Foursquare Pastors Richard and Cheryl Sejour were among the first to minister to survivors of Hurricane Dorian when their long-scheduled trip to the Bahamas turned into a relief mission.
The co-pastors of Gateway (Miami Haitian Foursquare Church) in Miami Gardens, Fla., flew into the capital, Nassau, just a few days after the Sept. 1 storm that devastated neighboring islands, leaving at least 50 dead and more than 1,000 missing. Subsequent large-scale evacuations have stretched the resources of areas that escaped the worst of the rain, winds and surge.
Arranged almost a year ago to explore possible future ministry opportunities in the Bahamas, where Foursquare currently does not have any churches, the Sejours’ visit meant they were ideally placed to help assess the best ways Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) could be part of the international relief community’s response.
Trained FDR responders who have been involved in previous emergency relief efforts with the ministry, the Sejours were able to provide supplies—including bedding, toiletries and hygiene kits—for an orphanage in Nassau that was taking in additional children from the nearby Abaco Islands. They also met with and prayed for families waiting to hear news of relatives in the worst-affected areas, where communication was limited.
Meanwhile, two other FDR-trained responders—from Beaverton Foursquare Church in Beaverton, Ore., and Faith Chapel (Billings Foursquare Church) in Billings, Mont.—were deployed to Freeport, Grand Bahamas. They took with them urgently needed desalination units to provide clean water to survivors in some of the hardest-hit parts.
Additionally, Fountain of Hope, a food bank ministry in Atlanta led by Martin Potratz, an assisting minister at The Gathering in Hollywood (Marietta Refuge Foursquare Church), in Marietta, Ga., has been collecting supplies that are due to ship out to the Bahamas mid-month.
“We prayed with people and heard their stories. A lot of the families were distraught. We got to lead people to the Lord daily.” —Cheryl Sejour, co-pastor of Gateway (Miami Haitian Foursquare Church) in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“Though we don’t have a Foursquare work in the Bahamas currently, we are responding with and through some of our existing relationships and networks,” says Chad Isenhart, FDR’s international response director. “It’s in our DNA, as part of our founding as an interdenominational ministry, to work with others wherever we can.”
For Cheryl Sejour, the previously arranged trip she made with her husband and another U.S. Foursquare pastor positioned them to be “directed by the Lord” during their visit. Among those they met with was an elderly man who had miraculously survived when the boat on which he was living was swept ashore.
“We prayed with people and heard their stories,” Cheryl explains. “A lot of the families were distraught. We got to lead people to the Lord daily.”
As well as delivering the water filters, FDR has provided emergency supplies such as food and toiletries through World Hope International, the relief and development arm of The Wesleyan Church.
With communication still limited, it has been difficult to assess the full impact of the Category 5 storm, Chad says. However, it is likely that there will be opportunities for long-term FDR assistance in the months ahead, he adds.
“We have always stood on the principle of working with others, to jump in and help relieve suffering wherever we can, supporting what other organizations and churches are doing,” he affirms.
Fountain of Hope’s effort is the latest of a series of partnerships with FDR. The ministry has previously provided much-needed supplies in the wake of storms in Florida and North Carolina. “This is the first time we have been able to be part of an international response,” notes Martin.
Chad and Cheryl appeal for ongoing prayer as the full scale of the human loss, the damage and the rebuilding effort becomes clearer. In particular they highlighted the need for:
- access to affected areas and restored communication.
- wisdom for government and other leaders.
- peace and hope among the survivors.