Rebuild Puerto Rico Mission Trip 2020
Puerto Rico 2020 Mission Trip
January 3 - 10
Jennifer Chaloemtiarana. Saijai Chaloemtiarana, Jennifer Benesis, Lauren Benesis, Lisa Angelot, Kai Angelot, Brian Camara, Abby Camara, Angela Koblitz, David Koblitz ,Dawn van Hasselt, Pablo Castro, Paul Wayne, Rick Bauman, Emily Dorazi, Cheri Coulter, Bernie Schuhmann
Day 7 Report
After some consultation with PDA and a few Presbyterian leaders in Southern Puerto Rico, our group decided to bring a convoy of supplies down to the hardest hit region of the island. We packed up all the food, water, diapers, and other necessities that we could fit into our cars and drove 40 miles to the Presbyterian Church in Guanica, Puerto Rico.
The local Presbyterian Church had been damaged in the quake and we spent some time cleaning up around the church building: bookshelves were knocked over, storage scrambled, glass broken on the floor, and a stone table needed to be set right again. The pastor was overwhelmed that anyone – much less fellow Presbyterians from as far as California – would show up to help her begin to set things right.
From there, we visited “the coliseum” to donate our supplies. This was the staging place where people who had lost their homes (or who were too afraid to return to their homes) were sleeping in the open. Cots dotted the parking lot, with a handful of canopies for shade. The mayor repeated their needs several times in interviews with media and non-profit leaders, “Food, water, and blankets” – the most basic of necessities.
While we were there, a minor tremor shook the building and everyone ran outside – us included. The sense of fear overwhelmed even our Bay-Area earthquake savvy. You could really feel the ground move in a small quake, this close to the epicenter.
After some normal post-disaster confusion, we donated our supplies to a nearby distribution center – checking and triple-checking to make sure that everything was in the right place with the right people. Another quick jolt sent us running outside again.
Fear and confusion were everywhere, 36 hours after the earthquake. No one was sure whether or not another large earthquake would strike, or could discern which structure might survive and which might fall. I kept thinking back to the list of needs – food, water, blankets. Leaders were investigating the possibility of obtaining portable toilet facilities. The power shut off again and the streetlights went black. Long lines of cars trailed out from every gas station. We did what little we could, and now it is time for us to go back home.
But the residents of Puerto Rico will stay. They will find food, water, and shelter for each other. They will restore electricity for their neighbors. They will continue to rebuild, with or without help from the mainland. It is painful to see our fellow citizens, and children of God, forced to face yet another tragedy with so little outside aid. It is not the infrastructure of Puerto Rico that has failed – it is our communal sense of responsibility and mutual love that has failed. We could do so much more.
See you all on Sunday,