UMVIM Team Builds Room, Relationships, and Social Justice in the Bahamas

September 04, 2008

By Marvin Tanner

I recently went on a two-week United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trip to Nassau, Bahamas. I decided to go on this mission after hearing members of our congregation speak of our vision statement, “Building Social Justice,” and after a personal appeal from the Rev. Nymphas Edwards, who was then our District Superintendent. Our purpose was to construct and upgrade the multi-purpose/resource room of the Methodist Mission Center on Quakoo Street in Nassau, Bahamas, and also to assist in a Vacation Bible School at a Methodist church in the circuit. The mission center is in a converted warehouse donated by a church member. The center will serve the Croix-des-Missions Fellowship in the surrounding Haitian neighborhood. 
Our UMVIM team consisted of six men and four women, from five district churches. Our leaders were Nymphas and Lois Edwards, and our host was Raymond Neilly, Bishop of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA). We stayed with families from the Rhodes Memorial Methodist Church. Three of us were fortunate to stay with Geralene and Willy Lightbourn in their luxurious home, which had a swimming pool. We were provided three meals a day by cooks from the church. We were fed delicious Bahamas-style meals, which included grouper, conch, plantain, coconut torte, chicken souse, and Johnny cake.
Three of the women on our VIM team prepared and led Vacation Bible School during the second week that we were in Nassau. I worked on the construction team, installing drywall and bookcases in the resource room. We first had to nail furring strips to the concrete walls of the room. It was difficult to work in the hot, humid environment – but thankfully, we worked only five hours a day. We had ample time to develop relationships with the church members, some of whom stopped by to see how the project was progressing.
During our free time we went on a harbor cruise, went shopping in the tourist area of Nassau, had dinner at the Fish Fry restaurant, had a beach party on the Bahamas Emancipation holiday, and had a swim party at my hosts’ home. As an added bonus, our hosts took some of us to the Miss Teen Bahamas International pageant, where their granddaughter was a contestant. (The final stage of the pageant was held after I returned home. It was a joy to learn that our hosts’ granddaughter was named Queen!)
On Sunday we all attended the church service at the Rhodes Memorial Methodist Church. Nymphas gave the message, and three from our team read Scriptures. Having served the Methodist Church for 16 years in Nassau, Nymphas and Lois were well known and well loved (Nymphas is past chairman of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands Conference). It was not surprising that they had a continuous steam of visitors.
We were able to install the drywall and make the bookcases (four bookcases, eight feet high and four feet long). Work still to be done includes installing a suspended ceiling; texturing; laying linoleum flooring; performing bathroom upgrades; doing outdoor plastering; and installing floor bracing. Funding for our UMVIM team’s work was provided by churches in our district and our Conference extension society. Our team was pleased to present a check for $7,904 to fund completion of the work.
We learned that a minister from Haiti will soon arrive and have an office in the Mission Center. It is Bishop Neilly’s vision to establish a Methodist Church at the Mission Center, as well. Having been on this UMVIM trip, I am convinced that social justice will be served by the Methodist Church in the Haitian community of Nassau.
(Editor’s Note: Read more about UMVIM trips on the California-Nevada UMVIM Destinations and Discoveries page.)