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Puerto Rican Methodists Find Strength in God Despite Massive Hurricane
PHOTO: MISAEL D. RODRIGUEZ QUIJANO
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On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria wrecked the building of La Iglesia Metodista Peña de Horeb in Palo Seco, Puerto Rico, destroying the structure but not the church—the church being members of the community of faith who would rally to worship God in other space and minister to their neighbors. After the wind subsided, members crept into what was left of the gutted, roofless sanctuary to find a kind of miracle. The lectern stood upright and on it the Bible, open to Psalm 84, beginning: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!…my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

The hope, the strength of faith voiced in Psalm 84 became the anthem of Peña de Horeb as well as that of other Methodist congregations in the wake of one of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit the island, a storm leaving millions without electric power for weeks.

Two months after Maria struck, I visited Maunabo, on the southeastern coast, with a team from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We followed in the footsteps of a much earlier UMCOR advance team that launched our work only days after air travel was restored to the island.

Phto: Misael D. Rodriguez Auijano.

The people at every stop expressed frustration with the slowness of the federal and state response, notably in restoring electric power. But rather than lament their plight or complain about neglect, Methodists in the congregations we visited had rallied to the occasion and organized to serve those in need of food, clothing, and emergency services. They were sustained by the assurance of Psalm 84 that happy are those whose strength is in God. We found a spirit of trust in God and appreciation to the global Methodist family for prayers and relief supplies.

We were deeply impressed by the fortitude, resilience, and initiative of the people we met--people like Haydee and Samuel, who as the storm approached their home put a few belongings in their car and fled. Their home was gone, completely gone, when they returned. Their response was to join a community kitchen ministry through their church in Arecibo, cooking and serving 200 meals three days per week.
Bishop Bickerton and I joined Bishop Ortiz, our missionaries, and others from Puerto Rico in Brigades of Hope and Love, an UMCOR/Puerto Rico church program distributing food, water, cleaning supplies, and items for children in communities with Methodist congregations and those without. One of the latter was Playita Cortada in Santa Isabela. In a windswept morning in the hurricane ravaged town, Bishop Ortiz stopped to explain how Methodist outreach incorporated all those in need—distributing hope and love to all.

I am left with similar thoughts and with an indelible image of the Bible in La Iglesia Metodista Peña de Horeb, surviving the storm intact and left open to Psalm 84, which ends with this promise:

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Thomas Kemper, General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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