Yesterday was a busy day that ran late into the evening with a delicious spread of Puerto Rican food, comida, at Mirna’s gorgeous beach-side home where we watched an unbelievable show of palm trees blowing in the salty breeze against a backdrop of orange, pink and red as the sun dipped below the ocean horizon…so Day 6 and 7 are combined in one blog:
It is astounding how quickly a foreign place can start to feel like home. The unfamiliar becomes familiar, and strangers become family. This is what we came for – the bonds that we develop on a trip to serve our brothers and sisters tie us together in eternity and we become one church as those ties formulate and stretch even over long distances when the official trip comes to an end. This is how we find everlasting life and experience God fully in this mortal existence. This is pure joy.
We came here with a distinct purpose – to help the Samuel Culpepper church rebuild after Hurricane Maria. As I write this and look around at my team and our Puerto Rican friends quietly, perhaps wistfully, accomplishing final tasks to finish up our last day of work, we have largely accomplished the demolition and prep work we came here to do. But it was the relationships we built that are essential to our real purpose here – the purpose of our human and spiritual existence – where we really made an impact. We labored together, sweated together and problem-solved together, and there’s something about working together to accomplish a certain goal that forms fast, everlasting bonds. Our small team of twelve quickly became a team of many, including Joey, Mirna and Carlos, Juan, Rene, Richard, Mara, Ana, Minerva, Ulinda, Pastor Eric and Heidi, Lleideye, Nicole, Carlos, Ian, Yule, and all the other supporting parts of the community that came together this week.
Yesterday, we arrived in the morning to find that the sanctuary we have been working in had flooded overnight in a heavy storm. Puddles of water pooled on the floor from holes in the roof that we have been preparing for renovation before we leave, but before the roof could be sealed and completed, one more heavy rain fell, reminding us of the reason we were put to work here. It was “all hands on deck” as we grabbed mops and buckets to clean up the mess before breakfast, and the work went much more quickly than expected with everyone pitching in to help. That’s the way it goes, doesn’t it? When we come together with one purpose, with the Lord as our guide, seemingly insurmountable problems are no match for our determination.
Today, the work we have done in demolition and preparation will be complete and the roof will go on. There is still a lot of renovation work to be done – new, impact-resistant windows will go in boarded up gaps in the walls, new tile and flooring will replace what we removed, new lighting and paint will freshen up the interior and exterior once the building has become water-proof – but that will be left for other teams to accomplish.
We won’t see the completion of these tasks on this trip, but the work will continue as other teams arrive. They will come with a purpose – to re-build a church devastated by a storm that could not batter down the resolve of its people – but they will find that what they are really building is God’s Kingdom, on earth as it is in Heaven…and I have to say, Puerto Rico and its warm, infinitely hospitable people is its own little slice of island Heaven.