This photo is of a home in “The Progress” of Toa Alta and area devastated by Maria
The following letter was one I sent out in Mid-November to supporters of pour mission in Puerto Rico. It serves as a good basis for this report. I have added to and updated certain information with Bold Italic print.
16 Nov 2017 – Greetings to all from Juncos PR;
It has been two weeks since I landed in Puerto Rico and I have seen and experience so much in that time. I thought I would in this update recap the teams time here, please bear with me as this may be rather long.
First I would be remiss if I did not give a big shout out to the rest of team FBM; Pastor’s Juan Rivera of Killeen, TX and Rafi Agarit of Guatemala. They along with Josh Sargent made up the ground team here in PR while Snookie Correa provided support and much needed prayers back in the states.
I spent the first couple of days alone exploring the Juncos/ Las Piedras region where my mother-in-law lives. The devastation saw was shocking with the entire region without power unless they were on generators. I was able to speak to the mayor of Las Piedras and he said the Governor has promised power to the area by Christmas. **Note to the area did not mean to every home, just that it would reach the region.
When the team was arriving we spent a night with Pastor Noble Vater of Iglesia Bautista Bereana (Berean Baptist Church) in San Juan. Even though we had never met, he and his wife Estella opened their home to us. It was there, through his contacts in the government, we learned our original mission (installing water wells) would not be allowed by the government.
With the team now intact we made the decision to be Simpre Gumby (Always Flexible) and decided to focus on what Faith Builders Ministry does best help rebuild where we could and thanks to Pastor Vater (his church had a stockpile of food boxes) distribute food as needed.
Armed with a new mission we set out for Camoy and the house of Pastor Juan’s sister-in-law Dori. Again I cannot thank her enough as she turned her whole house over to us and went to stay with her daughter. We repaired her roof, helped a neighbor with his; visited local hard hit areas near this base of operations handing out food, water, gift cards (from Pastor Juan’s church) and prayed with folks all effected by Irma and Maria.
Three events of note in this region:
1) One day while driving to Utuado to visit the mountain region that was hit very hard we stopped to help stranded motorists. These folks turned out to be ministry workers also and we joined them for the day on what became a very adventurous day of driving rough mountain roads. We traveled places that cars should not go distributing what we had to very grateful people.
2) We also reunited with Pastor Elvis, Jr. Quinones and his wife Emily (our stranded motorists) for a Sunday evening evangelistic outreach in Tao Alta. This was held in “The Progress” an area considered rough and outside the city high on a hillside. My heart cried as I walked the narrow streets and saw house after house flattened or at least greatly damaged by Maria.
3) Each morning in Camoy, we ate at El Buen Café and there we met Pastor Javier Rodriguez. A fairly famous singer the Pastor is humble and devoted to his flock and Christ. We were able to provide him with food boxes which he readily handed out to many needy people. He was so grateful he gave us each a CD of his.
Another connection we made, again thanks to Pastor’s Juan and Rafi having been brought up in PR was in an area of San Juan known as, “La Perla”, The Pearl. This too is known as a rough area but Juan new a local, Daniel, who welcomed us and was grateful for any help we could provide. Pastor Rafi’s ministry was able to purchase roofing materials to repair Daniel’s home and we handed out food boxes and gift cards to many locals.
Back in Las Piedras we were able to get my mother-in-laws roof partially repaired. By that I mean we blue tarped the back wooden structure that had lost the sheet metal and then cleaned and sealed the membrane that was over the concrete. It will need another seal coat and the sheet metal replaced but for now water is no longer pouring into (literally) her rooms (thank you Jesus). Another answer to prayer was I was able to find her a Planta (generator) after providentially driving up to Home Depot in Arecibo for plumbing parts and seeing a big line we asked and sure enough they had some. After waiting in line I got a ticket and paid for and received the machine. This past Monday evening my mother-in-law had power for the first time since Hurricane Irma. With the help of one of my mother-in-law’s neighbors, Luis, we were able to scrounge around and find enough used corrugated roof panels wot reinforce her roof under the tarp so water would not collect. FEMA came by but only to say they were going too eventually, someday, hopefully put a high-quality tarp on the roof. We also got 2 ½ days of sun and Luis and I were able to add more sealer to the membrane in spots were it was needed. She will need a new roof (very $$$) but for now water is not pouring in all her rooms.
Recovery in Puerto Rico will be a VERY long term thing this is because of a few factors:
I saw almost no volunteers; unlike Houston, Louisiana, Etc. (excluding military, FEMA and Corps of Eng.) other outside volunteer groups.
Prices a case of 24 bottles of water in the local Amigo food chain is $10.49m price gouging seems to be the norm here. In the last week we were there my wife and I noted the prices in local markets had come down to $3.99 per case.
Infrastructure here was bad before the storms and in total disarray since. It will take years to get power, roads etc. into “good” working order.
Distrust for all things government. The locals do not trust the governor and surely not the US to follow through on any promises. As an example most pensioners who registered with FEMA never got their home inspected but got a “generic” FEMA letter stating they were eligible for a low interest loan to fix their home. Seriously how does someone living on under $1000.00 per month @11% tax rate afford a loan? Another example would be the electric/utility poles. In the areas hardest hit the vast majority of wooden poles were damaged and down. We also saw many of the concrete poles broken or overturned. Yet as we traveled many areas were getting wooden poles, while others concrete and some the newest metal. When locals questioned why they were told because!
What is next?
There is still one part of the Island left unexplored another area hard hit around Humacao. My wife who arrived yesterday and I plan on exploring it on Friday. We did go to this area and it was a mess. Maybe an area that most resembled Houston as much of it is in a bowl and flooded badly. I was told the local WalMart had over 6 feet of water in it.
There is definitely a need to return and rebuild/help. I will be expanding on ideas for this in the next update. We met with Jr. and his wife Emily and again with Pastor Vater before leaving. We discussed the possibility of FBM going back over for a 4-6 week period late Jan- early March time frame to do some rebuilding projects. Volunteers, material, funding, places to stay, etc. will all need to be worked out.
Continued prayer; as before pray for the people of Puerto Rico, especially for the unsaved. While the people here are resilient and determined to recover there is corruption and distrust everywhere.
Pray for guidance for this ministry, that we would yield to God’s will in all things, especially in matters of upcoming projects. We are committed to Houston at the end of March and Juarez July but pray for his guidance as it relates to Puerto Rico.
Pray for finances to support this ministry. Next update I will try and give a accurate accounting of the teams expenditures here in PR but needless to say it was more than triple or quadruple the 1815.00 we raised before coming here. I have not heard from the other team members to get an accurate figure but I can give a fairly good rough estimate:
Rental Car $ 750.00
Fuel $ 280.00
Food $ 800.00
Generator $ 400.00
Misc. $ 300.00
The following is a link to the album of Pictures I took while in Puerto Rico. It is not all of them and I have not had time to comment on them but in many cases the pictures speak for themselves.
Please contact us if you have any questions.
In HIS Service