September 11

Storm in the mountains of Puerto Rico

I took this photo while on a church outing to the mountain town of Jayuya last week.  As I viewed the photo, it occurred to me it was a precursive glimpse of our island's weather five days later as Hurricane Irma, the second most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history, skirted just north of the coast (54 miles), near Aguadilla, where we live. 
Today is "another beautiful day in Puerto Rico", a phrase I gleefully use in January. Yet, after a brush with Irma, to see blue skies, not gray wind-whipped rain clouds; to open the faucet and fill my glass with clean water; or flip the light switch to dispel the darkness; or walk around my house and the church building and note zero damage; or comfort myself knowing none of the church members suffered loss or injury; I triumphantly declare, "another beautiful day in PR". 
Angry seas

We thank God for His inexplicable grace toward the island. I do not mean to imply many did not suffer loss. We, along with sixty percent of the island, were without power and/or/both water for several days. Seventy homes on the east side of the island were destroyed. Nevertheless, when we compare ourselves with Barbuda, St Martin, St. Thomas, and other islands, we believers across the island and in the States sing His praises. Thanks to all you who prayed, called, texted, or Facebooked us as the storm came and went.

Of course, our prayers and attention have turned to the east where so many have lost everything and to FL where friends and family and former church members have had to seek shelter and run the risk of loss of life and property. 

"What can our church in Aguadilla do?" The congregation is known for its open arms and generous spirit. These past four weeks the church and individual members helped a widow and daughter pay water, electricity, car license, brake repairs, and have given them a little cash. We gave a generous offering to the Gideons of PR. In addition, we collected clothing to donate to the Salvation Army, and then this past Sunday we announced a special offering would be taken to help the hurricane victims. We will also be collecting personal items for the people from Barbuda, sent to PR with nothing but the shirt on their back.

Why all this emphasis? Of course, we all know the answer. As I John 3:16-18 stresses, we dare not say "God bless you" and see those same people with genuine needs and do nothing. I always tell the congregation, "LOVE" is not just a noun. It is first a verb. "LOVE" acts.

Well I will close here. Blessings to all!

September 1

The hidden PR far away from tourist hotels
Good afternoon everyone. Do you ever wonder what a missionary does with his/her day? Of course each day is different and it varies with each missionary and the nature of his/her calling. As for me, a typical day on the beautiful island of PR would be somewhat like today. Of course there are the mundane tasks of getting up and getting going which includes feeding the dogs, cats, birds and myself in that order. Then I am off to my office in the front of our house to practice piano a little (I am trying to learn my part for a couple of new songs at church) and work on mission matters such as correspondence and bookkeeping.

My thoughts keep reminding me I MUST go to the hardware store during the day. Hurricane Irma (category 3-4) churns ever nearer to the east of the island. The National Weather Service forecasts it might go right over the island or perhaps to the north...too early to tell. Everyone is holding their breath. Monday we will have a better idea. The last time a storm of that magnitude scourged the island we were without lights and water between two and three weeks. Considering that unpleasant scenario, I need to get some supplies today (to avoid the crowds), begin tying things down as best as possible and make sure fresh batteries are on hand along with water and canned food; at least a week's supply. But before that happens, I have an evangelistic Bible study at 10:00 AM that will stretch on til' 11:30 AM. First is the socialization time and then the actual study. Home visits of all types take longer than visits in the least that is the impression I get. Latins are very sociable and such matters are not to be rushed at all!

Balloon tethered off a high peak in Jayuya, PR
After the Bible study I decide to head to the bank. Since we may be without power for an undetermined time, cash will be king. As the storm draws near, ATMs will be raided as people panic. Better to deal with it today. I check the mail box and discover I have a package to pick up at the post office. Another unexpected task, but no problem since on the way I have to visit two families. Both are struggling with the weight of life's burdens that at times seems almost overwhelming. Hearts open up, anger is vented, and tears flow freely as pain is shared.

Now I am here, writing this blog just as I promised myself.. It cannot wait till next week, ...the hurricane... no power, no internet, no phone. Mary just came through the door, home from the university after a long day of teaching. She has our granddaughter in tow and a pizza box, a Friday night perk for the grandchild... (okay, all of us). I still have one more task today; I must mow the yard before the hurricane arrives. Tomorrow a church outing will take up the entire day. We leave for the center of the island to ride in a balloon anchored to one of the taller mountains in PR. I believe 35-40 are signed up to go. It should be a great trip, the last outing of the year. Sunday is church. Monday is getting ready, putting up storm shutters and scratching off  as "completed" a thousand details. So, today, the yard.

Looking back a few weeks; we had our day camp for the kids the last Saturday in July. We worked hard to make it a quality event. Promo was properly done, the teaching of a lesson by a Christian clown was great, the handcrafts, and breakfast and lunch were enjoyed by everyone. Sea Grant gave a workshop and then a 16' blowup water slide capped off the day. The total was fifty-five present.
Men's work day

Yesterday, nine men of the church had a work day. Trees were trimmed, a new curtain was hung in the auditorium, the water fountain was repaired and some exterior lights were fixed. I love these events. Often men find a hard time fitting in and feeling useful in the church. These days are tailor-made for many guys.

One last detail; Venturing crew 288, sponsored by the church, handed out breakfast to the poor and homeless two Saturdays ago. One-hundred sandwiches quickly disappeared. Hats off to that group. Oh, I forgot, the church is collecting used clothing for a mission in a neighboring town. So far the church has responded well. September 9th is the day we close that benevolent event. More on that next time.

That's all. Blessings.

Johnathan and Mary