On Thursday, June 1, a team of 14 friends from PCPC came to visit us in sunny (hot) Nassau, Bahamas. Led by Mr. Jerry Gibson, (Sr. Director of World Missions at PCPC), 8 men and 6 women spent 5 days meeting with numerous Bahamians from all walks of life.
The purpose? Primarily, this group came to see how PCPC could walk alongside Christiana and Julian, as they seek to plant an “extending” church in Nassau. The Russell’s have surrendered to the Lord’s vision to cultivate indigenous leaders who will, by His grace, transform their own communities, one person at a time. Immediately Julian and Christiana realized that this group – the “Dallas 13” – had come to extend brotherly love to them. The group reminded us that we are one big family, and that the fellowship we enjoyed for almost 10 years would follow us, even to another country.
There they were – men whom Julian had worked closely with for almost a decade, and godly sisters who had become so close to Julian and Christiana and their children. We easily remembered the SOS Sunday Morning Community. What a dynamic group of Baby-Boomers – people who we discovered were just as enthusiastic about serving the Lord as we are. Then there were some of those men who had worked so tirelessly to tap into PCPC members’ passion for the City of Dallas, through Urban Missions. “Why can’t we accomplish the same results here?” we thought to ourselves.
Meeting with Jerry was a welcomed reunion for Julian. But last, but by no means least, was reuniting with our “adopted mother” in Dallas – Myrna Little. This dear sister was such a welcomed sight, but more importantly, became a great blessing to over a dozen women. Christiana hosted Myrna, Susan Jarrett, Becky McCamey, Connie Malone, Linda McMahon, and Sarah Jane Francis to her home that Saturday morning. They were joined by her 89-year old mother, Estella, Karen Stodghill, (MTW Team Bahamas), five teachers from CW Sawyer Primary School, and some of her and Julian’s siblings.
The women had a great time of fellowship, and ate a meal together. They sang praises to our Lord, and were led in a powerful devotion by Dr. Myrna Little. As she opened the Psalms, Myrna reminded the gathering of the importance of paying attention to the common things of life. It is in those moments – finding a parking space in a crowded lot, catching the green light when you’re in a hurry – when we should pause long enough to thank our Heavenly Father for His constant care even in the seeming mundane things of life.
The entire group took a bus tour around most of the island on the first day after their arrival. They were able to get a better contrast of life outside of the resort areas. We wrapped up our tour by driving through Yellow Elder and Bain Town. One of the brothers commented on their experiences as they saw what are considered two of the more underserved communities on the island. “This is very sobering!”
The highlight? Later that evening, the Russell’s hosted the “Dallas 13” to a once-in-a-lifetime event. Thanks to Dallas-based Grafton Ifill II, and his father, the Russell’s invited some 20 friends and family members to give an overview of the numerous challenges facing the Bahamas. The four broad areas addressed were: Poverty, Youth, Economics, and the state of the Church. We heard from experts in those fields – pastors, government officials, researchers, a professional athlete, youth workers, and teachers. The group agreed that the evening was nothing short of very enlightening. We received comments from our Bahamian guests which indicated that they were excited to witness such a watershed event. The Russell’s have been encouraged to use that event as a springboard to launch a more organized Thought Leadership. This would go a long way in addressing how our new church plant could prayerfully meet the numerous challenges in a manner that glorifies Christ, spiritually, psychologically, socially, and materially. We want to see lives transformed by the Gospel which meets every need.
While the women met at the Russell’s, as typical of Presbyterians, Julian and Jerry led a meeting at the hotel. The group elected Mike McMahon as the chair for the Bahamas Reformed Mission, a newly-formed group that would assist the Russell’s in key areas – Soul-care, Accountability, Vision, and Extending, (S.A.V.E.). These men include Robert Rhea, Bob McCamey, Mark Malone, Ed Jarrett, and Will Francis. John Stodghill, MTW Bahamas, was also in attendance. The following brothers were unable to make the trip, but have pledged their support of this mission: Tommy Bain, Mike Cagle, Houston Hunt, and Jeff Johnston.
We were also joined by Mr. Clinton Minnis, a long-time youth leader and close ally of the Russell’s. Mr. Vaughn Miller is a newly elected government official, and someone whom Julian has been meeting with for over the past three years, was also in attendance. He led our discussions around the lunch table, and his contribution was most invaluable. Mr. Miller informed the group that his primary task in the new government, is to lead the way in the revitalization and renewal of the most underserved communities in New Providence. Was it Serendipity or the Lord’s Providence? Time will tell.
We all worshipped corporately with our friends at St. Andrew’s Kirk on Sunday morning. After lunch, some of us went to look at a possible site for future collaboration. Later that evening, 20 of us sat down to dine at the hotel. Following our fellowship, Christiana and Julian met with the “Dallas 13” to debrief.
What a way to wrap up a whirlwind weekend!
The Lord spoke mightily through His people, especially the sisters. Sarah Jane’s comments on Thursday evening were words of knowledge. She told Julian that the Lord wants to transform the Yellow Elder community into “Golden Elder”. That’s powerful! She also spoke about how the Lord will send many to us, as opposed to our having to go to everyone. Unbeknownst to her, the Lord had begun to demonstrate that He was doing just that since we landed. One other sister challenged Julian to dream bigger because the Lord has called us to a humungous vision to see His people transformed in and through the people of the Bahamas. The final word we received was “patience”. Yes, patience.
In the summer of 1988, while lying in a hospital bed in South Florida, Julian had a “dream” that was so real that he felt that it was more than a dream. Julian had passed out from the intense pain that he was experiencing. He woke up from that sleep some 32 hours later. In his “dream”, Julian retold how he heard a very loud voice declaring, “Hebrews 10:35-36!” This reads as follows: “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”
Wow! Waiting on the Lord! That’s not cliché, my friends. Having listened to the many responses we received form that weekend, Julian and Christiana are convinced that the Lord has great and mighty plans for the Bahamas. They have purposed to “wait” on the Lord, or better still, “abide in Christ”. Why? They want to bear much fruit, so that our Father in Heaven is glorified. Please covenant with the Russell’s to “wait” to see that which the Lord has promised the Russell’s. Their request? “Lord give us the Bahamas!”