LU Send Now Recaps Second Trip To Puerto Rico
For the second time since the hurricanes of last fall tore through Puerto Rico, an LU Send Now team traveled to the island to serve the locals and aid in the process of rebuilding their communities.
Over the past five months, the storm’s victims have struggled to receive the utilities necessary for living in the demolished condition of their homes, with still more than 400,000 without electricity. The LU Send team worked from Feb. 10 to Feb. 17 to serve the residents of northeast Puerto Rico in as many ways as they could.
Some of the team members had a connection to the island through family or ethnic background, including students Allanah King and Kristy Gonzalez. They saw this trip as an opportunity to help those that they could easily identify with.
When they first stepped off the plane, an expanse of blue tarps from FEMA covered many of the houses, and the team passed by crowds of people who were waiting to board the flight back to the United States.
“My mind immediately wondered if these were still people who were not able to get off the island in the past five months or if they were just traveling,” Gonzalez said.
As the team members made their way through the aftermath and moved away from the larger cities, they began to witness the true wreckage left by the storms. Anna Claire Schellenberg, LU Send Now’s logistics coordinator and one of the team members, recognized this contrast, and she noted that the areas where FEMA had reached were clearly visible.
“We would be driving down the road and I would forget the images that I saw on the news until a billboard would be on top of a restaurant or a tree would be on top of a crushed car,” Schellenberg said. “The further out that we went from San Juan, the more devastation that we saw, and when we were in the mountainous areas, there were hundreds of houses without electricity or water.”
The team partnered with a church in Arecibo named Primera Inglesia Bautista de Arecibo, where a base had been set up for organizing and distributing resources to areas where FEMA had not reached yet.
According to Schellenberg, hundreds of the boxes handled by the team were donated by a firehouse in the Bronx thanks to fireman Anthony Lebron, whose mother lives in Arecibo. Many of the team members attested to the hospitality shown to them by the people who received the resources, including being welcomed into the victims’ homes for food and coffee.
“There was one instance in which we were delivering bags of canned food to people on the countryside and were offered coffee by the homeowner,” Gonzalez said. “The people of Puerto Rico opened up their homes to us as if we were their own family.”
The team also said they noticed a sizable Christian population in Puerto Rico, and King said many people thanked the team with the phrase, “Dios te bendiga,” which means, “God be with you.” King also recalled a moment when the team asked if they could pray for an elderly woman in English.
“She said she would love that, and that it was okay if we couldn’t pray it all in Spanish because God knows our prayer regardless,” King said. “We all prayed together and it was a beautiful picture of the universal church and what Heaven will be like one day.”
In addition to distributing supplies, the team also served food at a local homeless shelter and helped to rebuild the home of a local woman named Brenda. The hurricane had blown out all four walls of her house, yet she remained in her home with her cats and dogs and no walls for five months. When the team’s project was finished, the house’s walls were restored and a door was installed, making it the first time since September that she has had a door.
In just one week’s time, the LU Send Now team said they made the most of the opportunity to help a few of those who fell victim to the hurricanes. King noted the unique ability that LU Send Now’s trips afford students in terms of serving people around the world.
“Regardless if you are interested in doing disaster relief or mission work overseas in the future, it’s a way to fulfill the Great Commission and bring the Good News to those who may not have heard it right now in their time of need,” King said.