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Hurricanes Irma and María caused catastrophic damage across the island; yet, the people of Puerto Rico are resilient and do not need mainland Disciples to come and do for them. Instead, they are seeking partners who will come as ambassadors and friends. Repair and rebuild work is an important part of the journey, but so, too, is a commitment to building relationships and to learning about life and the church in Puerto Rico so that those who are able to make the trip can return and share the story with others. Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo) en Puerto Rico (ICDCPR) has hired two staff to lead their recovery and preparedness work under Programa Edifiquemos (from Nehemiah 2:18). José Molina Resto is the Program Director and Rev. Rafael Rivera Bidot is the Construction Manager. They are immediately prepared to receive small groups of ambassadors, up to 6 people; by the fall, they’ll have capacity for groups of around 12. They are working to expand housing capacity for 2019, at which time group size will be determined in part by the number of skilled leaders within each group. All participants must be at least 14 years old.
In early September 2017, Puerto Rico was strafed by Hurricane Irma, knocking out power to 1 million people and damaging communities mostly on the north side of the island. Two weeks later, the U.S. territory sustained a direct hit from Hurricane María, the worst storm ever recorded to hit Puerto Rico. 3.4 million people were left without power, many for 6 months and longer due to the massive devastation of the island’s infrastructure. Damage to homes, business, churches, and community centers across the island was devastating.
From the beginning, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada (CCDOC) responded in partnership with the ICDCPR. Staff from several General Ministries of the CCDOC and the Centro Cristiano of the ICDCPR collaborated to identify needs and resources for relief. Relationships grew stronger as plans were developed for the recovery and beyond. The ICDCPR is committed to helping the people of Puerto Rico in this recovery while also strengthening their networks and preparing their people for the next disaster. Week of Compassion, Disciples Volunteering, and Global Ministries are collectively supporting the ICDCPR program. Disciples are invited to work with Discípulos in support of their recovery.
Recovery work will focus in 4 municipalities, repairing homes for those unable to complete their recovery without assistance. Exterior work for securing homes may include repairs to metal and concrete roofs and installing windows and doors. Interior work for making homes livable may include cleaning, painting, flooring, and wall repairs. It is helpful if each mission group has a member comfortable in leading repairs under local supervision (keeping in mind that the way things are done in Puerto Rico is not necessarily the same as they are done in the continental U.S.). It is also helpful if a member of the mission group speaks Spanish. Even better is if all members spend some time familiarizing themselves with basic Spanish words and phrases prior to their journey.
Groups will make their own travel arrangements to Puerto Rico. Flights should be made through the airport in San Juan (airport code SJU). Housing for groups will be at Campamento Morton, ICDCPR’s church camp. The camp has beds and showers; bedding and towels will be provided. Meals will be provided while staying at and working from camp. Transportation will be arranged for airport pick up to take you to the Camp, as well as back and forth to work sites each day.
Work will be on hurricane affected homes. Details will vary, depending on the status of ongoing projects. Throughout the recovery, there will be both exterior work (for example, roofing and installing windows and doors) and interior work (for example, framing or finishing work, flooring, and painting).
Participants are asked to contribute $300 / person for material costs and program support. Groups will be asked to send one check with group payment to Disciples Home Missions (memo: Puerto Rico response), no later than one month prior to your trip. Scholarships are available – please contact Josh Baird with questions.
For more information contact Josh Baird by email or phone: 985-778-6915.
To schedule your mission trip, begin by registering here.
Congregations of Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo) en Puerto Rico:
Discípulos were active across the island in early relief and response efforts. Long-term recovery work will focus in the municipalities of Toa Baja and Bayamon on the northern part of Puerto Rico, Humacao on the east, and Ciales in the middle of the island.