The islands of New Providence and Paradise Island have provided me with a very unique experience thus far. There is an opulence here that surpasses anything I ever witnessed in Toronto. But there is also widespread poverty here that is startling and heart-wrenching.
And, incredibly, these two contexts exist almost side by side.
Just last week I had the opportunity to visit Atlantis Resort with my family. Atlantis is one of the most highly regarded resorts on the planet. Everything about this resort is 1st Class. Within Atlantis there is absolutely no sign of poverty, and so it is easy to forget the desperation that is nearby.
This is not my experience when I am at my office at the Kirk. It is often the case that when I look out my office window I see a man sleeping on the shaded porch in front of our church doors. The man who sleeps here is known to us, and we welcome him. I don’t yet know “his story”, but I know that he is often hungry and that he is often in desperate need. I have provided meals for him, and he now owns some of my t-shirts, and yet I realize that I’ve done little to change his predicament. Today I “caught” my friend washing my vehicle…I was humbled by his thoughtfulness. I pray that as I get to know this man better, we might begin to talk about more personal things, and that I might have opportunity to share the Gospel with him.
Last evening I had the privilege of playing tennis at the prestigious Ocean Club on Paradise Island. Again, not the slightest hint of poverty anywhere nearby (For that matter, not the slightest hint of the middle class!). Playing tennis here once a week with one of the Kirk’s members has become a recent custom for me which I enjoy very much. I am mindful, however, that this experience is exceptional rather than normative.
Tomorrow morning I will be visiting a place for the first time called Ranfurly Homes, which is a residence for children who have been orphaned, abused, neglected, or abandoned. I don’t know what the visit will hold, but I suspect it will further remind me how profoundly varied the living conditions are for the residents of New Providence/Paradise Island.
One approach might be to shun the “high life”, and focus my time and energy on those who have little or nothing. Another approach might be to shrug my shoulders at the impoverished conditions and say, “It is what it is”, and then go hit some tennis balls.
I have a different resolve. Rich or poor, we perish apart from Christ (John 3:16-18). The Lord has placed me in a context where I have the opportunity to live among people with vastly different personal situations. All of these people, however, share a single need: Jesus.
As I continue to become accustomed to this city of contrasts, my resolve is, and will continue to be, to love all people and to preach Jesus.