Restarting Lives in Puerto Rico

September 20th, 2017 – Two hundred miles per hour winds, torrential rain and twenty-foot tidal surges displaced hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans and left widespread destruction.  Then months without electricity or other basic services and a massive cleanup followed.  That is the legacy of Hurricane Maria, one of the most powerful storms on record and the backdrop for our recent mission trip.

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR), working with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), developed short and long-term plans to assist in the recovery.  This included setting up the infrastructure to host volunteer teams, warehouse supplies, and hire and train case managers and other support staff.  In early 2018, Bishop Ortiz of the MCPR invited volunteer teams to travel to Puerto Rico to begin working.

Anxious to help with the recovery, a team of seventeen from five Bay Area Methodist Churches (Los Altos, St. Paul’s, San Ramon Valley, Asbury and Lynnewood) traveled to Puerto Rico in mid-March.   Stationed at a Methodist Women’s retreat center on the South Coast in Patillas with electric power supplied by generators, we worked on two homes in a nearby town, Maunabo.

Half of our team was assigned to the hillside home of Rogelio’s family.   Untouched since the storm, we first removed the moldy household debris and striped the walls down to the studs.  We then replaced the roof and repaired other critical damage.   This “can do” team completed all planned work, plus some, before the end of the week.   Rogelio’s firm handshake and effusive “Gracias” said it all.  Now he can move back into his home after six months of displacement.

Team “A”, as we affectionately called them, took on the challenge of restoring Sara’s home.  She, and her extended family, had been living with other relatives since the storm.  This industrious group of missioners worked on rebuilding two rooms from the ground up and added a roof on the last day.  Tearful goodbyes and the Lord’s Prayer graced our departure.  This is what living our faith is all about!  Sara was moving back in minutes after we left.

We are proud to be Christian humanitarians representing our home churches and are grateful for the support of our sponsoring congregations.  In addition to our labor, we were able to donate thousands of dollars in tools to the ongoing recovery effort.  The recovery is expected to take eight to ten years.

Trips like this are chock full of special moments.  We attended worship at Iglesia Methodista Puerta Del Cielo.  What a warm welcome we received!  We admired the host staff supporting our work.  Their heartfelt commitment was remarkable.  We savored getting to know a bit of the local culture.  The people in rural Puerto Rico are so gracious and generous in all respects.

Now, as we look back on this experience we feel blessed to have the time, talent and the means to make a profound difference in the lives of two families in such an intimate way.  We touched the lives of strangers who so deserve a chance to begin anew.

Leslie Carmichael, Harold Caudle, Trevor Caudle, Dick Crawford, Lisa Demers, Angela Eglen, Steve Elliott, Roger Everett, Kirk Gould, Doug Huey, Mary Ellen Huey, Robert Lee, Melia Mehlhorn, Yvonne Murray, Burt Rodgers, Ray Spooner and Carol Woodward.

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