In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992 the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church (BCMC) became actively involved in providing relief and support to the Bahamian people affected by the disaster. Within days after the storm passed, teams were dispatched to the island of Eleuthera to assess the damage and deliver supplies to the affected settlements. Methodist Churches in the U.S. and Bahamas assisted with donations of money, materials and most of all labor by sending volunteers through their mission’s programs to help rebuild homes and communities.
The BCMC once again rose to the challenge of disaster relief after Hurricane Floyd in 1999 devastated the region. The BCMC’s disaster response committee reached out to the islands of Eleuthera, Abaco and Cat. This was made possible through the generous donations from a coalition of Churches and local business’. This method of quick response promulgated by donated funds and anchored in volunteerism would become the precedent that would bring Methodist Habitat into existence.
When Hurricane Michelle hit the islands in November of 2001 the BCMC appointed Mr. Shaun Ingraham, as Coordinator of Disaster Relief. During this time the BCMC became increasingly aware of the need to invest in building more sustainable communities that would be better prepared to withstand hurricanes and Methodist Habitat was finally born. Bahamas Methodist Habitat (BMH) is a subsidiary of the BCMC with a platform of emergency response and relief in the wake of the frequent regional hurricanes and other natural disasters and in the interim period battling substandard housing in the local communities.
BMH most recently spearheaded a coordinated effort with The Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Angel Flights (A fleet of pilots with private planes that engage in non-profit mercy flights) on the island of Inagua repairing roofs damaged by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008. An array of volunteers from both the Bahamas and the United States cycled through in the month long mission and repaired over 50 homes.
The heart and head office of BMH is Camp Symonette, the BCMC’s missions camp built in 1978 by Sir Roland Symonette, in James Cistern, Eleuthera. Our staff, that is made up of our Director, Construction Coordinator, Long-Term Volunteers and Interns, work with and host groups year-round from the States and the Bahamas that fly in for a week of absorbing the local culture, sharing devotion, swimming in the clear, glass-like, turquoise sea, experiencing adventure by roaming the beautiful island we call home and above all serving our Bahamian brothers and throughout the islands. We are vessels of Christ’s love and we hope that everything we do is a reflection of our Creator’s will, life and testament.
Shaun Ingraham (Aug. ’98- Aug. ’04)
Shaun’s vast experience in disaster relief and home repair made him a perfect fit to take on the lead role of Methodist Habitat. His passion for the greater Bahamian family and the BCMC motivated him to pour his life and calling into serving others. After his graduation from Florida Southern College and Candler Theological Seminary he began to bring UMVIM teams to Camp Symonette and throughout the Bahamas to repair homes and bring hope to persons in need. His wife Sandra supported his efforts and also served with the BCMC. They now live in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera. Shaun’s legacy of sustainability and love for others lives on through BMH.
Mike Fastzkie (Aug. ’04-Aug ’05)
Mike and wife Shannan, with their two youngest children Bess (13) and Lydia (6) arrived on Eleuthera on August 31st, 2004 just two days before Hurricane Frances hit the Bahamas. Their family served a one-year term as missionaries with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission in partnership with The Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church. Their family now resides in Greer, South Carolina with their two older children Megan and Nathan. Mike and his family made a great impact at Camp Symonette and throughout the Bahamas. They are forever grateful to all that made their time in the Bahamas so memorable.
Martin Gaitor (Caretaker/Project Manager June ’96-Sept ’07, Director Fall ’05)
When no one else would or could do it….Martin did. The glue that kept things running through thick and thin has moved on to the next chapter of his life. Martin’s unending dedication to BMH inspired many volunteers to come back year after year to serve in the Bahamas. He and his family live in James’ Cistern, Eleuthera and he is the Congregational Board Chairperson for Governor’s Harbour Methodist Church along with now running his own electrical business. It has been said that Martin was the 13th Disciple, that’s a pretty good description.