The following post is from Ray Johnson, coordinator of CBF of Florida.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Romans 5 where Paul writes that “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and in this hope we are not disappointed.”
Suffering produces endurance. Going back to around 1996, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida began a friendship with John McIntosh, the pastor of Mount Hope Baptist Church on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. Over the years, John and his Bahamian brothers and sisters have endured a bit of suffering. In spite of financial hardship, ecclesial difficulties, and at least two hurricanes (Floyd and Irene), our Baptist friends in the Bahamas have endured. They began with us the Abaco Theological Institute and have endured a few setbacks along the way, but in 2012 they will graduate their first class.
Endurance produces character, and character produces hope. More than a year ago, John and Preston Cooper, the pastor of St. Cleveland’s Baptist Church on the east end of Grand Bahama island, approached me and then Daniel Vestal about becoming a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement. We spoke to them, provided information about who we are and what we are about. Then, John and Preston returned to the Bahamas, worked with the Bahamian government to become a recognized religious body, and found five other churches who wanted to join the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of the Bahamas.
This past Sunday, October 23, Harry Rowland from CBF national’s office and I participated in a two-hour long worship service to inaugurate the CBF of the Bahamas and to install its first national coordinator, John McIntosh, and its first national administrator, Preston Cooper. What a great celebration it was! Harry, John, and I were interviewed on the Bahamas’ national Christian television network on Friday to share who Cooperative Baptists are. The worship event on Sunday, which packed the sanctuary of Mt. Hope Baptist Church, was simulcast over the internet. Seven churches were recognized; a complete board of directors was named. Harry preached. I preached. John McIntosh preached. We read letters from a number of CBF Florida churches. We sang; we prayed, and we took the first official offering for CBF of the Bahamas. Not a bad day.
As the sun finally came out after several days of darker skies, we rushed to the dock in Crown Haven to send Preston and his people off on the boat ride back to Grand Bahama. Against the backdrop of those bluer skies and gin-clear waters, Preston and John smiled and said their goodbyes. Preston boarded the boat with about ten others and the twin Yamahas sped them off into the setting sun. I thought to myself we have so much for which to give thanks. These are new days, filled with much hope and anticipation for what the future will hold.
To God be the glory, great things He is doing!