Eleuthera 2012 – First Day

Just a short note after a very long (thanks to Jim Soyster for picking me up this morning at 4:00) day. Arrived on Eleuthera around 1:30 with most folks on a plane here I have seen in my 3 trips here. Flying into North Eleuthera rather than Governor’s Harbor may be the reason because it closer to Harbor Island the touristy area here and hope to many starts for cruises.

There are many things that draw me to Eleuthera. First the ministry of Caribbean Ministries Association who operate the Eleuthera Bible Training Center who graciously allow me to teach church history.

My view from EBTC every morning

This is the view from my hilltop apartment at EBTC every morning. The view at night, with little light pollution, is just as beautiful, perhaps even more spectacular. Debbie (my wife for those of you just surfing the web and stumbling here) have encouraged me to “lighten up” about folks who joke about me “suffering for Jesus teaching in the Bahamas” so I am. I will admit that this is a wonderful place to do ministry. It is nice to be warm when it is cold back in Tennessee. It is nice to be able to snorkel in the month of February. But I still want folks to know that this really in ministry and not just a vacation.

One of the other things that I love about the Bahamas is the food here. Every culture has its own particular foods, beverages, and treats. That is certainly true here in Eleuthera whether it is something as simple as a local soft drink that I have come to love (like  Bahama Goombay Punch, I have found nothing in the States quite like this) or the unlimited variety of conch dishes that are found here – hope to have some conch fritters for lunch today – or the wonderful local dishes like peas and rice, peas and grits or their special take on mac and cheese.

But the thing I love about Eleuthera the most is the people I meet here. The locals here are  laid back and very friendly and try and make you feel at home. When I was here teaching in 2008 I went to a local restaurant located in a gas station. I was placing my order of fried chicken, peas and rice and mac and cheese when the owner of the restaurant who was taking my order said: “No, no you can’t have peas and rice and mac and cheese order another side”. I asked him why and she said “This is too much starch”. So it is sort of like eating at your momma’s table.

But the people that I find the most delight in are my students. They come from a wide variety of vocations (almost all ministers and church workers here are bi-vocational) and denominations. It is exciting to see these folks going through this two year program (my church history class is just one of 10 classes offered over a period of 2 years) of ministry training. People who work hard during the day and then come and sit through 3 hours of class each night. I’ll write more about my students during the week. It is off to a good start