Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hallelujahs and Last Hurrahs

Marsh Harbour and Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas
March 26 – April 8, 2015

By the time we made it to the Abacos, we knew our trip was drawing to a close, and our hearts seemed to jump ahead of us. Even though we’d talked about taking our time exploring remote anchorages, the pull of home grew stronger.

Given the fact that Easter fell in early April, though, we wanted to slow down enough find a special place to worship with other people. During this week of the greatest celebration of the church, we attended services in three places. It was especially moving to be with three different groups of people worshiping in very different ways. What a great reminder that anyone, anywhere, can worship God in his or her own way—and He loves it all.

Palm Sunday we went with George, our friend who makes conch salad on the Marsh Harbour waterfront, to Grace Baptist Church. Now, these people know rousing gospel music and how to raise the rafters. They love to worship at full volume and enthusiasm. We joined in and raised our voices. Full disclosure: by the time the service was half over, I stuffed tissue in my ears to relieve the ringing. Theirs was a zealous hallelujah. And everyone was so friendly and welcoming to the two strangers in the congregation with light complexions.
With George in front of Grace Baptist Church
Settled by Loyalists soon after the Revolutionary War
By Good Friday we had moved on to Green Turtle Cay, one of our favorite islands in the Abacos. Edison and Eunice, with whom we reconnected on Cat Island, have a daughter Stacy who lives there with her husband and seven children. She invited us to join them at the New Plymouth Gospel Chapel for a Friday morning service. We rode two and a half miles on our bikes, working up a sweat to arrive on time. Appropriate to the commemoration of the death of Jesus, the service was meditative and restrained, featuring familiar old hymns. This was a quiet hallelujah. And everyone was so friendly and welcoming to the visitors who looked a lot like them.
New Plymouth Gospel Chapel
Then came Sunday. On Saturday we’d stopped by St. Peter’s Anglican/Episcopalian Church in New Plymouth and were told by a custodian that the service would start at a spot several blocks away where everyone would meet and “process” to the church. We showed up there Sunday morning to find a small group, mainly celebrants and acolytes. For all we knew, that was the entire congregation. We marched in time with a drummer, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “We’re Marching to Zion.” As we entered the church, we found it nearly full. Apparently not everyone wanted to be in the Easter parade. But what a beautiful service, with stirring responsive readings, choir numbers, communion, and a glorious solo at the end. This was a joyful hallelujah! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, no matter their skin tone. And we were happy to be part of it.
Participating in the Easter parade

St. Peter's Anglican/Episcopalian Church
Easter Sunday at St. Peter's
What to do with buoys that wash ashore on Green Turtle Cay
Green Turtle Cay settlement harbor
Vertram Lowe's model ships, with all working parts

Many of the residents of Green Turtle Cay are descendants of the original Lowe family
The Olde Gaol (Jail) in New Plymouth
Coco Bay, Green Turtle Cay
Easter Monday is a major holiday in the Bahamas. Almost all businesses are closed. That didn’t include Brendal’s Dive Center. Brendal is a SCUBA diving legend. He has a “wall of fame” in his shop with names of celebrities who have dived with him (including Jacques Cousteau) and television programs and magazines that have featured him. For a last hurrah, we went diving. It had been at least ten years. A gorgeous reef called “The Fish Bowl” was the site of our first dive. Keith dives like a pro, as though he does it every day. His dive buddy (me) had a rougher time. It proved to be challenging with roiled seas, strong current, and constantly changing depths. We had fun, though. On Keith’s second dive, he came face to face with quite a few sharks and lived to show the pictures.
Curious reef shark
A Nassau Grouper camouflaged in the coral
Wednesday, April 8, we said goodbye to The Bahamas. Throughout this season we have truly been overwhelmed by all the fabulous experiences and special connections with old and new friends—grace upon grace upon grace. In The Divine Conspiracy, the late Dallas Willard talks about the “heart-wrenching goodness of God, his incomprehensible graciousness and generosity.” This winter, we sailed on a tidal wave of that goodness. Our last hurrah is a heartfelt hallelujah.
A typical Bahamian scene. A sight we'll miss!
The sun sets over the Little Bahama Bank as we leave the Bahamas,
a fittingly beautiful farewell
All we are and all we have is by the love of God! The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful than we will ever be able to comprehend.
A. W. Tozer