Three representatives from Church of the Resurrection had the privilege of traveling to Puerto Rico January 15-18 and seeing firsthand the devastation and recovery efforts by the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico and those living there.
- The team was a part of the “Brigade of Hope and Love” program where they distributed 1000 grocery bags, 1000 Solar Lights, 1000 Health Kits and 3000 bottles of water to the Southeast area of the island where the hurricane came in.
- Toured the center mountainous area to see first-hand the current condition of homes and roads.
- Visited a local church and school on the Northwest part of the island where hurricane Maria exited the island.
Bishop Ortiz traveled with the team throughout their stay, below are highlights of the experience. He was emotional when he shared that he appreciated the call from Adam, Resurrection was one of the first to contact them, offer assistance and send funds and goods.
Bishop office proactive steps:
- A week after Maria Conference Office calls were rerouted to his administrative assistance who was stationed in Florida. All calls within the island were not operational, whereas calls to/from the island were somewhat functioning.
- Bishop team designed and are implementing a Comprehensive Sustainable Recovery Plan.
Post Maria Initial Impact
- 250,000 homes damaged
- 100,000 completely destroyed
- 50% of the homes damaged do not qualify for assistance due to no proof of deed
- 200,000 people have left island since Maria
- Debris is being separated into several categories, one of which is vegetation for compost and a second one for recycling.
- Loss of approximately 50,000 jobs
- More than 5000 business have closed due to no electricity
- 100 Methodist churches in Puerto Rico
- 40 damaged
- 10 destroyed (not in use)
- Priorities for the church is sustainable recovery with food security being high.
There is great concern that the young adults are leaving the island and not returning.
Puerto Rico today
- Most main roads are drivable, the closer to San Juan you get the more accessible they are.
- The majority of the street lights are not working, even in San Juan. Several streets have blocked off left-hand turns.
- Internet is spotty
- Most gas stations are up and running
- Credit cards can now be used
- Some restaurants remain closed, however those that are open many are using generators thus having to increase the cost on the menu.
- 300 people still living in shelters, others living with family or neighbors
- Puerto Rico is currently still in the Relief Phase.
- Items made in Puerto Rico are shipped to mainland, logo is placed on item then shipped back to Puerto Rico. The expense is paid for by the consumer.
- All items shipped to Puerto Rico must first go to the mainland, which are then placed on a U.S. vessel. Ultimately making its way to Puerto Rico, the expense is paid for by the consumer.
- Recovery of Communities
- Recovery of Local Churches
- Establish new partnerships with other conferences and NGO’s
- Methodist Church Comprehensive Disaster Case Management established (DCM) and Program (DCMP)
- Working with Hospitality Network, Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS), Samaritans Purse (received 500 tarps from them) and NGO’s. As well as long-term recovery groups.
- 3 Year Plan has been designed with Liz McDermott (Future with Hope – Sandy disaster). She is currently consulting with UMCOR and guiding them with the DCMP transfer of the Case Management Program.
Teams would be assisting with tarps of churches and surrounding homes.
- Warehouse – resources for relief are limited.
- Transportation vehicles for teams.
- Equipment for ERT teams to have on location.
Will need basic supplies however would prefer to empower churches.
Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) Lessons Learned
Although the Conference Office was strategic in the preparedness and the execution of their Comprehensive Plan, many items were exposed including the extreme poverty on the island. As a result of the island’s infrastructure being crippled many were left to their own devices. Everywhere we went we saw the ingenuity of the local people, from redirecting electrical poles, to building temporary roads.
This trip was extremely difficult on so many levels, where we envisioned hopelessness we heard laughter, where we feared recklessness we experienced community. Many individuals in Puerto Rico continue to lean into the assurance that GOD has not left their side or ever will. Many including my family continue to praise GOD for the sun which HE provides each and every day, for HIS rays will always stomp out darkness, today, tomorrow and always.