Weeks after Hurricane Maria, the conditions in Puerto Rico continue to remain difficult. The island has only a minimum amount of power, and many roads have been destroyed. Houses built of wood have been flattened; those made of stronger materials have lost roofs, windows and doors. Although the Free Methodists churches and pastors’ houses were not as damaged by the storm as some other buildings, most need some repair and reconstruction.
“We need God to give us strength and wisdom to respond to the crisis all around us. Pray that God will protect our minds and our emotions as we deal with our new normal. Also pray that God will keep us healthy in spite of the unsanitary conditions all around us. And please, please pray that God will especially take care of our children,” said Superintendent Mercedes Reynoso in response to Latin America Area Director Delia Nüesch-Olver when asked what other Free Methodists could do for Puerto Rico.
In October, Bishop David Roller visited the Free Methodist pastors in Puerto Rico. They gathered in a room with only flashlights for light. They went around the room to ask, “How are you?” They also discussed how Free Methodists elsewhere could help. The pastors’ request was, “Please help us help others.”
For those living in the capital, San Juan, life is slowly returning to a new normal. Many trees are still down. At this magazine’s press time, electrical power has only been restored to some areas and then only for a few hours each day; cell phone reception continues to be spotty. Hurricane debris has not yet been picked up.
“You’ll see a restaurant open, a store open, not everything – but things are gradually getting back online,” Roller said about San Juan.
Those living in the interior of the island are still very much affected by the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Thus, Free Methodist relief efforts are focused on helping rebuild and providing food as there has been a general shortage throughout the island. The Free Methodist congregations in Puerto Rico have been distributing boxes of love, “cajitas de amor,” to all who come through their doors.
“The church has continued to do very good ministry, but [Free Methodists in Puerto Rico] are increasingly under-supplied and under-able to do that,” Roller said.
A great way to provide direct aid is to purchase Walmart or Walgreens gift cards and send them to Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery, 770 N. High School Road, Indianapolis, IN 46214. Contributions can also be made through the Bishops’ Crisis Response Fund at fmcusa.org/bfund (include “Puerto Rico” in the Comments box).
Donations are also being collected to provide generators for each of our church buildings, which have become centers of counseling, respite and other assistance. The cost of a generator is about $450 – a great project for a family, Sunday school class, small group or congregation. To contribute to this need, give through the Puerto Rico Recovery Fund (include “Generator” in the Comments box).
Above all, please pray for the people of Puerto Rico. Pray that bureaucratic and logistical obstacles will be resolved and that food, water and other supplies will get to those in need. Further, pray that our members and churches will be empowered to minister to other people in amazing ways.1