BAHAMAS BURGLARY — Over $7,000 stolen from Md. church group on mission

| July 29, 2010

A group of young people from a Maryland church who traveled to an island in the Bahamas this month to run a summer camp for impoverished children was robbed last week of more than $7,000 in church funds as well as personal monies and belongings.

"People are shocked and angry and frustrated," said Pastor Kevin McGhee of the Bethany Community Church in Laurel.

Members of his non-denominational Christian church have traveled to Andros Island for several years to run a summer camp for children. The largest island in the Bahamas is mostly undeveloped and is very poor.

"The kids, especially in the summer when the schools let out, have nothing to do," McGhee said.

The camp serves about 125 kids, who are recruited through local churches. "We work in close partnerships with the churches on the island," he said.

"The kids just love it," McGhee said of the camp. "The minute the tent goes up, everybody knows" the camp will open soon.

The church group of eight young people ages 15-23, along with Youth Director Tim Quigg, were at the camp on July 19 — only two days after they arrived on the island and on the first day of camp — when the remote cabin where they were staying a few miles away was burglarized.

The burglars likely knew the church members would be away at one of the camp's two daily sessions, McGhee said. "The people who stole it knew what they were doing."

More than $7,000 in church funds was taken, the pastor said. The money was slated to buy gas for the two pickup trucks the group uses, along with gas for a generator.

"Gas is $7-$8 a gallon" on the island, McGhee said.

The money also was to be used to buy food for the church members.

CAMERAS, CASH ALSO STOLEN

In addition to the church funds, money belonging to the group members, as well as several personal items such as digital cameras and iPods, was taken.

Timothy W. Maier of Columbia said his 16-year-old son's iPod, Gameboy and cellphone — along with his socks and $140 in cash — were stolen.

"They worked hard to raise the money to go there — doing carwashes, rummage sales, going door-to-door, and selling cookies — so it was devastating… for that to happen," he said.

Maier said he has had little contact with his son because of erratic telephone service on the island but does know, "He's been eating a lot of Ramen noodles."

McGhee said police on the island came out to interview everyone and are investigating the burglary.

"We're hoping to find out who did it but at this point there's no news," McGhee said.

"Andros is one of the least populated islands" in the Bahamas, he added. "For all we know the police have suspects."

A call to police in Nicholls Town, near the camp, on Wednesday inquiring if they had made any arrests or had any suspects was not immediately returned.

Ironically, this is not the first time money and items were stolen from the church members on Andros Island: The same thing happened several years ago. Most of the personal items eventually were recovered that time, according to McGhee.

In addition to running the camp for kids, the church also has helped build a house for a disabled man. "As a ministry organization we've also done things to train the ministers there," McGhee said.

The pastor — whose daughters Bryden, 23, and Kelsey, 16, are making their eighth and third trips to the island, respectively — said that in past years the group occasionally left someone behind at the cabin to watch over things but that this year on the first day of camp they had not done so.

CONGREGATION COMES TO THE RESCUE

The pastor sent out an email to church members on Friday evening informing them of the burglary and asking for donations. The congregation raised more than $1,200 in less than 23 hours, he said. He said the church also received monetary donations from a North Carolina church with whom they have a partnership.

A tenth church member went to the island on Saturday to take money to the group, which is scheduled to return home next Saturday.

"What's tragic about this is that the money was going to end up [being spent] on the island anyway. They weren't really robbing us," McGhee said. "That's the bigger frustration."

When asked if the burglary would deter his church members from returning to the island, McGhee said: "No, absolutely not."

Meanwhile, Maier said his son and the other victims are keeping the faith.

"They realize their work is more important. First they were really angry but they quickly realized the bigger picture, that what they were doing was going to last forever and all those things can be replaced."

 

http://investigativevoice.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5235:island&catid=25:the-project&Itemid=44

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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