Imagine riding in one of two fifteen passenger vans both navigating a narrow two lane road twisting and winding up into the tropical mountains of central Puerto Rico. The views are spectacular. Palms, giant philodendron, and the fiery flowers of the Flamboyant Royal Poinciana tree grace the roadsides and green mountain walls. Small, compact and humble homes supported by what looks like toothpick legs hug the steep slopes. Our morning journey brings us to the town of Comerío where the streets have yielded to the mountain’s natural topography reminding me of the hilly streets of San Francisco.
On June 30, 2019, under the guiding eye of Lutheran Disaster Response working through Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico, 25 Lutheran volunteers from 5 Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod churches traveled to Puerto Rico to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria.
Divided into four teams, one team repaired a house needing to have the roof power washed and sealed as well as its interior ceiling and walls scraped and painted. This house had stood empty for the past two years and was unlivable in its current state. The family who had lived there pre-Maria were hoping to return to their home as soon as possible.
The father, an Iraqi War veteran, and his wife, a physical fitness instructor, were forced from their home along with their three preschool age children as Maria’s flooding rain waters cascaded down the mountainside onto and into their home destroying the roof and claiming all that it contained. The hot, humid conditions of Puerto Rico provided the perfect environment for molds and mildews to thrive making habitation impossible—particularly for their asthmatic two year old.
Thanks be to God and the excellent guidance and organization of Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico our team was able to power wash their roof and seal it. We scraped ceilings and painted the interior of their home. Much of their nearly new furniture, now moldy and warped, still awaited removal. All their kitchen appliances had been destroyed.
And yet, because of the hard work of our team and the generous grant from The Witness and Service Team Ministry supported through Mission Support giving to the Synod, our work was accomplished. Donations of various gift cards from a number of congregations, we were able to purchase the family a new refrigerator. What a joy to see faces of hope as our homeowners came so much closer to reclaiming their home. We truly did use our hands to do God’s work!