Responding to the call to go into all the world and broadcast the news of God’s infinite love; pointing others to Christ, impacting hearts and changing lives, the Church of God of Prophecy East Street Tabernacle, under the guidance and leadership of Senior Pastor Bishop Hulan Hanna, hosted a special community outreach effort to help usher in the Christmas season featuring talented youth bands, free food and entertainment for the children.
“After coming out of the pandemic, I decided it was time to show our face to the public again, so I sought the Lord and it came into my spirit that we needed to leave the year connected with our young people and our community,” Bishop Hanna said. “And I further wanted to have the involvement of the community from the churches that we connect with and of course the wider community.”
COGOP East Street Tabernacle has for several years been involved in an evangelistic ministry called Manifestation with area churches. The community partners include Zion Baptist Church Shirley Street, Salem Union Baptist Church, Big Harvest Tent Ministry, Church of God East Street and Lily of the Valley Corner, Mt Pleasant Green Baptist Church, Wulff Road COGOP, Golden Gates World Outreach and East Street Gospel Chapel.
Initially, the plan was to have the praise team of each partnering church be a part of a massive praise and worship session, singing more seasonal songs. As the work began, through the direction of Minister Daren Seymour and his team – Katherine Beneby II and Travis Edgecombe – the vision and objective evolved to include youth bands instead…the Bahamas Brass Junior Band, the Golden Gates Assembly
Band and the Urban Renewal Band.
Bishop Hanna explained that while scheduling conflicts prevented some of the partnering and community churches from being directly involved, several of them gave generously, as did persons from the wider community, including HG Christie Real Estate. As a result of the support and donations, each of the youth bands was presented with a donation of $500 towards ongoing efforts. The decision was also
made to feed the children with hamburgers and hotdogs. Additionally, church members were asked to bring toys that could be wrapped and donated to children in the community. “I thought it was a very good effort, we had the bouncing castle, and we were able to defray the entire cost with the partnerships and walked away owing no one, I thank God for that.”
Several Bahamian vendors also came alongside the church to support the initiative, including Donkey Cone and LimeadeBahamas. “We were able to display a level of Bahamian entrepreneurial spirit by these persons who came in. For Bishop Hanna and the members of East Street Tabernacle, the event was a reintroduction of sorts, to let persons in the surrounding communities of Sunlight Village and Sunlight Cottage and beyond know that they had not been forgotten.
And the Church remains a beacon of light, a reflection of God’s love and a source of support.
“Sometimes we look at things and we may feel, from where we sit, we may feel as if we operate in abundance, so we may not be able to appreciate fully what these communities go through,” Bishop Hanna said. “There was a woman who came, and she got excited by the fact that we would be giving toys and [following the event], I communicated with her, because she was really intrigued by the idea that her children would get gifts from us, so we were able to provide gifts for her children.”
Bishop Hanna said the objectives of the event was to connect with the community, to make it a Christmas event before going into the Christmas holidays and into the New Year, and to bring the community together.
“We were streamed live on Facebook and other media platforms and that gave us even greater reach if only to be a witness to communities to let them know we were doing something. These communities that are depressed, economically so, it cannot be that the only entity that is reaching out to them are persons from the political class, their member of parliament or others. I thought that as a church we needed to do this in a big and meaningful way.
“For me, the highlights coming out of this, it was good to see the smiles on children’s faces. It was good to see a mother, who when she found out about the toys, and when I saw the look on her face that she was going to get something for her children, for her two boys, I saw how it resonated with her in such a positive way, it really, really touched me deeply.
“The third thing, I was able to witness, there were hundreds of young people who came throughout the duration, I saw hundreds of young people who came, got their food, some of the younger children in the bouncing castle, and there was not a single incident, no fighting, no cursing, in fact we saw a few children, young people, from Street Reach (a COGOP East Street Out Reach Programme ) who are all grown up now. Some of them are in their late teens and they’ve done pretty well for themselves in terms of adjusting to life as young adults. We took photos with some of them, and it was so important for us to see what happened to those children.”
As he reflected on the day, Bishop Hanna identified an important takeaway; to see the transformation of the young men, in particular, who passed through the Street Reach Ministry: “young men who when they first came to us were deep in hostility and anger and frustration and wanting to lash out and some of them we saw the potential for some of them to either become a problem to others or to get in problems at the hands of others and so, it was good to see them in a very positive way.” Bishop Hanna credited Philip and Anita Beneby for launching the ministry and for its lasting success – even though it has been on hiatus.
He noted further that it is his intention to look at relaunching the ministry early in the New Year, and he is hopeful that he can engage a newer generation of young people who are coming up the ranks.
“It’s unfortunate some of the young people fell through the cracks, but for the most part the ones that we saw there that day, have done well. Some are in the Defence Force Rangers, others are working, some have even finished high school, so we are very encouraged and by the grace of God we pray that God will continue to keep them, particularly, when you think about the amount of crime going on in the
community, we certainly need God to keep these young people.”
As for the holiday extravaganza, Bishop Hanna said that he would like to think that it will blossom into an annual event, if it is the will of the Lord. “I’d like to see it remain and become an annual institution in the community, which simply means that we would have to go out into the community much earlier and [connect with] the donors much earlier and engage people in a positive way who would want to participate in, what I believe, has been a very meaningful community and church activity.
“My message for the community, and my wish for the community, is that during this holiday season, the main thing will be that man was lost, and God in his divine mercy, had a plan for man’s redemption and that plan involved the first Christmas, it involved God sending his son Jesus Christ. We encourage everyone to enjoy the season, we don’t celebrate a day, we celebrate the birth, we celebrate salvation.
“And I pray that we will understand that the God we serve is bigger than every barrier, every hindrance that has plagued us during 2022 and that we will go by faith which is the victory into 2023. I am also looking up, looking to God to supply all those things that we need, I am looking up to him that salvation will sweep the community, that revival will be in the land.”
Source: Yolanda Deleveaux
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