The Abaco circuit including Saint Andrew’s in Dundas Town, Saint James in Hope Town and Epworth Methodist Chapel in Cherokee Sound met for an evening of celebration in Cherokee Sound on Wednesday, April 13 for an intra-church fellowship to recognize a long-time friend of the Bahamas Conference of Methodist Churches throughout The Bahamas, Reverend Eugene Zimmerman and his wife, Emily Ann.
Well attended with many old friends and some new ones, the celebration consisted of several testimonies from persons who have known the Zimmermans for many years, with individual stories to share about weddings and funerals he had performed, stories of boating and fishing and several stories of their many kindnesses to the different churches over the years. Each church gave tributes from their Church Board Chairpersons, Ruth Smith, Paul Thompson, Vernon Malone, Jim Bethel and Reverend Marie Neilly, with songs and dances by some of the younger congregational members.
Mrs. Black from the local Board of Education said even though she did not know The Zimmermans she had done a poll (similar to the many polls we hear about on the television in the American elections daily) to discover some of Reverend Zimmerman’s many attributes. She announced that she was amazed at the many things she was told and congratulated him for leading such an exemplary and long life, for he was also celebrating his 90th Birthday.
The South Abaco Island Administration Lavon Harris-Smith also spoke and gave Birthday greetings.
Reverend Zimmerman was asked to give remarks afterwards and reminisced back to how he had decided to become a minister. He told the audience about a near-death experience during a terrible storm in the Pacific Ocean while he was in the U.S. Navy in the mid-1940’s. As many would have done, he prayed to God for safety for himself and his fellow sailors. He asked for guidance and promised to live the rest of his life as a Christian.
Ships were sunk, homes destroyed and many lives were lost, but he was saved. He said he found Christianity through a simple invitation from a stranger who asked him to attend church with him soon after the storm passed. The church was in Seoul, Korea, he didn’t understand their language and they didn’t understand his, yet he felt at home.
However, from that experience it brought him in contact with other Christians and put him on his path to the ministry.
Sometime in the early 1960’s he was asked to serve in the Andros circuit and minister to the residents there who were without any spiritual guidance. According to Rev. Zimmerman they immediately fell in love with the assignment and the people and have returned many times over the years. Later they met and became friends with a couple from Cherokee when Reverend Makepeace, head of the Methodist Churches in The Bahamas at that time, called them to see if they could be any assistance to a couple coming to Miami with a seriously ill daughter.
This, in turn, caused them to visit the islands once more and they ended up purchasing a home in Cherokee which they still own to this day and come back to as often as they can.
Over the years they have been very generous to the Cherokee Methodist Church. In the 1980’s when the church was struck by lightning and needed some repairs and renovations he was able to find some pews through a sister-church in Jacksonville, Florida who were obtaining new pew for their church. These pews replaced the old hand-made, well-worn and termite riddled ones that had occupied the Cherokee church since the early 1930’s and were a welcome addition in helping to update the sanctuary in addition to a cement and tiled floor and new windows.
His ties became even stronger when in 1995 he was asked to serve for a period of five years with Trinity Methodist Church in downtown Nassau and still later when he became the founder of the Zion Children’s Home in Current Island, Eleuthera.
Over the years he has been instrumental in helping many Bahamian ministers to obtain scholarships to Chandler University in the U.S. and because of his help we now have more Bahamian led churches in the Bahamas than ever before, which was not the case under the Caribbean Conference of Churches that they were a part of prior to autonomy in 1993. Reverend Zimmerman became a pastor with the United Methodist Ministry in Florida, served under them for many years, but retired in 1992.
Token gifts of appreciation were presented to the Zimmermans from each of the three churches along with a plaque which will be affixed in Epworth Chapel as a rememberance of their love, long association and dedication to Cherokee, the church and its people.
A time of refreshments and fellowship took place across the street in the community center following the ceremonies before visitors from off the place tackled the long and twisting road back home.