I’ve gone on quite a few trips for work this year, but my journey to the Bahamas may have been the first to leave me feeling spiritually full. I, along with a long list of other media professionals I can now call friends, was invited to a meet and greet tour to be exposed to all that the Bahamas has to offer. I’d traveled to the island in the past with friends, and we spent most of our time on the beach, eating conch and buying handmade trinkets from open markets. But this time around, I was ripping and running nonstop and had no time to bask in the sun and sand. But that’s okay. Here’s why.
With the help of our amazing guides from the ministry of tourism, as well as Michelle Duffie of the D3 Entertainment Group, we were able to meet Bishop Neil C. Ellis and his lovely wife, Patrice. Ellis is the presiding prelate of the Global United Fellowship, which includes more than 300 churches. He’s also the founder of the Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Nassau. A church that started with 11 members in 1987 and now has thousands. Ellis introduced us to a variety of dignitaries, including Prime Minister Perry Christie. He took us, by private plane, to the tiny island of Bimini where he was born and raised. And we were even taken, by boats, to the Bahamian mangroves in Bimini. Those mangroves sitting in the water are where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to find solace and quiet to write some of his speeches, including his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address. In fact, Ansel, the man who took us by electric boat to the location, was the same individual who used to take Dr. King to the mangroves. He spoke joyfully of his experiences with the late icon. We couldn’t believe that at almost 90, Ansel was still steering people to the red mangroves in Bimini, telling his stories.
I even had the chance to mix and mingle with lovable stars like Thomasina “Goo Goo” Atkins, from Mary Mary. And I have to show love to Sherri Shepherd, who is the star of a Christian film called Woodlawn, which we had the immense pleasure to see during a screening in Nassau. (I plan to share a review of the incredible film before it hits theaters on October 16. Stay tuned). Both women were invited to experience the Bahamas beside we media folks, and they were anything but divas. Some of my favorite memories from the trip came from laughing with Atkins as we talked over dinner, and doing the Cupid Shuffle with Shepherd, and talking about growing up in Illinois.
But the best part of the trip, aside from witnessing the beauty of the island and the people on it, was being enlightened by Bishop Ellis. Not only did Bishop Ellis have us over for dinner at his home with First Lady Patrice Ellis, but he also invited us to Mt. Tabor, where we watched him lead Sunday service. Bishop Ellis dropped so many gems on love and marriage (including submission, balancing work and a relationship and what being “unequally yoked” really means), the struggles of the Christian church today (too much focus on telling people how they’re living wrong instead of focusing on helping them), and trying to be open and bold about your faith when you’re in media. And his Sunday sermon, with its focus on being in a “set time of favor” left me feeling spiritually refreshed and ready to take on this fourth quarter of the year. Even if it also left with me with puffy eyes and a headache from crying so much and screaming “hallelujah!” over and over at the thought of God’s grace.
The first time I traveled to the Bahamas I was able to relax, learn what I felt like learning about the Bahamas here and there while I took advantage of the food and beaches. But this time around, I got to see what makes the people of the Bahamas who they are. I trained to be a Junkanoo on the drums and learned why their carnival celebration is so important. I had the chance to talk to locals and learned about their determination and drive. But most importantly, to me, I got to stand side by side with the people as they praised and honored God. Everything I did this time around wasn’t about standing back and being a spectator, but experiencing the rich culture and layers of the Bahamian people. It is truly an experience that has left me refreshed. An experience I won’t soon forget. They weren’t kidding when they say it’s better in the Bahamas.