BRISTOL, Va. — Dale Burns held up his cellphone. Images of Norris Bain’s home scrolled by.
Destruction displayed in Burns’ hand while seated on Thursday morning in the Rev. Austin Cook’s office at Victory Baptist Church in Bristol, Virginia.
“Water was all the way up to the ceiling in Norris’ home,” said Cook.
Norris Bain lives and preaches and coaches high school basketball in Freeport, Grand Bahama. When Hurricane Dorian thundered through, life as he and countless fellow Bahamians knew it changed, perhaps forever. Today, much of the island appears as if struck by a massive bomb.
“Bad! Bad squared!” said Norris Bain, by phone from Freeport, Grand Bahama. “I wish I could take a video for you to show you. It’s bad.”
Walls of Bain’s home, gone. His Tabernacle Baptist Church, devastated.
“Pictures I’ve seen, water was up to the windows in his church," said Burns, retired basketball coach and athletic director at Tennessee High School. “At first, he couldn’t find his home. The only thing he could see was the roof.”
Bain knows Bristol. His friendship with Burns led to high school basketball teams from Freeport, Grand Bahama, coming to Bristol each December to participate in the popular Arby’s Classic at Tennessee High School.
“We’ve been best friends for 22 years,” Burns said of he and Bain. “At the time we met, I was over the Arby’s Classic. I wanted to get Norris’ basketball team to come up to the Arby’s Classic. He’s been coming up here ever since.”
Given that Bain also preaches back home, he’s long been welcomed to preach in Bristol.
“Every year,” Cook said. “He usually preaches at Victory Baptist on the last Sunday in December. He preaches the gospel message.”
Aid from throughout America to the Bahamas mounts. Here in Bristol, Burns and Cook work diligently as part of concerted efforts by Tennessee High and Arby’s Classic to assemble wide expanses of supplies and funds to assist in the rebuilding of shattered lives in the Bahamas.
“There’s an infinite need of things they will need,” Burns said. “Toilet paper. Things we take for granted. Cheerleaders from Tennessee High went around to dentists in the area to collect toothbrushes.”
Burns said he traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last week with a truckload of supplies. Aboard were such items as generators, palettes of water and cleaning supplies.
Imagine. When entire communities have lost everything, then everything arises as a need.
“Oh my goodness!” Bain said. “We need water, water, water and more water. People need bleach. People lost vehicles. People lost jobs.”
Bain’s car ended upside down, totally immersed in water. Yet even amid calamity, he preached.
“He was in church on Sunday,” Burns said. “There was water on the church floor. They were in church, standing in water, singing hymns.”
Burns wore a suit donated by local clothier, Blakely-Mitchell Clothing Co.
“Norris lost everything,” Burns said. “But Blakely-Mitchell sent him a suit to preach in. They got him a navy blue suit, shirt, tie and shoes.”
If people would like to donate to Bain’s Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy, a fund has been established at First Bank & Trust Co. in Bristol, Virginia. Checks can be mailed payable to Tabernacle Baptist Academy Fundraising Account to the bank at 38 E. Valley Drive, Bristol, VA 24201. Put “For Deposit Only” in the check’s memo.
“Jesus said you go out into all the world and preach the gospel,” Cook said. “We’re not to only share the gospel, we’re to serve their needs.”
As its death toll rises, people who survived the hurricane seek to survive amid destruction. Many haven’t a home in which to live, food to eat, job to work.
“Helplessness,” Bain said. “Just trying to survive, trying to do what they need to do to survive.”
When the storm raged like a gigantic buzz saw, paused and pummeled the Bahamas, residents hunkered down as best they could. Many died. Many prayed.
“Listen, prayer is so important. It is the thing that is keeping us going,” Bain said. “Prayer is good in good times, and prayer is good in bad times. We’re seeing how God works through Victory Baptist Church, Dale Burns, people in Bristol.”
A local organization, Burns said, has made an interesting offer. The entity will match each dollar donated with another dollar up to $10,000. Simply send it to the bank listed above.
“Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” Cook said. “When we help each other, we’re really helping ourselves. We’re so grateful (at Victory Baptist) for the privilege to help. God uses us to help. God uses us to help the people in the Bahamas.”
Simple, really. The Bible specifically commands Christians to do the right thing.
“Do good,” Burns said. “Just do good.”