About 8 years ago after preaching at a regular Sunday morning service I was greeting people at the door and a man that I did not recognize came up to me, complimented me on the sermon and then asked me “Would you be interested in teaching church history in the Bahamas?” I told him that I had never taught church history in my life and wondered why he would ask me that.
The man turned out to be Dave Hawkins, brother-in-law to one of my elders and coordinator of training for Caribbean Ministries Association. Dave explained that he noticed that I had several illustrations in my sermon involving church history and thought it was likely something that I was interested in. He said he would call me about the ministry he was involved in but encouraged me to begin praying about teaching church history in the Bahamas.
A few days later Dave called me and introduced me to Caribbean Ministries Association. A ministry started in the late 1980’s by Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga to Lighthouse Baptist Church in James Cistern, Eleuthera, Bahamas. The church had sent a group down to Eleuthera to provide relief after one of the hurricanes of the 1980’s.
Eleuthera is not what you call a tourist island. There are many small towns dotting the north-south road on the island that are mostly poor. But there are many churches, staffed by faithful men and women who have never had the opportunity to have a formal Biblical education. The folks from Woodland Park had a vision for a training center that would provide training for men and women involved in ministry on the island. This vision resulted in the Eleuthera Bible Training Center (EBTC) that would provide biblical training in ministry for the people of Eleuthera.
So in March of 2006 I headed to the beautiful island of Eleuthera to teach my first class in church history for the Eleuthera Bible Institute. Since then I have taught Church History for CMA three times and now they have asked me to return an teach twice this year once in Eleuthera and once in St. Martins where they have established a vital ministry and are now on their second cycle of the two year program
These are some of my students during one of our classes. Classes are held at night because almost all of these people are bi-vocational, that is they have regular day time jobs in addition to positions in ministry. During my first class I had a police chief, a travel agent, a customs inspector and many, many other occupations represented. It was a great joy to see these men and women give their evenings (after a long day of hard work) to sitting in a class they hoped would give them greater tools for serving their heavenly Father.
My time in Eleuthera this year begins next week and my time on St. Martins is scheduled for November So I am off again a week from tomorrow. I return to Eleuthera to teach another section of Church History. This time my class will be between 20 and 25 students. I am looking forward to the trip. I have had the opportunity to teach for CMA on a couple of other islands but Eleuthera is my favorite. It is not a rich touristy, island. Most of the people live in difficult circumstances but the folks I meet are warm, friendly and really know what it means to walk with Jesus. Most of the places I eat for lunch or dinner are simply mom and pop places and after being there for a few days I settle into one of the places and almost become a part of the family. Some of you have heard my story of going to one of the places and ordering fried chicken and peas and rice (a wonderful Bahamian traditional dish) and mac and cheese and having the lady who was taking my order (also the owner and the cook) say that I could not have both because it would be too much starch! So it is like being with family!
I would ask you to pray for my time there. Pray that I will not just communicate the facts and dates and people of church history but that I would be able to help these men and women see that the church has prospered spiritually throughout history only when the gospel is the center of her ministry. Pray that they would catch a vision for making the gospel the heart of their own lives and their ministries. In the past, the times when this concept has lead to discussion has always been the most exciting and the most fruitful times of the two weeks.
As with most mission trips of this nature, I need to raise the funds necessary to get there, pay to print my teaching material, meals to eat and this years a bit of salary to make up for what I will miss because I am away from the office for two weeks. If you are interested you can send a check to: Nation to Nation, A Ministry of Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church. The mailing address is 84 South Greenhill Rd., Mt Juliet, TN 37122 and designate (for tax reasons the check needs to be made out to the full name Nation to Nation, A Ministry of Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church) I would greatly appreciate support in this and with the trip coming up in November. Here is a picture of most of the folks from my first class. They were really a joy to teach and I hope to be able to see some of them again on this trip.
I know that I have been pretty sporadic about blogging but I will try and keep you posted during the two weeks I am there. Again, pray that these folks might catch a new vision of what God has done and continues to do as the church lives out of the power of the gospel and points all of her children to the gospel as the center of all of live and ministry.