Days after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean Island of Dominica, leaving buildings, homes, roads, and trees in shambles, Seventh-day Adventist leaders visited with local church leaders and members to offer solidarity, assess their needs and be updated on churches and schools. The Category 5 storm was one of the strongest to hit the island, killing dozens of people, overflowing rivers, destroying bridges and leaving the island without power, food, water, and communication.
“There is destruction all around,” said Pastor Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath School director for the church in Inter-America who visited his homeland on Sep. 24-27. “There are no trees, no more coconut trees, no more banana trees. You can see one end of the island to the other, it seemed so transparent,” said Telemaque, who grew up in Dominica and experienced Hurricane David in 1979, an event which has been etched in his mind. “I have never seen anything like this,” he said.
Sent by the Inter-American Division (IAD) with Pastor Aston O’Neil, Community Services director for the church in the Caribbean, Pastor Telemaque met with church leaders in Roseau, the capital city and surrounding parts of the island during the four-day visit.
All of the more than 7,000 church members in Dominica have been affected by the storm. “Our members need assistance in rebuilding their lives,” said Telemaque.
Need of Food and Relief Supplies
“There is a tremendous need of food, water, toiletries, materials for housing, and psychological aid,” said Pastor Felix Jack, district pastor in Dominica, recently appointed as the Ministerial Secretary for the East Caribbean Conference which services the islands of Barbados and Dominica.
“Many have sunk in the spirit of hopelessness and despair, and we really need to bring some measure of hope and relief to them and the community,” said Jack.
Nearly all of the 34 Adventist Churches in Dominica were completely destroyed, except for five which sustained damage but can be used, local church leaders reported.
The four Adventist Schools on the island sustained severe damage, reported Ursula Edwin, principal of the Roseau Adventist primary school. “Persons have vandalized and removed all computers and laptops from the schools, even books were taken,” said Edwin.