With the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season, Puerto Rico is bracing for what could be more rough weather while in the midst of a recovery from last year’s devastating storms. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) and its Send Relief outreach are expanding their mission work on the island, including disaster response readiness and church planting.
“Since Hurricane Maria hit last fall, Send Relief has been active in Puerto Rico with recovery efforts and seeking to create new church-to-church partnerships between Puerto Rico and the mainland,” said David Melber, president of Send Relief.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and Send Relief mobilized thousands of volunteers and more than a million dollars in resources in the months after Maria wrought havoc across the entire island. In the months since Hurricane Maria made landfall, Southern Baptists have continued to rebuild and serve the people of Puerto Rico.
“I keep seeing NAMB and Send Relief still active and working as if Hurricane Maria happened yesterday,” said Jorge Santiago, a church planting missionary in Comerío, Puerto Rico. “For us, it’s been a big, big help because we would not be able to help as many people if not for their support.”
After the storm, Send Relief sent kits to pastors and churches that included hard-to-find items including a generator, water filters, a chainsaw and gas stoves among other items. The kits equipped local pastors and church leaders with the tools to reach those in need in their communities.
“All these things were a blessing,” said Carlos Rodriguez, NAMB’s Send missionary in Puerto Rico, “but I will say that the best help we received was the volunteers who left their comfort zones on the mainland to be with the pastors and churches in the communities.”
SBDR teams from Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee adopted zones on the island and worked with the churches in those communities to coordinate disaster relief operations. Teams from Kentucky and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention helped remodel a Baptist seminary for volunteer housing after the storm.
For months afterward, churches and collegiate ministries sent teams through Send Relief.
Katie Cargle, an administrative assistant and part-time campus minister, helped lead a team of 32 college students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of North Georgia. The North Georgia students served in Guayama, Puerto Rico, alongside Cargle and campus ministers Ken Jones and Keith Wade.
“It was honestly the best disaster relief trip I’ve ever done or been a part of,” Cargle said. “All we had to do was fly our students to the island, and the Send Relief team did the rest. We literally just had to show up and work.”
Along with coordinating mission teams, NAMB and Send Relief have been able to connect churches in Puerto Rico with local associations of churches and individual churches on the mainland. These long-term partnerships will help to sustain work over a longer period of time as they raise financial support and send mission teams.
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Source: Baptist Press