Responding to Puerto Rico's Devastation
Note: Peter Negron (on far right in the photo above) is the pastor of Pure in Heart Church in Chicago. He also serves on the Reach this Nations board with a heart of compassion for those in need – physically, emotionally, and, most of all, spiritually. This is his story:
“To be known as a Christian is to be known as a servant.” - Peter Negron
Hurricane Maria brought devastating destruction to the U. S. Territory of Puerto Rico near the end of September. The category 5 storm wreaked havoc throughout the island, cutting water and power services, damaging infrastructure and causing many deaths.
As Peter prayed for the now-desperate people of Puerto Rico, he had a strong sense the God wanted him to go to help and to take others with him to join in the work. A small team took off in October and this was Peter’s initial response:
“Words cannot accurately describe what I have seen in the few short hours I have been here. It has been several weeks almost a month since Maria and the job ahead is going to be a long one. Many churches and volunteers have poured in, and have done great work, but there is a lot to do. Pray for the Island of Puerto Rico and the people who call it home.”
A second trip was taken in November with team members replacing roofs, chain-sawing downed trees, and cleaning out mud-filled homes.
Even then, the description was grim. “You hear of the people in Puerto Rico who still have no electricity or running water. Well let's put this in perspective, no electricity means that they have no refrigeration so, they can't keep food. They have no microwave, no washing machine, no dryer and in some cases no stove and no hot water to bathe. Not to mention no air conditioning or fans.
“No or intermittent water means you must boil the water, you have no water to bathe and you can't flush the toilet.
“And many still have leaking roofs.”
A large percentage of Puerto Ricans are elderly, widowed, or living alone and are physically unable to remove fallen trees from their roofs or even to put in place the tarps left by social service groups. Peter’s team is doing what these people would wait for weeks or months to have done by others.
“I can't visit everyone on the Island, but I can help some,” Peter says.
It wasn’t long before Peter began to see God’s hand at work. First the Pure in Heart team was given free use of a warehouse in Manati, Puerto Rico that has become a point of distribution of relief supplies. Churches in the area can come to the warehouse, get needed food, water, and other necessities, and then distribute them in their own neighborhoods.
Everything is given freely, showing God’s love to those whose need is great! Again, in Peter’s own words:
“The last time we worked for ten days with and through a conservative Reformed Baptist church named Eglesia Biblica Emanuel in Santa Isabel and surrounding areas. This time we are working with the Assemblies of God church named Eglesia Antioquia in Manati. We also served with some of the people from the Disciples of Christ church and then we helped put a tarp on the home of a Methodist woman’s house. With and through these groups we reach out to people in the community who are not yet saved. We are here as servants of the kingdom of God. To God be the glory.”
And then on November 20, when it was time to come back to the mainland, Peter says,
“We leave with a heavy heart knowing that there is much yet to do. A large number of people have no home owner’s insurance so they are on their own. Pray for the poor, the widows and single moms.”
He goes on to explain the desperation, “Having no insurance means there are no funds for repair and no funds for replacement of all the contents in the home. Some have lost everything. There are tens of thousands of homes with nothing but blue tarps on the roof and every time it rains the damage gets worse.”
After returning to Chicago, Peter was offered, at no cost, 180 pallets of water, goods, and medicines which had been designated for relief efforts in Puerto Rico by a secular fund-raising event that had been held earlier in Chicago. All he would have to do is get it to the Island.
The supplies given will fill between six and ten large shipping containers (aren’t we glad God had already provided the warehouse?). The shipper quoted $8,900 per container. But, after talking to Peter for awhile, he reduced his price to $6,500 per container and offered to cover the costs of one of them.
Still, Peter simply didn’t have the money needed to get the goods to Puerto Rico. He prayed and others did, too. He put word out on the internet and to all he thought might be interested. And, in just a few days, the shipping costs of four of the containers have been paid for. One man, who is not a Christian, wrote a check for $10,000 because he felt God was telling him to do so.
Peter and his team will be returning to Puerto Rico later this week to continue to help those in dire need. The more supplies there at that time, the more distribution can occur. If you can help by joining the work crew or by helping to get these necessities to Puerto Rico, you can reach Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org.