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October 3, 2017
We’ve collected some information on the current status of some of our partners in Puerto Rico.
We have learned that the office building of the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico was lost. There was significant damage to the campus of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico in San Juan, our closest partner. Denominational leaders are working to assess loss of life and property losses among their churches.
Primera Iglesia Bautista de Rio Piedras, where former BPFNA ~ Bautsitas por la Paz board member Laura Ivelisse Ayala is pastor, is serving as a hub housing volunteers and providing direct support. The Ecumenical Seminary will be using office space and perhaps holding classes at this church once things have stabilized enough for classes to be offered. Two recent updates from Pastor Laura are below. We will contribute to the efforts of the church as we have direct connections there and they are well-placed to identity and respond to needs.
The seminary is seeking immediate, substantial scholarship aid. Many students were already suffering from the debt crisis and the subsequent loss of federal student aid. Now with many suffering direct losses to their homes and jobs as well, the majority will be unable to continue their studies without significant scholarship help. Denominational help from the several denominations that support the seminary will support rebuilding efforts so the seminary itself is focused on making it possible for students to continue at little to no cost. We will contribute to this effort as the seminary has long been an important partner to us.
1. Give to the efforts listed above through BPFNA ~ Bautsitas por la Paz (click here to donate).
2. Send emails of support to [email protected]
3. Advocate for a JUST recovery – here’s one advocacy effort you can join:
Now is the time for Congress to act (Click here).
Although many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for emergency aid for Puerto Rico, similar to the Houston and Florida disaster responses, the timing and nature of such support is unclear. With the Columbus Day recess approaching, it is critical that policy makers act in the coming days. Any delays or failure to pass such critical humanitarian aid will have a devastating impact on the lives of many. Further, any aid packages must be offered in the form of grants, not loans, to avoid worsening the financial crisis on the island.
4. We were pleased to see that American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA, has launched a multi-year initiative, "Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” which will continue over the next 3-5 years. You and/or your church may wish to join in this effort (Click here).
October 2, 2017
Yesterday our church met in the dining room because 125 volunteers from the red cross are housed in the temple. We were together and it was hot, but there was a refreshing breeze the Holy Spirit. We had dinner and the table was decorated with samples of everything received to help.
I thank God for every one of my friends and brothers in faith on Facebook who have sent help and have mobilized to send donations.
Some details of hope...
On Saturday we received a donation of fruit and vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, carrot, pineapple, nectarines and melon). I've never seen so much fruit and vegetables outside the supermarket! With pineapples and melons, 200 cups of dessert were prepared for the meals of the day (and left for today! 314 bags were delivered with 1 Melon, 1 cabbage or lettuce and 2 fried carrots! for familiesin three nearby communities. In addition several boxes were taken to two nearby communities where they are cooking for those who cannot leave.
After we thought we'd finished delivering, the truck came back! There came the nectarines and more carrots. We'll take care of it today.
I speak plural because it wasn't just our church. They are also other churches of other denominations, including Catholic and independent brothers. There also people who don't believe in God, but they love people. We are many! Students and professionals. From Children to the elderly. Everyone has had a place to make their contribution. See the gospel in action, priceless!
The community of Rio Piedras has been a success! Every day, he brings his own eagerness and his own blessings.
September 29, 2017
A little update: All help is welcome!
We now face two immense challenges: Access to gasoline and communications.
I've heard from my brothers and sisters, little by little, because I don't have gas to see them. I've stayed at the temple trying to be useful from here.
1. The devastation in Puerto Rico is great. Unfortunately, we do not have much information about what has happened. Those on the outside -- you know more than the ones here.
2. Rio Piedras is a mainly poor community, so it has not been in the priorities of the municipal government or state. In the face of inaction, a "gathering" of all sectors has been developed and we have taken up all the tasks of local recovery.
3. FOR THE PAST 4 days we have conducted daily meetings in our facilities with 30+ people divided into the following committees:
A. Health: People do not have access to medicines that are necessary for life: Insulin, high pressure and heart, asthma, kidney condition, HIV, among others. We have doctors for prescriptions, pharmacies have the meds, but since there is no communication with medical plans, we have to pay cash. We need money to pay and the people do not have economic resources.
B. Construction and cleaning: A brigade of young people and merchants have come out every day to cut down trees, to clear roads and gain access. Now a group has finished a census on property damage. Yesterday we cried: about 300 people lost their all of parts of their roofs. By the water, they lost all their belongings. This includes seniors and families with children. We need big tools and awnings.
C. Food: Since Monday our church has not stopped cooking (as far as the gas is concerned). Many people: Elderly, University students who are from distant towns (or other countries) and have no money or food, homeless people with mental health problems and addiction, mothers alone with children. The need is 300-400 people a day. We've only been able to attend to 100-150 with one meal a day. We have given priority to the brigade, to the homeless and the elderly. God has miraculously supplied, but we already have had 150 people for 4 days. We need hands to cook, clean pots, pack, distribute and keep inventory.
D. Mental and spiritual support: We have a good group of social workers, pastors and priests. But we are all leading and involved in the above. Today we will make a stop in two communities that are devastated.
E. Security: We can't count on the municipal police or state. And our community presents security problems in normal times, imagine now. This committee is organizing shifts and rounds to control robberies and assaults.
F. Recreation: How little you have access to some radio stations. So the people who are listening all day, they're getting only half of the information. This committee is preparing musical and recreational activity for the community and children. The Digital Generation is about to convulse: there is no tv, Play Station or Internet! We need people to entertain and play games with the children.
4. Our church is the meeting point of all those working committees. We cook daily and since yesterday, we are a "staff shelter" for 125 red cross volunteers. Forgive the release that follows: I am overwhelmed with everything that God is allowing us to do and worry about with all the limitations we have. Last night, the electric generator went out and he didn't want to light any more. We have contract maintenance, but there's no sign and many don't have tel with service... a volunteer engineer trying to help, but he turned off. So today I have about 200 people here... no generator! Pray for us.
5. The mail has been closed, open the next week, so what we have started to send has not arrived, but will arrive. What can they send? There's no electrical energy. We need battery fans, flashlights, bulbs, AAA Batteries, AA, c and d. Especially c and d for lanterns and fans. No batteries available! Mobile phone chargers. Anything solar. Money would help us a lot because we can buy food and first-aid items (help to move the economy that has stalled more) and, as we can, gas to move.
6. Your prayers are very necessary in this time. God is in the midst of all uniting wills and resources. We've been doing gospel in the midst of chaos, but we need strength every day. Especially to see so much need and have to limit the aid. On the other hand, there are many people who have not been able to work, so if they charge, it will be very little. In several days it is going to sharpen the need.