Shortly after their return to their birthplace, Christiana and Julian introduced themselves to the principal at a local school in the ministry-focus area – CW Sawyer Primary School. After several promising meetings, we were ushered to meet with the school’s counsellors. Along the way, each person expressed great joy on hearing our “story”, and the Lord’s call on our lives to witness the passionate pursuit of principal leaders through gospel transformation.
Why start at the elementary level? Experience in ministry has taught us that children are usually tender to spiritual things. Additionally, we also know that most parents care deeply for their children. Therefore, the Lord led us to CW Sawyer for several reasons. The overall aim is to meet key stakeholders in the Yellow Elder community, among who are parents, teachers, and students. The Russell’s believe that the Sovereign Lord has called us to identify and cultivate “oaks of righteousness” who will lead the way in restoring, rebuilding, and repairing their own communities, (see Isaiah 61:1-4). More importantly, we have been led to model Jesus’ mission, as announced in Luke 4. Jesus began His mission of announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God, not in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world. No, He began in Galilee of the Nations, a place that was despised and considered the least likely place to begin anything. What good thing could come from Nazareth, Galilee?
CW Sawyer is a place where Team Bahamas, (the Russell’s and John and Karen Stodghill), can offer their gifts to the Lord by serving at that institution. Christiana and Karen have more than 70 years’ experience of teaching at the elementary level. Our inroad has been working directly with slower learners in the 3rd grade. By God’s grace, we get to work with 9 courageous and hopeful future leaders every Tuesday and Thursday. These youngsters seem to look forward to our times with them. They always seem to be excited. Additionally, the teachers are quick to show how much they appreciate our ministry. BTW, our team will host more than 60 staff members to breakfast on May 22, Teacher’s Appreciation Day at CW Sawyer.
On Maundy Thursday, Julian accepted a last-minute request to address the entire school. Julian spoke on Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. The principal led the way in expressing how pleasantly surprised by what they heard. “I’ve never heard that story explained so well before”, she said. Many others expressed the same sentiments. One of them has asked me to perform their wedding ceremony later in July. I’ll begin their marriage counselling very shortly. Several of them have approached us for prayers, acknowledging that the Lord has sent us to that community.
The Yellow Elder community is faced with many socio-economic challenges that pervade underserved, urban communities. For those who live in Dallas, think of West Dallas circa 20 years ago. For those in Memphis, think of Clearborne-Foote neighborhood in the early 19990’s. The Lord placed that community on my heart several years ago. One of the touch-points has been my relationship with a key leader from that community. This young man was close friends with some of my younger siblings; he spent many years in our homestead. He leads a community group of over 500 young men and women from the Yellow Elder community. Their vision is to reach that community with both Word and deed. Pray that the Lord would give us great favor with this particular group of future leaders.
Here are some headlines about the challenges of life in Yellow Elder from the local newspapers:
Boys, 13 And 15, Found Executed (March 20, 2017)
TWO boys in their early teens were discovered shot to death early yesterday morning on a dirt road off Graham Drive, Yellow Elder Gardens. Sources close to the matter have also confirmed that the pair were found side-by-side and appear to have been shot execution style. The bodies of the boys were found around 9am by persons who were walking in the area. The murders brought the country’s homicide count to 36 for the first three months of this year, according to The Tribune’s records. Officer in Charge of the Central Detective Unit, Chief Superintendent Clayton Fernander said police have no motive for the killings and appealed to families who may not have seen “their teen relatives in a while” to come forward. He said police will continue to saturate “hot spots” like Yellow Elder Gardens in an effort to prevent or curb homicides. “Where are the parents? And we continue to say this; parents have to pay attention to your kids. Know who they are with and know where they are going or we will continue to lose our young men on both sides of the coin, deceased persons and also as accused persons.”
Gunmen Kill Two Men In Late Night Yellow Elder Gardens Attack (January 27, 2016)
THREE people were killed in a single day on Tuesday in Nassau, with the latest murder involving a late night double fatal shooting. Police are probing the double homicide of two men at Yellow Elder Gardens after armed men ambushed the home the victims shared, firing multiple gunshots with a high-powered weapon. According to Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle, the incident happened shortly after 9pm on Eaton Street. He said when one of the men awoke to answer knocks at the door, the gunmen opened fire and gained entry to the house, killing the first victim in a hail of bullets. Both men are in their late 40s, police confirmed. Mr Rolle added that one of the men was wearing an ankle-monitoring bracelet.
“Shortly after 9pm, the two men were at home when two persons came to the house and knocked on the door,” the Central Detective Unit Chief said. “The owner of the house got up to answer the door and before he was able to open, the gunmen discharged shots into the door.
Beaten Man’s Dead Body Wrapped And Dumped In Yellow Elder Gardens (December 29, 2016)
POLICE discovered the lifeless body of a man who was beaten and wrapped in a blanket on a service road near Tom “The Bird” Grant Park in Yellow Elder Gardens around 1pm on Thursday. He was one of two men who were killed on Thursday… Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean said authorities suspect foul play. They also believe the man was murdered at another location and later dumped at the service road several hours before he was found.
Please continue to pray for the Lord to use Team Bahamas to make Jesus known in a place where the enemy seem to have gained a strong foothold.