A local pastor has been left homeless after fire gutted his five-bedroom house Tuesday in East End, killing his cat of 17 years.
Pastor Marquiss McLaughlin stood in the front yard of his Grand Cayman home Wednesday with supporters, McFarlane Conolly of Faith and Hope Ministers and Delmeria Bodden of Community Development, waiting for police and fire service personnel to allow him to enter the building. In the meantime, Pastor McLaughlin is staying with his brother.
“As Job said, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed by the name of the Lord,” said Mr. McLaughlin, looking a bit tired from the ordeal.
Cayman Islands Chief Fire Officer Dennom Bodden said the fire call was received at about 3.15pm on Tuesday for a structure fire at 551 John McLean Drive in the District of East End. The first fire vehicle on scene was at 3.20pm from Frank Sound Fire Station. Upon arrival, there was a single story house fully engulfed in flames.
The fire was brought under control at 4.03pm and extinguished at 5.51pm. There were five vehicles from Frank Sound and Central Fire Stations and nine fire personnel, including off-duty personnel, who attended the fire. Mr. Bodden said the fire is under investigation.
Pastor McLaughlin was told by police that parts of the ceiling had burned out and it was not safe to enter the building.
“I just wanted to go in to get “Sheila” my cat so that I could bury [her],” said Mr. McLaughlin, who was answering calls on his phone from concerned residents about the fire. “She was like the daughter I did not have. She was just a calico cat but very smart. I had her for the past 17 years.”
Mr. McLaughlin arrived home at 4.30pm Tuesday to find his house on fire and firemen working to extinguish the blaze. After having a premonition that something was just not right at home, Mr. McLaughlin made his way home with a few stops in between. When told by an East End resident in Foster’s Food Fair that she had heard his house was on fire, Mr. McLaughlin said he had not received any calls but later realised that his cell phone had not been charged. He said he still could not shake the feeling that something was not right and left immediately.
“When I arrived on John McLean Drive and saw all the fire trucks, I realised it was my house on fire,” he said. “Sometime after that when I got the opportunity to charge the phone I realised I had missed 94 calls, probably about the fire.”
Mr. McLaughlin has been a pastor at the Countryside Church of God on John McLean Drive in East End for the past 20 years.
Lending support, Faith and Hope Ministries’ McFarlane Conolly said he encouraged members of the community to rally behind Pastor McLaughlin.
“Brother Marquis has been a man of God in the community, certainly as long as I can remember, even as a young man,” Mr. Conolly said. “His way of life was different from the norm. I just want everyone to rally behind him and take care of what has happened.”
East End Community Development Officer Delmeria Bodden said people should respect the fact that Pastor McLaughlin not only dedicated himself to the ministry in being an ambassador for God, but that his ministry has reached many people throughout Grand Cayman.
“As East End community officer, I am asking that we rally behind him and support him in any way that is needed,” Mrs. Bodden said.
When asked if there was anything in particular he hoped was not lost, Mr. McLaughlin said transcripts of his first book titled “Tarnish”, that he had hoped to publish in January. The book was based on Cayman, his book of poems and writings of Caymanian tales and a devotional book he was working on before the fire occurred.
The items were in the bedroom the pastor occupied and where he said the fire appeared to have hit hardest.
“Most of my documents I reckoned must be gone; including my passport will not be of use. I have antique books, some over 100 years old,” Pastor McLaughlin said. “My collection of old Caymanian coins, one of them is over 100 years old, which I got from my grandfather, an old sewing machine and a number of other things that were important to me.”
At 60, Mr. McLaughlin is a notary public and a justice of the peace. He worked with government before retirement, holding posts in education, at the prison and working with Cayman’s youth and the elderly.