Tuesday, 11 June 2013

what they see/ what we see

Recently the topic of our new country and its current rate of unemployment/homelessness/poverty came up again.  Usually when we have visitors or sometimes friends from the states who inquire, we are reminded that the world at large doesn't see the what The Bahamas looks like, once you get past West/East Bay Street or Paradise Island (Atlantis).  Yes there is a good-sized middle class here.  This is a sign of hope and stability for this nation.  But there is also a vast dichotomy between the rich and the poor here.  And unfortunately, many of "the rich" are white foreigners who buy up million dollar real estate, turn it into billion dollar resorts, and cycle the money back to their foreign countries.  The Bahamas doesn't get the benefit of massive enterprises like Atlantis or the up and coming Baha Mar.  Giving the locals "thousands of jobs" as housekeepers, maintenance men, and counter clerks at these resorts doesn't exactly repay the vast amount of wealth these foreign investors are making.  It's the Bahamian's land.  But they aren't pocketing the lion's share of what is being generated from it's beauty.  And more and more local beaches stand in danger of being bought up by out-of-country investors to be turned into money-making real estate.  Beaches that locals have fond childhood memories of no longer are accessible to them...unless they can come up with the million dollars to buy a condo that now stands upon it.

Well...for us as Americans it was quite eye-opening when we came for our first visit nearly 3 years ago.  At this point, our eyes have adjusted.  We no longer are shocked to see the heaps of garbage, stray mangy dogs, decrepit buildings, and homes that are nothing more than wooden shacks where the many poor live.  And when we leave "Paradise Island" and drive back to Nassau proper, we heave a sigh, feeling the distance...and I don't mean the literal short arched bridge that exists between the two.

 What most people think of when they hear "The Bahamas"  is Sun, Water, Beaches, Resorts, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  And to be sure, these things exist.  And that is what the government wants you to see. This is what tourists want to see. What they want you to avoid begins about one block up from "Tourist Row," where real inner-city Nassau begins.  We have difficulty taking pictures of this side of Nassau because we don't want to offend people.  We look like tourists already with our white skin and sunglasses...if we whip out our cameras, we will look as though we're gawking, and we don't want to do that.  So I've pulled some accurate pictures from google images...both sides.  In our everyday lives, we are in the thick of it, the city streets, the backroads, all of the "real Nassau."  This is what we see, this is what we carry on our hearts.  Last night, Keith received a phone call from a lady who's been attending our job-placement help course, offered on Tuesday mornings.  She was desperate...out of money, nothing to eat, and a 5 year old depending on her.  That morning her roommate told her to get out by nightfall.  She was grief-stricken when she called.  Keith wisely counseled her that sometimes just curing one piece of the need helps the other needs not look so large...he asked her if she'd eaten that day.  Not really.  He said, "Alright.  I'm coming and bringing you a meal.  That's step one."  And so he did, with the help of another man in our church and my 19 year old nephew who was here visiting.  Step one.  Feed the Hungry.  Yeah, I can do something about that.  I can cook.  I can "drive thru" Wendy's.  I can pack a bag of food.  Step one.  And the other needs begin to fall in line.  Oh help us God.  Help us to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and shine your light where darkness wants to swallow all the brightness.  We know you will.

There is so much beauty here, but also so much disparity.  This post is dedicated to setting the record straight.  Next weekend, my college roommate (also my maid of honor), her husband (a youth pastor), and their youth group will be traveling here from Holly Springs, North Carolina to do a weeklong missions trip.  They chose the Bahamas because of the need, not because of the beauty...at least, not the obvious beauty.  Jesus is here.  And the need that He can fill will be beautiful.

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