VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/20/17)—As three American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) staff members return to Puerto Rico this week, the organization affirms its commitment to its “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” multi-year initiative and continues its response to the damage wrought on the island by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The staff members are Victoria Goff, associate director of Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement and director of Disaster Recovery for Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico; the Rev. Salvador Orellana, national coordinator of Latino Ministries and deputy director of Logistics and Relationships for Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico; and the Rev. Rothangliani Chhangte, senior associate, Strategic Initiatives and Relationships.
They will deliver additional supplies, provide encouragement and support to ABHMS partners in Puerto Rico, and continue to assess the damage in an effort to adequately respond to constantly changing needs.
“On my first trip to Puerto Rico after the hurricanes, one of the greatest needs was gasoline,” Orellana says. “Now water is a huge need.”
Because water in Puerto Rico is contaminated and unsafe for drinking, the team will deliver 100 filters for purifying water. They will also deliver 1,000 solar lights and 125 solar chargers. One hundred tarps previously shipped by ABHMS have already been received on the island.
Also, Church World Service (CWS) funded the following items and shipped them at ABHMS’ request: 2,550 school kits; 1,800 tubes of toothpaste; and 22,500 hygiene kits.
This week ABHMS is shipping 500 tarps in sizes of 18-by-24 feet, 20-by-20 feet, and 20-by-30 feet, as well as tarp accessories. Slated to arrive in Puerto Rico by the end of the month is ABHMS’ shipment of 200 portable triple burners for cooking and 50 propane tanks.
In addition to the $25,000 One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) Emergency Disaster-relief Grant and the $25,000 ABHMS has pledged to match the grant, ABHMS has received $72,845 in donations as of Sept. 30. To date, ABHMS spent $80,000 in OGHS funds in support of Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico. Part of those funds—$10,000—was transferred last week to Puerto Rico, where it was used to purchase food.
ABHMS partners lend a hand
American Baptist women’s groups are helping by providing hygiene kits to Puerto Rico through CWS. In addition to encouraging American Baptist women to participate in CWS’ call for hygiene kits, American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) Executive Director Virginia Holmstrom encourages giving to Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico and to ABWM’s Women and Girls Mission Fund. “Because American Baptist women are known for giving over and above the normal channels of support,” Holmstrom says, “American Baptist Women’s Ministries has chosen to fund the 2018 budget of the region’s ABWM board—Ministerios de Mujeres Bautistas de Puerto Rico—from contributions to ABWM’s Women and Girls Mission Fund.”
Meanwhile, the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB), is working closely with Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico Executive Minister Dr. Roberto Dieppa-Báez to serve hurricane survivors by providing continuity of benefits to members through Premium Assistance for the Comprehensive Plan and providing emergency financial assistance for recovery and living expenses.
“To date, we have sent 34 applications for financial assistance and are expecting more,” says MMBB Associate Executive Director the Rev. Dr. Perry J. Hopper.
Two of International Ministries’ (IM) missionaries are currently serving with the relief effort in Puerto Rico, and IM’s website sends visitors to ABHMS’ site to obtain updates on and to contribute to Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico.
“IM is preparing to help provide bilingual support to the work of short-term volunteer teams, when it becomes possible for such work teams to contribute effectively,” says Stan Slade, IM global consultant. “IM is seeking to provide special assistance to missionaries from Puerto Rico and their supporters, and is grateful for the way ABHMS is leading all American Baptists to work together to meet the needs of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, and to help them serve as the hands and feet of Christ to all of their neighbors.”
Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico includes 114 churches with approximately 25,000 congregants; nine missions; Corporación Milagros del Amor; and Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico. ABHMS is committed to restoring all of these entities, in addition to six of eight schools that sustained substantial damage.
One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.