On Monday, September 18, 2017 I remember checking the status of Hurricane Maria when I first woke up. The storm had transitioned from tropical depression to tropical storm in the previous days and had strengthened to a category 1 hurricane overnight. Maria was heading directly toward the little island of Dominica. By Monday evening, in the span of about 12 hours, Hurricane Maria had rapidly strengthened to a strong category 5 hurricane, one of the strongest storms to make direct land impact since records have been kept.
I was able to text my friend Joe in Dominica as the storm blew ashore. Early in the storm the power was knocked out and Joe said they were huddled in the dark listening to the wind and rain beat against their home. The last message I received from Joe was about 1am on Tuesday. During the same time the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, was posting updates on Facebook. Early in the storm, the roof of his residence was blown off and he posted, “My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.”
Early Tuesday morning it was evident that this massive hurricane had devastated the small country of Dominica. The island is approximately 14 miles from north to south and 9 miles across. The 72,000 citizens of Dominica were left without electricity or running water after the hurricane. Approximately 90% of the structures on the island lost roofs and/or sustained substantial damage. Joe and his family survived the storm but 27 citizens of Dominica lost their lives.
My History with Dominica
Our church has been a part of Dominica for almost 40 years. We have supported ministers, built a church building, made many trips, and helped in various times of need throughout our relationship with the good people of the “nature island.”
In February 2011 I made my first trip to Dominica with Bob Milligan. Our congregation tries to visit foreign missionaries frequently. I found Dominica to be amazingly beautiful and the people were kind, welcoming, and VERY friendly. Dominica and its residents left a big impact on my life.
In Summer 2012 I returned to Dominica with a group of college students from our church. It was my pleasure to introduce these young adults to a beautiful island filled with wonderful people. It was a life-changing trip for several of the folks who traveled with me.
Hope and Help
The tiny island of Dominica might be physically broken after Hurricane Maria, but the spirit of the people is strong! I have been in constant contact with a number of people on the island and I am always impressed by their perseverance and optimism. As of today, only about 8% of the island has electricity restored and 20% have running water. It is estimated that basic services will not be restored until April or May of 2018. Most sleep in homes that are now covered by tarps or scraps of galvanized metal that were scavenged from debris piles.
It has been too long since I have been back to the island. Life and a young family makes it hard to get away but after the storm I knew we needed to travel to Dominica. I have been in constant contact with a number of people on the island to determine how we can best help. We have sent barrels of supplies and assisted in other ways but now things have become stable enough to make a visit.
Our presence on the island will help us reaffirm our long-term friendship and commitment to the people of Dominica. We look forward to helping our friends as they rebuild their lives. A handshake and a hug from someone far away can do a lot to encourage folks who are adjusting to a new normal. I will be collecting video and photos to prepare a report for our church and others who are interested in the DFW area.
The final two blog posts of 2017 for DadisLearning.com will share some of my experiences from this trip. (My December 20 post might be delayed due to travel and connectivity issues.) I would appreciate your prayers for our team of 4 as we travel. We will overnight in Puerto Rico for both our inbound and outbound travel, so we will see first hand the destruction in that country as well.