Thursday, November 23, 2017

Worship in Barbuda Brings People Together

The Barbuda Pentecostal Church

The Barbuda Pentecostal Church

A recent worship service celebrates God's faithfulness in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

When you walk around the beautiful but battered island of Barbuda, the sound of praise and thanksgiving is not what you would expect to hear. Yet, on a recent Sunday morning, that is exactly what you would have heard coming from Barbuda Pentecostal Church.

Nearly 70 Barbudans and a Samaritan’s Purse team of 24 worshipped together during only the second church service held on the island since Hurricane Irma hit on Sept. 6.

The congregation praises God for His faithfulness.

The congregation praises God for His goodness and love.

This is not the first time Barbuda has experienced nature’s wrath. About 22 years ago, Hurricane Luis pummeled Barbuda as a Category 4 hurricane—the most destructive hurricane Barbuda had seen to that point. After Luis passed and the community gathered for the first time as the church, they sang a song about God’s grace and mercy.

On this recent Sunday in October, survivors of the even more powerful and destructive Hurricane Irma sang it again:

Your grace and mercy brought me through, I’m living this moment because of You. I want to thank You and praise You, too. Yes, Your grace and mercy brought me through.

During worship, pastor Nigel Henry asked if anyone wanted to testify. One by one, locals stood up and gave testimony to the God of miracles and thanked Him for keeping them safe during the storm. Hurricane Irma stripped roofs from homes, leveled houses down to their foundations, and tossed cars and shipping containers around like they were toys.

To see the destruction today and learn that only one life was lost is proof of God’s miraculous power. As the locals say, “Who but God can be God?”

“We might have lost our possessions, but we have not lost Him,” said pastor Nigel.

Mark Langham, our Barbuda area coordinator and construction manager, delivered the sermon. He reminded us of God’s purpose for every life despite the storms and through the storms. “Hurricane Irma does not define you. Your life will not be defined by this disaster, but through this disaster you will be refined in the hands of God,” he said.

After the service, the Samaritan’s Purse staff was surprised by a church wide lunch to honor their work on the island. Barbudan hospitality and gourmet Caribbean fare meant full bellies and lots of smiles.

Outside the church walls, years of rebuilding remain, but inside the church a potluck brought everyone together with a renewed sense of family and much needed normalcy. In what was the largest and most diverse gathering of community in Barbuda since Hurricane Irma, hope was renewed and joy rekindled.

Members from all of the island’s seven churches attended, along with several people who told us they were not churchgoers. Sunday morning was a time to be remembered as a communitywide celebration to say to one’s neighbors “welcome home” and to encourage each other with the promise that with God we will come back stronger.

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