The boom in Caribbean tourism seems eternal. One of the most flush spots in the region, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, greets more than a million tourists annually. While most overseas visitors revel in luxury vacations, including the handful who can afford the $25,000-a-night suite at the exclusive Atlantis resort, many in this nation of 300,000 endure grinding poverty, plagued by aids, drug abuse, and street crime.

Not far beyond the glittering tourist districts are shacks and poverty-stricken communities. Andrew, 86, is among those hidden from view. With little assistance from the government, he lives alone in a crumbling house without electricity or plumbing. He eats only when people bring him food.

Instead of complaining about spending his days alone, Andrew says, "I have time to pray." Although he usually has an empty stomach, he praises God for the church women who bring him food as often as they can.

"That's why [God] put us here," Andrew says, "to help." Andrew's case is not unique. In a country that is 94 percent Christian (including 33 percent evangelical), Bahamian churches assume much of the responsibility for helping people in need.

'New sense of responsibility'


Despite their quiet work with people like Andrew, Bahamian churches have been criticized for a perceived lack of social involvement. However, social work by the churches is changing gradually, in the process becoming more noticed than it was a decade ago.

Rex Major, a founding member of the Congress on the Evangelization of the Caribbean, says churches—particularly charismatic ones—have become more involved in rehabilitating drug addicts. "There is a new sense of responsibility," the evangelist says. "I think sometimes there's a critical analysis of churches ...

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