By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Tennessee Baptists are once again living up to their reputation as residents of the Volunteer state. Since January, Tennessee Baptists have been hard at work on the tiny island of Dominica in the Caribbean. And, let’s be clear. Dominica is not the Dominican Republic. They are easy to confuse because of the similarity in name.
Last September, Hurricane Maria slammed Dominica hard. It took the brunt of Maria’s destruction. The small village of La Plaine especially was hit with massive force as Maria made landfall there.
Six months later, the village of La Plaine, as well as the island of Dominica, are still in the recovery stage.
Can you imagine living for six months or longer without electricity? I was on a relief team to La Plaine in mid-March and one team member commented that he was calling to complain when his cable TV was out for 15 minutes. Can you imagine living without air conditioning and cold drinks when temperatures rarely get below the 80s each day or having a nice hot shower after a hard day of working on roofs?
Electricity is available for those who are fortunate enough to have gasoline-powered generators. Predictions are that it could be as much as a year or more before power is fully restored on the island.
Other luxuries that Americans take for granted also are in short supply. During our week-long stay, we were without running water for two of those days. Have you ever taken a shower with a 16-ounce bottle of water or a bucket of water that you had to tote uphill? It’s not the easiest thing to do.
And, do you think roads are bad in Tennessee? Wait until you travel in Dominica.
It may sound like I’m giving a convincing case as to why Tennessee Baptists should refrain from traveling to Dominica to participate in the year-long effort the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has established to assist this small country.
I’m not, but I won’t sugarcoat it. Volunteering to help reroof and rebuild homes in La Plaine is no walk in the park and it’s certainly no vacation. But, that’s not why roughly four dozen or more Tennesseans have made the trip thus far and dozens more are expected to go there throughout 2018.
The reason Tennessee Baptists need to go to Dominica is simple. We are there to be the hands and feet of Jesus, showing His love to people who desperately need to hear the gospel. Pastor Asha Laronde of La Plaine Baptist Church informed me that of the approximately 700 people in the village, 500 of them do not have a true relationship with Jesus. “The fields are white for harvest here,” he said. We are there because Jesus loves the Dominicans and He is using us to show His love.
Photos on this page represent faces/souls of people in La Plaine. Some know the Lord, some do not. They are why we endure the heat, bugs, cold showers, crowing roosters (at 3:20 a.m.) and whatever else we face. These people need to know Jesus and Tennessee Baptists have been given the privilege to see that the Dominicans are introduced to Him.
While living conditions aren’t easy on the island, the people of Dominica will impress and bless you. I never heard Dominicans complaining about their conditions. They have a sweet spirit and were genuinely grateful that Tennessee Baptists would travel to their country to help them.
We are so spoiled as Americans. A trip to a country like Dominica is a reminder of how blessed we are to live in the United States.
If you haven’t considered going to Dominica to be the hands and feet of Jesus this year, pray about it. You will be blessed beyond comprehension.