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Pastors form Bahamian-American connection
  
Thursday, 28 January 2010 15:03

Bishop Smith and his group meet up in Rawson Square before heading to Living Waters Church of God Inc for their annual service. (Photo: Derek Smith)NASSAU, Bahamas -- A simple invitation has turned into a lifelong friendship and an enduring fellowship between a group of Bahamians and Americans.

The special relationships began almost 40 years ago when Bahamian pastor Bishop Wilbert Rolle met Bishop Douglas Smith in Columbus, Indiana during a religious trip.  After extending an invitation for Bishop Smith to preach at a revival at his church in San Andros, Bahamas, the two pastors become close friends.  That relationship has grown to encompass their churches and many other Bahamians and Americans.

The Smiths continued to visit San Andros every year.  When Bishop Rolle started a church in Nassau, the annual visit moved to Nassau.  This year, the Smiths led a total of 84 visitors to Nassau by cruise ship.  The majority of the group made a special visit to Bishop Rolle’s church, Living Waters Church of God, for the anniversary service that has become an international tradition. The group now comes by cruise ship.  It has been that way ever since the September 11 attacks in the United States, when it was hard for them to organize air transportation. However, the visits have not lost momentum.  Last year, the number of visitors swelled to 106.

“You only get to stay one night, but if you take 30, 40, maybe 50 people to church for the night, it makes a big difference,” Bishop Smith said.

Bishop Smith has not promoted the annual cruise in any special way, but the number of interested people is always large, he said.  They join him from all over the United States.

“We had people out of North Carolina,” he said. “There were several people out of Alabama, Kentucky.  We have people out of New York, California, Michigan. They just get a hold of me. Every year, someone will tell someone else about this work we are doing, going over to the church.  So it keeps growing.  Some of the people, I’ve never met until we get on the cruise ship.”

The regular visits have built special friendships over the years.  Bishop Smith recalls watching little Bahamian children develop into adults and seeing the church in Nassau grow from worship services under a tent to larger services in a church hall.

The affinity for him and his group is just as great among Bahamians.

Portia Poitier, a member of Living Waters Church of God Inc, was assigned as the group’s hostess on their most recent trip.

“It is wonderful to have all the people come to visit the church,” Ms. Poitier said.  “They have a lot of fun and they assist us financially, helping us to build.  It is just an inspiration to see them come every year to fellowship with us.  It means that we are doing something right. They love us so much and we love them the same.”

Photo: Bishop Smith and his group meet up in Rawson Square before heading to Living Waters Church of God Inc for their annual service. (Photo: Derek Smith)


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