Ministry in Paradise

We used to get teased about “ministry in the Bahamas” during our fifteen years of significant involvement there. But you go where God sends you! We enjoyed the opportunities given to us and the warmth of the people. And yes, we did enjoy the sand and the sea, especially if we were in the Bahamas when winter blessed the northern part of the US. We learned a lot about the practicality of life on one of the Bahamian Family Islands. How everything cost twice as much as it did on the mainland! Often, your favorite coffee may not be available in the store. And, many times I couldn’t bring myself to buy a carton of ice cream after looking at the price. But these inconveniences pale in comparison to extreme poverty! 

One day while standing in line at the main island grocery store, I encountered poverty in a real way. Yes, I was already aware of the two shanty towns right next to the island’s commercial center. I couldn’t ignore them. A rickety chain-linked fence stood as a boundary. Of course, I was aware of it!

Beware!

On more than one occasion, others cautioned us not to wander into the shanty towns. They could prove dangerous to strangers. But somehow, it was easy to both see and yet not be fully aware of this barrier between plenty and not quite enough.  

One day, a little old Haitian grandma stood in the grocery checkout line with two people separating us. I watched as she placed her few groceries on the conveyor and waited as the clerk rang them up. When the total appeared, the grandma laid a few well-folded bills and a handful of coins on the belt. The clerk counted them up. A short conversation occurred, and the grandma pointed to a couple of items which the clerk removed then bagged the rest.  

In my time on the island, I saw this kind of thing repeated. I now thought I understood poverty until one day I asked an island friend who ministered to the Haitian shanty community why these people left Haiti for a life like this, living in ramshackle homes and a hand-to-mouth existence. He paused for quite a while and then quietly said, “They live here because this is so much better than the life they left in Haiti.”  

Then it hit me! I hadn’t really seen poverty, only its shadow. The impact of this conversation has never left me. It has motivated me to engage with folks I’ve never seen, whose poverty is extreme.  

So, what engaged you as you grew to understand something about extreme poverty? 

Click here if you would like to learn more about poverty.

If you’re ready to make a lasting Impact, check this out!

 

Henry Pitman 

For 25 years, Henry and Ruth Pitman served in various vocational ministries in the U.S. and Canada when the Lord redirected their lives. They were invited to serve the Lord in Abaco, Bahamas. For more than 15 years in Abaco, they ministered to people living in the shanty towns, and consulted with the Bahamian Government on the development of learning opportunities for special needs children and youth.

Eventually, they moved to Marsh Harbour, Abaco and lived with and served the extreme poor there. Henry is now retired, and Ruth teaches in North Carolina. Both continue to serve the poor as Bright Hope Allies considering it both a responsibility and a privilege to share with their grandkids ways to care for the needs of the extreme poor.