Last fall, new student Chris Sawyer arrived on The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) Graceville campus accompanied by his father, Kevin. Upon learning that they were from Marsh Harbour, located on the beautiful island of Abaco in the Bahamas, BCF Music and Worship Division Chair Bill Davis somewhat jokingly offered to bring one of the BCF singing groups down for a tour. The elder Sawyer indicated that a tour to the area might be a welcomed possibility. He explained that Abaco is one of the “out islands” and that most of the traveling groups choose more “touristy” destinations. “Rarely,” he said, “do the churches in the area have the opportunity to hear musical talent from outside of the small island.”
Since Chris joined the BCF Male Chorale during the fall semester, exploration began into the possibility of a chorale tour to Abaco in the spring. Mr. Sawyer began making preparations for the group and secured housing through the church, its members, and local friends. Several chorale members were lodged in a vacant missionary home rented by Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, the church where BCF friend, the late Dr. Wayne Barber, served as pastor.
According to Davis, on the first morning in Marsh Harbour, the group sang at a Christian TV station which broadcasts over the entire Bahamian region, as well as to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The entire viewing area of the Caribbean learned about the mission of BCF through an interview with the chorale director.
In addition to the musical performances, the group painted the exterior of a home belonging to a widow at Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel. In a day and a half, the chorale painted the entire house. Chorale member Troy Marks commented, “One of the things that impacted me the most about our tour was seeing Debbie and her daughter beaming with joy. Watching them having pride in their home, and being so thankful for the work that was accomplished. What a blessing to come alongside the church, serving with them, and helping to minister to this family.”
Two of the chorale’s concerts, located at Man O’ War Cay (pronounced “key”) and Great Guana Cay, were on outlying islands that had to be reached by boat. The current pastor at Man O’ Way Cay, Rev. Randy Crowe, had served as a pastor in Florida providing leadership on the Florida Baptist State Board of Missions. Upon arrival, the group found the church at Great Guana Cay without a pastor, and with God’s timing, one of the chorale members, Troy Marks, along with his wife Rachel, will travel back to serve as their interim pastor this summer.
Commenting on his impression, BCF student Asa Sellers remarked, “The beaches were incredible; but what I loved most was how much the churches loved singing all types of worship music: hymns, contemporary arrangements, chants, etc. They are truly one big happy family.”
On Thursday morning, the group sang to over a hundred students at Agape Christian School, a ministry of Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel. The students enthusiastically listened, and joined in on worship songs. Chorale member Tim Lloyd commented, “My fondest memory of our spring tour will be singing in chapel at the high school that Chris Sawyer attended in the Bahamas. It was great to see students who try really hard to be cool actually pay attention to what we were doing.”
On Friday evening, the group conducted a choir workshop for area churches with over thirty singers participating. The group joined with the chorale for Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel’s Sunday morning service, singing “Because He Lives, Amen.” The chorale also shared two musical selections in the Sunday morning service, and during the evening service they presented a full worship concert.
“It was a blessing to be able to travel to a different country and fellowship with other believers,” commented BCF student Dillon Rykard on his experience. “I found great joy in going to some smaller churches and encouraging them through music. We may be separated by hundreds of miles, but we’re still one church serving the same God. It’s our responsibility as believers to love our brothers and sisters and lift them up.” Observing the poverty in a local Haitian settlement, Rykard continued, “This trip also placed a burden on my heart for the Haitian people. They face so much rejection. We should do all that we can to love them the way Christ loves.”
Accompanist Kathryn Taylor had this to say, “I really enjoyed encouraging the saints that we came in contact with in the Bahamas. Whether it was performing for them and leading them in worship, enjoying a time of fellowship with them, or painting the house for a widow in the church that couldn’t, it was an honor to spend time pouring into our brothers and sisters. I was proud of my school as we were able to serve the Body of Christ in that way. I pray that we helped them feel refreshed, supported, and able to keep serving the Lord faithfully.”
“Yes, the crew did get a little beach time in on Saturday,” stated Davis. “Enjoying the beautiful scenery on Treasure Cay and the wonder of one of the island’s natural “blue holes.” But from all of the reports given by the participants on this trip, the opportunities to serve the Lord alongside new Christian brothers and sisters will be what they remember the most.”
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