By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LA PLAINE, Dominica — Jeff Gilliam of Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory is no stranger to Dominica. He has led five missions trips to the country since 2007.
In mid-March he led his sixth trip, although in a totally different role. His first five trips were basically with teams that led conferences and did evangelism projects with Deliverance Baptist Church in Goodwill, a suburb of Roseau, the captitol of Dominica. This time, he led a 10-member construction team to build roofs on homes in the village of La Plaine that were severely damaged by Hurricane Maria last September.
Gilliam would be the first to admit he’s not a “handyman” but he was more than willing to help by carrying boards and supplies as well as shuttling tools back and forth between team members.
For him, the March trip provided an opportunity to return to a country he has grown to love and appreciate.
“Dominica is known as the ‘Nature Isle of the Caribbean.’ It was sad to see that the always lush landscape was not so lush and the hills had brown trees rather than their normally green trees with beautiful leaves.”
In addition, he continued, “it was sad to see how people’s lives had been changed because there had been so much devastation during Hurricane Maria — the lack of roofs on houses, the lack of electricity throughout the island, and roads and bridges that had been washed out.”
The trip did provide an opportunity to reconnect with David Serrant, pastor of Deliverance Baptist Church. He drove over to La Plaine one day to visit with Gilliam.
Serrant is grateful for Gilliam and the Tulip Grove teams which have helped his church over the years. He also has a partnership with another Tennessee Baptist church – Englewood Baptist in Jackson. An Englewood team also recently helped the church rebuild its roof which was blown off by Hurricane Maria.
Serrant observed the church could not have rebuilt its roof without the help of the Englewood team and a congregation from Virginia that also assisted.
He is pleased with the help given to him by Tennessee Baptists over the years. Tennessee Baptists have been very “beneficial” to the church’s ministries. He noted Tulip Grove teams have led True Love Waits conferences in local schools while Englewood teams helped build 16×20 houses for low income people even before Maria hit the country last year. “We have seen people come to church because of these ministries,” he said.
Like La Plaine, his side of the island near the capital of Roseau was hit hard by Maria. There was much damage to the infrastructure of the island, the pastor observed. “It will take a couple of years to recover. It won’t happen overnight.”
Meanwhile, Deliverance Church, with a church motto of “Touching Lives With Love And Hope,” is doing all it can to assist people in the community. Serrant, whose own home lost its roof, only has a temporary covering as he is leading the church to help others first.
“We are known as the church that helps the needy. People come to me every day for help,” he related. “We need more building teams and material.”
Serrant acknowledged that dealing with everyone’s problems has been a challenge. “Faith and trust in God has carried us through,” he affirmed.
“God has shown his love to us through the people who have come to help and those who sent food and supplies. I want to thank the churches in America for their interest,” the pastor said.
He asked for continued prayers as the destruction from last year’s storms are no longer “headlines.”
“Just because we are not in the news does not mean there aren’t needs. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers,” he asked.
Gilliam agreed. He has seen the work of both Deliverance Baptist Church and La Plaine Baptist Church up close and personal.
Pray for these churches and their leaders, Gilliam encouraged. In addition, consider traveling to the country to help.
“If you have a servant’s heart, there is a place for you in Dominica. All of our team members had different gifts and talents that they contributed. It is hard work, but very rewarding,” Gilliam said.
If interested in taking a team or going as an individual, contact Phillip Hardee at 901-652-4553 or call Bellevue Baptist Church at 901-347-5537.