Seventh-day Adventist volunteers are providing meals and moral support to scores of people on the small Caribbean island of Dominica after a violent tropical storm killed more than 30 people, including at least one Adventist believer.
Tropical Storm Erika devastated the small island of about 72,000 people on Aug. 27, triggering mudslides and destroying roads, bridges, and homes.
Nearly 20,000 people have been affected by the storm, and half of the island is without electricity. Nine communities were hit especially hard, and one of them, Petite Savanne, saw all its residents evacuated by helicopters.
Flights into Dominica’s Douglas Charles Airport have been suspended since the storm struck.
Volunteers with the Dominica branch of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency are feeding about 120 persons at two main shelters, said Priscilla Prevost, the local ADRA coordinator.
In addition, she said, “church volunteers have been preparing three meals per day at the church’s Roseau Community Services Center since residents were evacuated from their destroyed homes.”
Roseau is the capital of Dominica.
Last week, Collin Thorne, ADRA’s coordinator for the Adventist Church’s East Caribbean Conference, which oversees the islands of Barbados and Dominica, joined church volunteers in distributing food and water in the worst-hit communities, which are only accessible by boat. Adventist counselors offered support to people during the trip.
The tragedy has sent shockwaves across the Adventist community.
In addition to the member’s death, 10 Adventists lost their homes and are currently staying in shelters, said R. Danforth Francis, president of the East Caribbean Conference.
The Adventist grade school in Roseau was flooded and suffered damage as was the Adventist church building in the west coast village of Dublanc, he said.
“We are thankful our church members and pastors are all actively involved in the relief effort,” he said.
Kern Tobias, president of the Caribbean Union, appealed to church leaders and members throughout the dozens of islands comprising the English Caribbean territory to help Dominica.
Churches across neighboring islands began collecting funds during church services days after the storm hit.
In the Central Adventist Church in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, pastor J. Wilmoth James comforted many of the members of his congregation who were born in Dominica.
“We are all traumatized by the tremendous loss of life in the tragedy, but we are assured that God is alive and is still in control of this world,” James said.
The church’s North Caribbean Conference, which oversees the U.S. Virgin Islands and nine other islands, is involved in collecting special offerings for disaster relief efforts in neighboring Dominica.
ADRA is currently engaged in discussions with Dominica’s government to assist in building 10 homes for people who lost everything in the storm, Prevost said.