The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has launched long-term disaster recovery efforts in Bahamian communities ravaged by Hurricane Dorian last September.
While focusing resources into the rebuilding of infrastructure, the Fellowship also is taking steps to rebuild the emotional and spiritual health of Bahamians.
Enter Teruco Tynes. The Bahamian native and graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology is a Baptist minister with a heart for pastoral care.
Her job as a CBF Disaster Response Contractor is to console and counsel Bahamians who have lost homes, jobs and loved ones. She pays special attention to local pastors overworked by the care they are giving their flocks. She also coordinates the activities of other spiritual-care volunteers sent to the Bahamas.
Tynes said she is inspired by the hurricane victims themselves.
“Their wounds are still very open, progress is slow and many still don’t have electricity,” she said. “But they continue to lean on God, to lean on his strength and trust in God because there is so much uncertainty.”
Tynes spoke with BNG about her calling and ministry, and about how they seemed to have placed her in the right place at the right time. Her comments are presented here, edited for clarity.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born on the island of Grand Bahama – one of the islands hit by the hurricane – in the city of Freeport. At age 11 months I moved to Nassau to live with my grand aunt. That’s on the island of New Providence.
Where did you go to church as a youth?
I worshiped for years at St. Anne’s Anglican Church (in Nassau). My grand aunt’s father, a Bahamian who had traveled to the U.S. for education in construction, was involved in the construction of St. Anne’s.
When and how did you first sense a call to ministry?
For the time I attended church with my great aunt, I lived off of her faith. I had always been involved in reading scripture, the usher board, but I wanted more. In 2012 I moved to a non-denominational church. And I was sitting in that church one day and had gone through a very difficult divorce. And I heard God say OK, it’s time to move out of the pews and do something more.
How did you respond?
I feel like I had heard from God before in terms of hearing his voice and through dreams. I knew this wasn’t my conscience speaking. I knew it was him saying I am requiring more from you.
I started looking for online courses. As a single parent, it was a difficult process. But I could hear God saying I want you to learn more academically to be equipped. I need you to travel. I started looking at Master of Divinity programs and came upon Mercer University and McAfee. I went to visit the campus in 2014. I didn’t know how it was going to work, but I left my job, packed up, brought my daughter and started on my Master of Divinity in pastoral care. I graduated last year, in May. My daughter and I have returned home.
Are you called to a specific kind of ministry?
I’m still discerning. My great aunt was big on faith and that God will always provide. Coming home, chaplaincy is different than in the States. We don’t have so many (chaplaincy) positions. With the passing of the hurricane, I have been able to go in and speak with people in a chaplaincy capacity. The need is great and I know God will lead.
You were ordained at Peachtree Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. How did you find them?
Part of my worship class at McAfee mandated we go to different churches. So, I went to visit Peachtree. That’s when I realized they have a large group of international persons and I really found a home there with people from India and Africa and Asia and different parts of the States.
Is that how you first crossed paths with CBF?
Yes, it was at Peachtree. While I was there, (then-Pastor) Dr. Daniel Vestal introduced me to Ray Johnson (coordinator of CBF Florida), and it was Ray who introduced me to CBF Bahamas.
What kept you in CBF circles?
What kept me is the hospitality and the genuine acceptance and encouragement to me. Dr. Vestal was a great encouragement. Ray was a great encouragement and he connected me with CBF in the Bahamas. They are a great encouragement. How can you not stay connected to such a family?
What are your duties as a spiritual care provider in the Bahamas?
The position is through CBF Global, CBF Florida and (CBF) the Bahamas. It’s asking what can we do to show people that we care about their spiritual health? We also have people focused on construction, but I go into the shelters to seek, speak and listen. I also host visiting teams who want to come around the island. I speak with pastors who are suffering even as they themselves are pastoring.
Do you consider the situation in post-Dorian Bahamas to be a mission field for you?
I feel like it is a mission field because there are so many persons that can be touched. Whether or not this is what God wants me to do in the long-term, I don’t know. Timing is everything. When God said go off to school, I went off to school. Now I’m here and now I’m a resource.
Are people angry at God?
I had people angry that it’s happened. We have a culture where we don’t necessarily blame God. I find people saying where did we go wrong? I find people are still remaining humble. You find a lot of resilience.
Do you want to be a lead pastor some day?
I would like to be teaching, preaching, and ministering wherever it is that God leads, whether that be in a congregational setting, academia, or elsewhere. I can say that in every aspect, even in my non-theological jobs, God continues to build my resume and he continues to build my skills and talents.
What’s it like for women in ministry in the Bahamas?
In Grand Bahama you find many men. In Abaco (Island), men and women. It’s still a patriarchal country, but women are making inroads.
Information is available online at CBF about volunteer opportunities in the Bahamas and how to make financial contributions to long-term disaster relief.