Monday, August 30, 2010

Here's an update

Well once again I have let too much time pass between blog entries - mea culpa!

Much has happened this past summer so I will try to give you the highlights.
First off, the economy is killing the folks here in the Bahamas. Tourism is down significantly with hotels at 20-50% occupancy. The trickle down effect of this is major. With no jobs in Nassau people have moved back to the family islands with high hopes, only to have them dashed when they find out the reality here is no better.

Locally, there is a carpenter with several children who has asked if I had any work. He didn't want money, he wanted work. Coincidentally the next day a gale blew through and ripped a 10' strip of flashing off the roof of the church and I was able to give him the job of climbing up on the roof and tacking it back in place. (Ginni was thrilled I didn't try this one on my own - especially after my adventure last year when I climbed on the roof of the church to hang the Christmas lights). It wasn't a big job, and I didn't have much to give him, but in his words "Its better than nothing Deac, and I'm providing for my family with the work of my own hands". Bahamian pride is alive and well.

The window in the sacristy has a major leak whenever it rains and that is his next job. While it would be easy to slip him a few dollars, he would much rather earn it and there is clearly alot of little jobs around this place that, when I have the money, I can use to help him out.

While I'm talking about construction - the construction effort at that old church I mentioned earlier is under way. We had gone to bid and hired one of our parishioners who does this type of work. St. Gabriel's will become the Fr. Gabriel Roerig, OSB Parish Center. Fr. Gabriel was the first priest to ever minister on Andros and he spent 56 years here serving the Bahamian people. This church had been closed years and years ago and all the windows and doors had been smashed in and boarded up, and termites were starting to take over. Our vision is to restore it as a parish center where we can teach CCD, have parish meetings, and an occasional social. A place for CCD is the primary need right now and through the generosity of many people, both Bahamians and our friends and family the work is under way.

The Sister of Mercy who had preceded us had recieved 10 colored windows from a church in Maine that had been closed. They didn't fit anywhere so she stored them in the closed St. Gabriels' building. Well termites love cardboard boxes, so to cockroaches (some day I will tell you about Bahamian cockroaches the size of your thumb). When I first saw the windows all you could see was a pile of corroded cardboard, dust, and yuck. After I did the initial cleaning of St. Gabriel's I realized I had windows - and they were an odd size. Months later, when I was meeting with the contractors, it turned out the window size is also an odd size so whatever windows we bought the windows would need to be re-framed. One contractor said, "You know, if I have to reframe the windows anyway, why not use this colored windows you already have?" That little pearl saved us $1,000.

Right now the windows are in, new doors are in, and they are breaking up the concrete floor where the water line will be for the toilet. There's still much to do before CCD classes begin in Oct, like adding electricity, putting in the water line and septic, building a bathroom, installing a toilet, powerwashing the building and paint - and the list goes on and on. When we get closer to completion we will need to buy the tables and chairs as well. We have been blessed with many donors and we hope that we can pull in the last few thousand we need to replace the floor, time will tell, but God is good!

Let me tell you just how good. The AUTEC Navy base has a room we have used to teach the children on the base. In that room is a piece of furniture that has a white board on two sides, between the white boards is a room divider that collapses and slides into a storage compartment between the two boards. Now, over the years, people have mistakenly used permanent markers, and they'd been scoured off, but it happened more than once so now its pretty much unusable and it's stored off to the side and never used. Well I did some research and found a company back in Massachusetts that sells this contact-paper-like-stuff that effectively resurfaces old white boards. So I posed the question, "Could I have that old white board thingy in the corner for our new parish center?" Without blinking an eye the Navy Chaplain says "Fine with me", the Commander says "I have no problem", the Chapel Coordinator says, "Would you like to use my truck?" God is good. So we are progressing well with the Parish Center.

With all this good news - ministry to our Bahamian friends has its peaks and valleys. One family has a potential child abuse situation that I've injected myself into and, with the help of Social Services, we may be seeing the light at the end of that tunnel.

Another family has a young girl that has been kept out of school to do chores, resulting in her missing so much school, and her final exams, that she'll have to be kept back and repeat. We worked with the family to correct the situation, and with the school so that I was allowed to proctor her, and give her the exams here at the church. The end result is she is moving on to the next grade and her parents have a clear understanding of their responsibility to get her to school

A long-time member of our church passed away in Nassau a few weeks ago. We met with her son and understood that, because of their financial situation, they would be burying her in Nassau rather than shipping the body back here for burial. While we were in Nassau we met with another son from Nassau and shared our stories of Maria. We had never met this man but he knew all about us from his mother. It turns out Maria had us in her cell phone listed under the name 'Guardian Angels'. You can imagine how that made Ginni and I feel when we heard that story! A few days later we got a call from the Vicar General in Nassau saying that Maria's funeral would be at the Cathedral and they wanted me to preach. I was blown away!

Ginni and I have had wonderful experiences here, there is the joy of Baptism and 1st communion, there is the sadness of kneeling next to the body of a parishioner on the floor of his home and praying with the family. Funerals are a major event here, and usually full of wailing and crying - but Maria's funeral was one of victory and Ginni and I were thrilled to be part of it.

Now we are cranking up for CCD and RCIA - much to do, as you can imagine. Ginni will be flying home Wednesday to get in some nursing (pending Hurricane Earle's track towards Nassau). I haven't been able to take any time this year and was planning on working through until I got a call from the Rector at the Cathedral. It seems he like to vacation on the family islands and wanted to know if he could come to Andros and spend a few weeks here - and at the same time give me a break. (Did I say God is good?) So I will leave Sept 10 and join Ginni in the states for a few weeks before we actually jump into CCD.

Well, enough for now, till next time - keep us in your prayers.

Frank and Ginni

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