VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 12/12/18)—Since September 2017, when Hurricane Maria wrought havoc on Puerto Rico, 48 American Baptist churches, schools and other entities on the island have been restored or are undergoing restoration because of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) ongoing “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” initiative.
While 29 entities received help via funds, materials or volunteers, nine academies received funds and 10 other entities received community grants. A complete list is available at abhms.org > Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico > Latest News & Updates.
“Thank you for praying with us, walking with us and not forgetting us,” the Rev. Edgardo M. Caraballo, executive minister of Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico, told a delegation of ABHMS board members, staff members and partners who surveyed 10 of the entities during a recent trip to the island.
After the hurricane, half of Iglesia Bautista El Salvador’s members were forced to flee to the U.S. mainland. Finding itself without electricity, the church used a generator for nine months. Volunteer teams coordinated by ABHMS and American Baptist Men repaired the roof and cleared waist-high foliage.
At Academia Bautista Puerto Nuevo, which serves more than 900 students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, ABHMS support resulted in the restoration of a classroom in addition to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics laboratory. A second-grade classroom became a storage room for supplies sent by ABHMS.
“Sometimes we all question God and say, ‘Why us?’ But, because of the hurricane, we became a country,” said a student. “I met my neighbors for the first time because we helped each other. Even though it was a hard experience, we came out stronger.”
At Misión Bautista Cristo Restaurabin Toa Baja, a sign on the altar declares: “No estemos solos [Let’s not be alone]”—perhaps a testament not only to God but also to the volunteer teams from several American Baptist regions that fixed the wiring, lighting and roof.
“Imagine worshipping on Sunday with buckets [filling with rain],” said the Rev. Jesus Garcia, who planted Misión Bautista Cristo Restaurabin and pastors Iglesia Bautista de Metropolis. “It was raining outside and inside.”
The Rev. Dr. Clifford I. Johnson, president of ABHMS’ board of directors, was among the visitors touched not only by the stories of volunteer rebuilding efforts but also by the resiliency and hospitality of the people of Puerto Rico.
“Although the hurricane blew through Puerto Rico,” he said, “the Holy Spirit exceeded the winds of the hurricane.”
How you can remain involved
Information about participating in a volunteer work week is available online or by contacting Abigaíl Medina Betancourt, the “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” onsite volunteer coordinator, at 939.231.0120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” Facebook group provides a central online place for information about the effort, including volunteer opportunities; discussion about issues impacting Puerto Rico; sharing photos, videos and stories of ongoing work; and calls for prayer and other support.
Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) may be made via your church; via credit card online at www.abc-usa.org and clicking “Give Online”; or via check designated to “OGHS-Puerto Rico” and mailed to the attention of Kim Wilkins at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, 1075 First Ave., King of Prussia, PA 19406.
One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. To ensure that your church receives credit for your gift, write the church name on your check or, if giving online, in the “comment” box.
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.