“Thank you for your service!” Everywhere we went, people thanked us! Two years after Hurricane Maria, there are still blue tarps on roofs, houses abandoned, trees down and roads washed away. People told stories of how they were out of electricity for 3-18 months. Flooding was massive. Some houses will never be rebuilt. Puerto Rico had a population of 3 million people. Estimates are that 1.5 million have left the island, and it is predicted that it will continue to have people leaving, down to a population of 1.2 million. Imagine what that does to a small town, the churches, the businesses in communities. There are new electrical poles and a new grid. FEMA money is starting to come in (after a 2-year wait) and people are getting jobs at banks being rebuilt and stores reopening. “If I had not had savings, I never would have made it this far.” The political turmoil is San Juan continues and there is much uncertainty for the days ahead. The people are strong, resilient, kind and welcoming of All, not just Some.
Our group of 12, from UCC churches in SC, MA, CA, AZ, and MS, worked and played together in Luquillo, PR, focusing on roof repair. In Las Piedras, we worked on two houses and the flat roof of Las Piedras UCC. The three-day process involved power washing off the debris on the roof, filling cracks and holes, and applying two coats of waterproof sealer. We worked mornings because by noon it was too hot to be up on the roof. We also worked a day at Yuquiyu UCC Conference Center which sustained massive damage from the storm. Yuquiyu is the primary God of the Taino people, the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. “The Sleeping Giant” is the god of peace and tranquility, in contrast to his evil brother, Huracan, responsible for storms, earthquakes, and bad crops.
The UCC Disaster Ministries team has a list of 350 families still waiting for repairs. There are work teams from many other denominations as well. Lydia Rosaly Velazquez is the Coordinator. You can find out more information by contacting [email protected]. You can contact Rev. Nancy N. Elsenheimer at [email protected] for more information as well.