Plans on the table to bring gospel cruise fest to GB

by: Ashley Penn, FN Reporter

The religious tourism department at the Ministry of Tourism is anticipating a potential venture that promises to attract up to 600 persons, annually, to Grand Bahama.

The Shipp Family Gospel Cruise Fest led by Rev. Arnie Shipp, for the past five years, currently tops the Ministry of Tourism’s agenda of continuing to stimulate religious tourism on the island.

Speaking to the upcoming undertaking yesterday during a meeting with local pastors hosted by Shipp was Grand Bahama Is- land Religious Tourism Manager, Debbie Huyler.

“Today the Ministry of Tourism Religious Tourism Department is so pleased to have pastor Shipp with us. He has been traveling to The Bahamas for the past five years and in particular, Grand Bahama for four years,” she said.

Huyler went on to say, “To be able to bring a cruise, instead of going to Nassau to come to Freeport, Grand Bahama would be just wonderful. He has some plans for Grand Bahama and that is the hope of us meeting here today, he wants to reveal some of those plans that he said the Lord has laid on his heart for Grand Bahama.”

Optimistic about the religious tourism venture, she noted that the Ministry of Tourism is pleased to partner with Shipp.

“With religious tourism being one of the main tourist driven keys in Grand Bahama, we want to embrace this opportunity and whatever the Ministry of Tourism can do to make these plans come to fruition we’re here to do that.  I’m excited about it and I’m sure that he is and with the level of excitement he is talking right now, we’re going to go some places in Grand Bahama with religious tourism,” she concluded.

Coordinator of the event, Derek Stubbs said it  is his goal to cultivate a good relationship with all of the entities involved.

“We’re trying to foster a good relationship with them and all of the stakeholders, and the religious tourism personnel of the Ministry of Tourism with pastors on the island so that we can begin moving ahead with local gospel events with them on the island,” he said.

“They have been doing cruises, but they also want to move along to do crusades and conferences where as the cruise will only allow them to come for one day and leave. But, these crusades would allow them to come for three or four nights in a hotel and use one of the facilities where they can have their conference,” Stubbs concluded.

Thrilled to see his vision come to fruition, Shipp, who serves as the leader of this mega venture, said planning for the first initial stages of the fest began back in 2008.

“God gave me a vision in 2008 and in that vision He showed me doing mighty crusades in Nassau. We started planning in 2008 doing our first Shipp Family Gospel Cruise Fest and when we started planning it, we didn’t realize the effect on so many things that we would do. I saw people in the vision that I didn’t even meet yet,” he said.  

“God showed me that hearts and lives were going to change, thousands upon thousands of people would change because of it. Now, we do the Shipp Family Gospel Cruise Fest and we travel with 20 to 25 gospel-recording artists, Grammy award winners, 16 to 18 God fearing speakers, and we do youth and women’s conferences on Carnival Cruise Line.  When we dock on the island November 18 of this year, we will be doing a mega crusade in Nassau,” Shipp continued.

He revealed that the groundwork has already begun for the venture as meetings have already commenced with government officials.

“We’ve already met with government officials, the Attorney General and we’re actually supposed to meet with the Prime Minister tomorrow. So God has really opened up a lot of doors for us to come together and show the Bahamians that we are here together to form a unity. It’s not about one person, but it’s who we are together,” he concluded.

Shipp and his team are expected back to the island  later this month to finalize some decisions regarding this event.

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