By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LA PLAINE, Dominica — It’s been more than six months since Hurricane Maria hit shore in La Plaine, Dominica, leaving behind a trail of devastation and destruction.
Yet, not much has changed for the better for the majority of Dominicans.
Most of the homes in the country still do not have electricity. Those that do are dependent upon gas-powered generators. Many homes have no roofs or are only protected by tarpaulins (tarps).
Pastor Asha Laronde of La Plaine Baptist Church experienced the wrath of Hurricane Maria. He and his wife and daughter lost their home and all their belongings, but survived the brunt of the storm in his father’s home with more than 20 other people.
Every one of the 400 or so homes in the village of La Plaine was damaged, from losing windows to complete destruction, Laronde said. La Plaine Baptist was not spared either, losing 75 percent of its roof. Volunteers from Tennessee added a temporary roof to the facility in January.
Yet, despite all that has happened (or not happened in terms of recovery since Maria), the people are content, Laronde said.
“A lot of us learned a unique lesson from the hurricane,” he observed. “The less you have, the less you have to worry about. God owns it all. He gives. He takes.”
Since the hurricane, God has blessed the church, Laronde said. “It’s unbelievable. I don’t understand it. I can’t comprehend it.”
He noted the congregation has been faithful throughout the ordeal. “God has poured out His blessings during a time in which we feel so helpless,” the pastor observed. “Our people have hope and trust in God.”
Counted among the blessings is the help provided by and through Tennessee Baptists.
Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief accepted the challenge in late 2017 to coordinate relief efforts on the island of Dominica (which, by the way, is not the Dominican Republic), and primarily, the village of La Plaine. Tennessee Baptists will provide relief materials, supplies, and volunteer teams throughout this year. The effort is being coordinated by Phillip Hardee of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova.
Four teams have traveled to La Plaine so far this year to begin reroofing homes.
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Laronde is grateful for Tennessee Baptists. “It’s amazing that people would consider such a small island and village out of all the places they could have gone,” he said. “God led them here.”
In addition to the work provided by the teams, their presence “has helped my walk with God,” Laronde added.
While teams have definitely helped meet physical needs, it’s too early to see how teams are impacting local residents spiritually although one homeowner made a profession of faith in Christ recently as a team from Tulip Grove Baptist Church, Old Hickory, worked on his home.
But the pastor is convinced that the presence of Tennessee Baptists showing God’s love in the community will “make a great impact on our community.”
Missionary Mike Coupe, a former pastor of La Plaine Baptist Church, and his wife, Glenda, have been in the community since the storm hit last year and are helping to lead recovery efforts.
The Coupes now have their own ministry — Caribbean Partnership Mission.
“We would not be able to reach our community the way that we are without Tennessee Baptists,” Coupe said.
“Everyone is organized, prepared, and willing to serve,” he observed.
Coupe noted that the teams are opening doors for the local church members to share their faith. “We have talked with people who would have never talked with us before.”
He added that he is grateful that Tennessee Baptists “have a vision to help a small country like Dominica” and for the “love they have extended to us without even knowing who we are.
“I look forward to the future as we work with different teams and develop relationships,” Coupe said.
“I feel confident that with what God has begun to build, He will continue to use it to bring His name glory.”
If interested in taking a team or going as an individual, contact Phillip Hardee at 901-652-4553 or call the church at 901-347-5537.
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