It started with a meeting at Riverside Presbyterian Church. A few churches came together to discuss possible responses to the litany of disasters that had come one right after another. In discussing possible responses it became clear that thanks to pastor Edwin Andrade and worship leader Jesse Cólon there were connections in Puerto Rico that could facilitate a possible long term relationship with a few pastors on the Island.
Rev Andrade was able to identify an area of need in the San Sebastian region. There is a Presbyterian owned conference center and camp with a water pump. Unfortunately the pump isn’t working, and without power this is very little reliably clean water in the region.
Through the help of the National Capital Presbytery’s Mission Coordination Committee (MCC) a presbytery account was identified to collect money for the pump. On top of that the Mission Coordination Committee also is offering a matching grant for the account of up to a total $10,000. Any church that has given money to the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands recovery effort can have those funds matched by this grant with funds going into the presbytery’s account. Churches can also donate funds directly to the account.
With news of the lack of clean water 10,000 water purification tablets were secured by Mark Reimers of Clifton Presbyterian Church, and sent to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. In follow up, Rev Andrade found out that one of the biggest challenges in Puerto Rico is getting adult diapers. Funds from the presbytery account should soon be sent to a medical supply company so folks can obtain the adult diapers as needed, which is more efficient and effective than trying to send them down. This developing relationship will hopefully lead to further resources being sent to the pastors in Puerto Rico to use as they see best, as well eventually sending groups down to help with some of the rebuilding that will need to happen. One church that was leveled by the storm has already been identified.
So far, the following churches have been identified as donating funds to Puerto Rico and helping meet the $10,000 the MCC offered in matching grants: Riverside, Oaklands, Chevy Chase, Bradley Hills along with a number of other churches committing to getting involved through either donations, fundraisers, participating in weekly decision making conference calls and/or future mission trips.
This space will be used to offer future updates and these relationships develop and deepen.
This has been an exciting program to see develop, and all through the cooperation of congregations in the presbytery. The goal is a long term and deep relationship with these churches and pastors as they continue to rebuild and recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. If you are interested in more information, please contact Mission Specialist Mike McNamara: email@example.com
One of the churches we are currently partnering with is Iglesia Presbyteriana San Sebastian, which is located in San Sebastian, PR. This particular program works through providing direct assistance to the congregation based on what they are identifying as needs. The congregation there is responding to the local community in a number of ways. The first project that we have helped fund is the purchasing of Adult Diapers for elderly citizens of the community. We helped them to establish as account with a local Medical Supplier so they can get them as needed. Funds also recently went down to help the congregation purchase battery powered nebulizers for elderly members of the community given the non-existent to spotty electricity in the area. They are also leading a feeding program for homeless folks in the community. So far the connections have been strong, and we are looking forward to doing more!
Several congregations are joining in response to the need in Puerto Rico – and you are invited to join in that response. We are currently pursuing a relationship in rural Puerto Rico with the intent that we will wire funds as well as send a work team. If your congregation is interested in participating – there are several ways to do so:
1) Send financial support to the Presbytery office, clearly marked with code 02-710200-50.
2) Request information on how to join a weekly update conference call on disaster response.
3) Join a Work Team for the various communities (Houston, Puerto Rico, etc.) that have been impacted by disasters. (A Work Team is forming for trip Houston dates to be determined soon. For more info, contact Lisa Mears - Lisa@riversidechurch.org) Inform the Presbytery if your congregation is responding in this way, and if you have need for volunteers.
4) Create Clean Up Buckets. Church World Service is in great need of these – find more information: http://cwskits.org/assemblekits/emergency-cleanup-buckets/ There is a drop-off point in New Windsor, MD.
Contact Karen at the Presbytery office (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on any of the above responses! Above all, continue to list all those affected by disaster in your prayers.
El Guacio is a small fairly isolated town situated along the Rio Grande de Anasco, not to far from the town of Las Marias. There is a Presbyterian Camp and Conference center there and recently, through the help of Mark Riemers of Clifton Presbyterian Church, we were able to send 5000 water purification tablets to the area (there is a photo of the box being opened in the slide show to the left). The camp has also managed to get an ice machine and a reliable generator so that folks in the community can get ice for free. The camp also has a water pump that is allowing the town to get clean potable water to drink.
Igelesia Presbyteriana Hato Rey in San Juan Puerto Rico has begun a feeding program for people in the community. Funds were recently sent to the church to support this work. Here is a portion of the translated text (using google translate) from the letter the pastor, Rev Jose Gonzalez Colon, sent along to the disaster assistance network:
November 6, 2017 San Juan Puerto Rico To whom it May concern; On September 20, 2017, the history of Puerto Rico changed. The country stopped, experienced the greatest scourge of a cyclone in its entire history. Communication, electricity and drinking water service stopped. The country was dark. To this situation, the problem of scarcity in the products of basic need was added. Many closed supermarkets, those that could open had hardly any supplies, and even if they could get food or other supplies, people do not have the money to buy them. The economy stopped. Given this scenario, the Presbyterian Church in Hato Rey (http://www.iphatorey.org/) has been given the task of alleviating this need by offering shopping and lunches. Every Tuesday the doors of the church open to offer that service. If you or your congregation wants to be part of this initiative you can help by sending a financial contribution. Thank you in advance, and may God bless you.
Rev. José González Colón Pastor Presbyterian Church in Hato Rey
The NCP Disaster Assitance Network will continue to support the work of this congregation, and will update with photos as we walk with this church in its call to serve.