Mission to Long Island in the Bahamas

Dr Rex Major
For the extended weekend of Friday, October 13 to Monday October 16 I was in the Bahamas at the invitation of my friend and colleague in ministry, Rex Major. Specifically, I was in Long Island, one of the 15 inhabited islands of the more than 700 islands and 2, 000 cays that comprise the unitary political state called The Bahamas.

Nassau, the capital city of The Bahamas, is on the island of New Providence. Each island is markedly different and interestingly so. This one, the fourth I have visited, is 98 miles long and at no point wider than three miles. There is one road – not one main road!

That road is all you need to get you anywhere by car. I flew from Miami to Nassau, and a few hours later I caught the single flight daily from Nassau for the short flight to Long Island – in a much smaller aircraft - made full with the 15 of us traveling from Nassau to attend the same event.

We were all going for a double purpose. One was to attend the establishing of Cartwright’s Gospel Hall, founded 47 years ago, and the second was to celebrate along with Dr. Rex Major his 50 years in Christian Ministry.

As a lad of 20 years and already a Head Teacher of a school in another island, Rex felt the call of God upon his life and launched out into full time service for the Lord as an Evangelist. His first field of such labour was in Deadman’s Cay, south Long Island, his settlement of birth. There, he laboured for 10 years before leaving for study in the USA. The first church planted as a result of his labours in south Long Island was Cartwright’s Gospel Hall.

Poring over some of the records he has in his own handwriting and in a Christian newspaper then, I could see all the marks of an Apostolic ministry, as he went from settlement to settlement in a religiously tight and indifferent, even hostile environment, until a few years later he ventured to pitch a tent, invite the help of evangelists such as Ed Allen and Tom Roberts, and eventually supervised the raising up of a building for the nurture of the new converts.

Then, in apostolic tradition, he selected and trained men for leadership as elders, ordained them to the office, crafted a Statement of Faith, established a Burial Society, created traditions for conferences, visitation and hospitality, and left all things in order for others to follow.

Forty-seven years later, the work stands nobly, with the respect of the community. It has grown considerably and all this Rex has had beautifully documented in a magazine printed on glossy stock, in full colour, including photos of every member and some shots of those earlier days of struggle and spiritual victory. Interestingly the 100-page production was not sold but handed out free to everyone who attended and extra-copies were provided for those who had interested relatives and friends abroad (even though production cost was $30 each).

This out-island is quiet and peaceful. The lush, thick vegetation provides healthful, unpolluted air and the glistening waters on every hand makes all so nice and wonderful. There are no dangerous animals on land – no poisonous snakes, no alligators, etc. The island’s economy is generated mainly by sheep farming and fishing as well as modest tourism, for visitors who prefer to avoid big hotels and casinos.

I enjoyed the tranquility of the guest house in which I stayed, with several rooms but I don’t think there were more than four of us there. No disturbing noise whatever. Leaving your door unlocked was not a big risk. Even the lovely snappers in the creek below our feet at the verandah’s edge frolicked temptingly and freely - protected against being fished for sport or supper.

However, most of the young people of Long Island prefer the big city of Nassau and the brighter lights of USA cities and so are not as numerous as might be appreciated. Furthermore, that’s where they have to go for their college education. But the older folk just love it, as well as school teachers from other Caribbean countries. I met some from Guyana and Jamaica, in the Brethren churches.

Rex Major, who the Prime Minister in his message to the organisers intimated was known to many as the ‘Billy Graham of the Bahamas’, is today the premier Bahamian church planter among Brethren. Furthermore, as a Christian Minister of any denomination, he is unmatched as the one who has pulled the largest elite audiences for some of his events, such as his “Stand for Righteousness” held in the historic Rawson Square, the political and social centre for big events in The Bahamas

A few years ago Rex retired as Senior Pastor Emeritus of Grace Community Church in Nassau, and is now engaged in strengthening the churches he planted and motivating leaders in churches in The Bahamas and throughout the wider Caribbean to renew and expand their vision

Before my arrival at Cartwright’s he was busy making preparations for the weekend Conference and conducting an Evangelistic Crusade. He spoke every night for a full week then yielded after that for others – Tom Roberts, Carl Lehman, and Billy Hall.

On the Saturday morning I addressed the believers and at the Sunday afternoon had the privilege and high honour of addressing a big gathering for the ecumenical and community celebratory service. The Saturday morning session saw fires of revival ignited as nearly half the congregation responded by coming forward for rededication with loud crying amid the confessors. I too, was among them, as Rex led the clinching moments.

On Sunday afternoon, the organisers having cancelled the regular Sunday morning services at the Gospel Hall, including the Lord’s Supper, to ensure the presence and freshness of the believers, a magnificent turnout was there, facilitated by fine weather, to take the more than 300 seats. Responding to the invitation to attend were representatives of the Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Church of God and Pentecostals. Again, Rex pulled in the net of the fish caught in the Teaching Ministry and we rejoiced at the partnership for the harvest, to the glory of God.

The more than three hour service seemed to have been much more enjoyed than endured. Thank God, and surprising to me, in this essentially rural setting, most of the seats were cushioned, and the place was air-conditioned!