How a Local Church in South Florida is Making a Global Impact

“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8 NIV).


Last month during Global Week, Doug Sauder, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, shared how the body of Christ came together to bring hope and rebuild lives in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and in Germany in response to the war in Ukraine.


Rebuilding in the Bahamas

Pastor Tony Davis, Pastor Paul Walker, Pastor Israel Pinder, Lady Nadine Pinder, and Stephanie Gunderson. Photo Credit: Justus Martin

In 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a powerful Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds, causing the worst natural disaster in the Bahamas’ recorded history. During his sermon, Sauder recalled, “it was coming straight for us, but stopped and hovered over the Bahamas for a whole day as 10 to 15-foot waves washed away houses and more than 100 people were just missing.” 

“Pastor Israel Pinder and his wife Nadine had lost family members, their church, their home and the whole community was in this traumatic, chaotic moment, yet a little seed of grace was planted there and just a few months ago, we got to be part of that church’s rededication,” Sauder shared.

While many people initially responded with supplies after Hurricane Dorian, Paul Walker, executive pastor of ministries, said “We wanted to do something that was going to bring more of a spiritual vibrancy… When we came across the pastors at High Rock, we fell in love with them, and decided to invest in that community.”

Damage to Emmanuel Baptist Church on East Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian.

Drawing from the Crisis and Relief Fund congregants contributed to after Hurricane Dorian along with funds from the National Christian Foundation, Walker estimates they invested about $350,000 in supplies and regularly sending teams to the Bahamas to rebuild the church. On November 13, 2022, Walker attended the rededication ceremony at Emmanuel Baptist Church in High Rock on East Grand Bahama. “They now have a beautiful church because the body of Christ there is alive. They were glad to be there, there was excitement and joy, so it was really an honor that God blessed us with that moment.”

Pastor Israel Pinder said during the ceremony, “When I took office in April of 2019, I never envisioned we’d be faced with Hurricane Dorian and losing so much… only with God’s strength were we able to get through from that point.” He extended a special thanks to Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale saying “they’ve assisted in our rebuild effort during this entire process.”


Housing Ukrainian families fleeing war

Weiler Castle

After watching Russian troops invade Ukraine a year ago, Calvary Chapel congregants generously supported renting a castle in Bessenbach, Germany, to house Ukrainian refugees and sent a team to the border to help transport people there. In a video, Adam Jones, executive director of Weiler Castle, said “We’ve had nearly 100 women come through over the past eight months. We provide shelter, food, education, clothing, all the supports to sustain as long as the conflict is happening.”

It has become a refuge both physically and spiritually. One of the Ukrainian women, Liudmyla Hez, told of the fear and panic that gripped her when she was forced to flee Ukraine with her children in the middle of the night. “I remember my husband told me, ‘Don’t be afraid. His angels will carry you, and God will take care of our children.’ When the Polish opened the border, all the women and children just ran, but we had nowhere to go. I would pray, ‘Lord you brought us out and you know where you are leading us.’” Finally, her husband called from Ukraine and said their pastor had learned of an opportunity for them to go to Germany. 

Liudmyla Hez and her children

Liudmyla and her two children now reside in Weiler Castle. Walker explained that while about a third of the families have stayed at the castle, others have sought immigration in Canada, the United States and elsewhere. “If people had family in other parts of Europe and no way to get there, we literally provided airline tickets, train tickets, bus tickets and were able to relocate quite a few people.” With the war raging on, Calvary has committed to rent the castle for another year and plans to send teams to Germany to help expand the building to accommodate more people, and to minister to the women and children through summer camps and other support.


Who will go?

 “It’s a beautiful thing when people you have never met become family,” said Sauder, during Global Week. “You realize God is a God of all nations, and he loves all people. He sees the things going on in the world and asks who will go for us toward the chaos, toward the brokenness, toward the mess?”

The Ukrainian women and children at Schloss Weiler with Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale staff Beth Staiger, JoNese Bird and Jennifer Gordillo.

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