Yes, I am using the term ‘paradise’ loosely. Jesus referred to heaven as “paradise” (Luke 23:43). Needless to say, that’s not the paradise that I’m speaking of. And yet, for a preacher who has never lived more than a three hour drive from where he was born, Freeport Grand Bahama feels a bit like paradise–the earthly version.
I’m privileged to have been invited to preach for a month at Lucaya Presbyterian Kirk in the Bahamas. This is my second tour of duty in this capacity, the first coming in 2007. If I can pull myself away from the beach, I hope to blog a little bit about my experience here in tropical paradise.
I’m in my 4th day of this 29 day adventure and two things in particular are standing out. The warmth and the warmth. The first kind of warmth was expected. It is crazy hot down here. Let’s just say the air conditioner in my condo is set at 80 degrees, and I feel remarkably refreshed when I come in from outside.
The second kind of warmth I have experienced is the warmth of hospitality. Bahamians treat their visitors extremely well. Tonight will be the 3rd time in 4 nights where someone had me over for dinner. The folks from the Kirk have been kind and generous. The condo where I am staying belongs to a couple from the church who are currently in Scotland. I have never met them, and yet they were eager to accommodate me and my family.
There is a culture of friendliness down here which is winsome and attractive. I was grocery shopping the other day and was amazed at the number of people who said ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ to me. Here I was, a stranger, in an unfamiliar place, being treated as if I always shopped in this store.
Once I was settled I then sought out a gym to help me counter all of the extra calories I was anticipating to consume. I found the same spirit there—warm, welcoming, and sincere. By day 2 the gym staff were treating me like a life-long member. I was, and am, amazed.
And now a passage comes to my mind, from 1Peter 4:8-10:
Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.
That sounds great, but how often do we see that? How often does love, joyful hospitality, and generous service describe your experience within a community? How often does it describe your interaction with others?
I would love for the local church to be marked by the kind of hospitality I’ve seen on this island. That visitors would come to church and be made to feel as if they’ve always been here.
I’m inspired by the example of my Bahamian friends. Hospitality is a huge deal.
I came to this island believing that it was the first kind of warmth (temperature) that made this ‘paradise’. But I expect that by the time I leave it will be the second kind of warmth (hospitality) which will cause me to exclaim, ‘I’ve been to paradise!’