Our team landed on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico on Saturday, July 21 and was warmly greeted by Gaby Correa (CHBC’s Director of Latino Ministries) and his wife, Katie. After months of preparation we were finally there.
We enjoyed our first full day by worshipping with a local congregation where Gaby served as the guest preacher. He delivered a beautiful message on Psalm 23, encouraging us to find our full satisfaction in God, our Shepherd. We shared a meal with the pastor and his family and then drove around the island a bit to see God’s beautiful handiwork.
Monday marked the start of our week of activities. We began each morning by spending approximately three hours in breaking bread together, reading and discussing I Peter (one chapter each day, Monday through Friday), debriefing the experiences of the previous days, discussing cultural norms, and preparing for the day ahead. What follows is a brief summary of our activities.
Our team of 16, with ages ranging from 18 to 69, was split into four sub teams, each focusing on serving/equipping the local church in ways requested from a vision trip in March of this year.
Trauma Team – An estimated one million Puerto Ricans will be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD by September of 2019. In response to this, the local church asked us to train them in how to best serve their communities as they struggle with the emotional and psychological aftermath of Maria.
English as a Second Language Team – Though an official language on the island, most Puerto Ricans, including 100,000’s who have left the island, do not speak English. Our ESL team trained local church leaders in how to teach a foreign language in order to not only better prepare those who might leave the island but also as an effective means for outreach in the local community.
Rebuild Team – The need for clean-up and rebuilding is evident as your flight begins to descend. Houses without permanent roofs, communities still without power, and schools without suitable classrooms mark the landscape of the island. Our team served a local elementary school in helping make their classrooms better learning environments for the children. The team’s work was so good that the principal asked the local church for an official partnership and asked the pastor if he would meet with her relatives who are in need of counseling! The church had been praying for and pursuing this partnership for several months. The team spent the final two days helping rebuild the home of a sister in Christ that had suffered tremendous property damage.
Financial Team – Financial stewardship is something many people struggle with and the need for training in this area was expressed many times during our visit in March. Our team provided two 3 hour seminars on Saturday the 28th to remind the local church that God owns all things (we are stewards) and to give practical tools for financial management.
The feedback we received from the local pastors was overwhelmingly positive. One pastor, who has hosted dozens of teams since Maria struck in September, shared how he had never before hosted a team that had come to serve him and his church. He felt refreshed and encouraged by our time with him and his people. Another pastor mentioned how our team demonstrated great humility both in asking what the needs of the churches might be (as opposed to a common model of telling the local church what we can do for them) and in the posture in which our team served. This same pastor mentioned how edified he felt after one of the seminars due to the content having been saturated in Scripture.
The feedback from our team members has also been encouraging. New friendships have been forged (both in P.R. and all at CHBC), we have grown in our understanding of Scripture, and have been challenged to continue to learn from our experience. We had a three hour long debrief meeting this past weekend and will continue to have discussions via an online platform.
Thank you for your prayers and for your encouragement and support. The trip was one which promises to bear fruit for many years to come and served as the beginning of what we hope will be a long-standing and enriching relationship with brothers and sisters on the island.
Rodrigo Dinsmore (Missions Pastor)