We got home yesterday from the second trip in our 2-week adventure, and are both exhausted. Travel is tiring, hotels are tiring, driving is tiring, and going to see what God is saying can be tiring. Add a stomach bug on top, and, well, you get the idea. TIRING.
First, let me say that the Bahamas and Andros were, as always, beautiful. Part of what is so incredibly frustrating about the situation in Andros is that it IS beautiful.
Not only that, it is fertile in both soil and fish.
It has water, which is unusual for Caribbean islands – in fact, before they built the desalination plant, Andros supplied Nassau’s water.
In short, Andros could support tourism and industry better than New Providence Island (where Nassau is), OR Grand Bahama Island (where Freeport is).
Instead, it barely supports its people.
The government is no help. They spend and encourage money in Nassau primarily, and Freeport a distant second. The out islands/family islands are mostly left to fend for themselves. While some, like the Abacos, have attracted a lot of ex-pat investment in second homes and have welcomed that and just taken their islands into their own hands, Andros has languished. In fact, it’s gone backwards.
Our neighbor this past week is an American who moved to Andros 50 years ago to help set up AUTEC, the naval base there. At its height, AUTEC had around 1100 people working there. Now, not even 300. It is self-sufficient, so other than going to bars and Crab Fest, the Americans there don’t really have to spend their money with the locals. That’s good for them, since I assume food and household goods are cheaper on base – they are crazy expensive in town, since everything has to be imported. But it means the base doesn’t do much to improve the local economy.
Most of the construction in the Fresh Creek area is from about the time AUTEC was getting started. There is almost nothing that’s newer than that. Fresh Creek – which is really Coakley Town on the north side of the creek and Andros Town on the south side – could be a lovely and picturesque town. It has a beautiful creek, an inlet, an old lighthouse.
Instead, it has a government owned and badly run hotel/marina, which is half falling down.
Access to the lighthouse is through scrub bushes, and you can’t drive to the beach, you have to park at the hotel and walk around the sharp rocks.
The bridge over Fresh Creek is low, but there was a swing bridge so that taller boats could get through. That bridge broke 40 years ago (our neighbor Vern was the last person to go through it), and it was never fixed. That means that any boat over about 7′ off the water was stuck on the inside, and eventually just sank. The swing bridge section is metal, and it is about to fall down. Absolutely no one expects that the government will fix it, which means that you will have to take a boat from the Andros Town side to the Coakley Town side (which is where the groceries are), but won’t be able to take a car.
There is also no doctor on the Andros Town side – no doctor anymore, in fact, in the whole area. You have to drive a couple of hours north to Nicholls Town to find one.
On the other hand, the Andros Town side has the airport, which is the lifeline for people and goods from Nassau.
And the yellow building we went to check out? It’s occupied now.
So what’s the bottom line for Ten Eighteen and Andros?
Well, we will not be doing anything on-going there.
We actually knew that on the first day, which made being there harder. We had imagined that we might be running around til the last minute, searching out opportunities or locations or something. Instead, we walked around, felt immense sadness at the whole situation, and knew God wasn’t calling us there.
What we CAN do, however, is more youth camps, if we have people who want to go and spend a week in the summers. The kids and elderly still have huge needs in Andros, and we still have contacts in Mastic Point and Nicholls Town to be able to coordinate sports/VBS camps like the one we did in 2013.
So. On the one hand, it’s really sad. We prayed for the island, for the people, for revival and renewal there — it’s desperately needed.
On the other hand, we’re looking ahead to our next scouting trip, which will be Nicaragua, probably in August. In preparation, I’m starting Pimsleur Spanish today! Via con Dios!