The work we’ve been doing
With Hurricane Maria on September 20, we entered a different level of emergency as whole communities, communications, water, electrical network, as well as transportation avenues were completely wiped out in the whole island. Without electricity and water, with blocked streets, fallen bridges, etc., and telecommunications down (only 240 towers were standing from 1,600), 3.4 millions of people were left without communication and rapid response from governmental agencies was greatly hindered.
The Seminary was a site of utmost destruction with fallen tress blocking all entrances and debris all over. The campus, chapel, and student housing suffered the most damage. The water affected offices and classrooms but we were most concerned over humidity in the library endangering books and treasured archives.
Our first emergency meeting was on Monday 25th at the First Baptist Church of Rio Piedras. We defined the strategies and priorities for the first 10 days: opening access, security, cleaning all the spaces, and seeking the status of personnel and students. Under these conditions we also defined limited working hours for our staff until the emergency subsided.
For three weeks (2-20 October) the staff and faculty joined to clean up facilities and campus every Monday and Wednesday.
During this time, we developed the new academic calendar, a census of students whereabouts, and insurance documentation. New tasks and working spaces were put in place for staff members, the faculty reviewed their course content, and we spent innumerable hours of communication with crediting agencies, friends, alumnae, etc.
On October 21st we held our first meeting with students. The stories they told, their faces and their embrace expressed the nightmares and the blessings we all went through. That was 21 days after Maria.
For now, all the classes are being given on Saturdays at the Interamerican Metro University facilities while we work out cleaning up and repairing our campus.
Greatest Current Needs
Today, 73 days after hurricane Maria, and 86 days after Irma, our greatest need is restoring the campus. We need to install a used 100kw donated generator in order to return to the campus. We have sought help from one of our associated denominations committed to do this. However, this is costly and we are asking donations to buy materials for the concrete pad, transfer switch, cables, replacing the monitor controller, etc.
Our second great need is scholarships for our students. The present national situation affecting their jobs hinders their ability to pay their tuition for next semester. Many students will be unable to continue without significant scholarship help. Our third need is to complete the restoration of the students housing.
Donations are being asked from supporting churches and individuals in the US for scholarships. Collaboration agreements are being made with supportive denominations to bring working teams to restore the buildings.
The Role of the Seminary at this Time
The Seminary is a network of leaders that serves, comforts, and animates the people to stand up again in the midst of this crisis. Many of our students have suffered alongside our people. Iris, a Baptist pastor lost everything when her house flooded and she swam out to find a boat to save her aging mother. Yet, after surviving this ordeal, she comforted and helped organize support for her community. Mario, another Baptist pastor, since day 1 after Maria went out working along others to open the streets, find water, move people around and serve over 1,400 hot meals. Tita, a United Evangelical pastor, has served the aging community, visiting nursing homes in her community, seeking their health, and providing over 2,000 meals. These are the religious leaders we nurture.
Our professors have also been at the forefront serving communities and engaging theologically interpreting the events not as divine punishment but as a call to engage in a spiritual and integral Gospel of Peace for all – including nature.
We welcome your help on this journey. Your prayers and your financial support will help us to continue.