March 7, 2019

Matthew 28:18-20
February was a busy month. Perhaps I should start with the good news that a youth became a Christian and her grandmother was also baptized the same day. In addition, another church attendee has made plans to be baptized shortly. She said she wanted to be baptized on a special day so she will never forget the event. I suggested Easter Sunday.

Here on the island, there are people still in need, even eighteen-months after the hurricane. Our Community Outreach team is committed to putting on a roof for a family in the mountains. I found out yesterday, much to my surprise, some people continue to live in shelters even now. They have no home to return to. Others still have blue tarps for roofs; no money to buy roofing materials. Our co-worker, Santos Torres, is plugged in to one particular Christian organization which is attempting to provide building materials to those who have damaged houses caused by the storm.

The last two weeks were spent taking bags of food donated by a food bank to those in need. Yesterday I bought a stove for a widow and daughter subsisting on an extremely limited income. I am hoping to raise the money from church members and then the church will supply any unmet costs. I also received a call to see if we had money to buy a terminally ill patient a refrigerator. I had to say "no". Requests such as these frequently come our way.

Visit to hospital by Benevolence
Needs are great on the island. The median household income in Aguadilla where we live is $16,821 and median household income in PR is $20,078. In the States it is $57,617 (2017 stats.). The disparity between the rich and poor in PR is the third highest worldwide. Well, I won't go on with numbers but they do verify that there are great needs everywhere! There are plenty of opportunities to "love our neighbor."

For example, today a group of four from our Benevolence ministry was in San Juan visiting the children's cancer hospital; taking toys to kids as well as personal items for them and their parents.

Thanks IDES
The two International Disaster Emergency Service home building projects are progressing nicely. This one is a week away from completion.

At times I read harsh criticism against churches in the States. I am sure some is deserved. Nevertheless, as disaster strikes, very often it is the church alongside the government with the boots on the ground. I heard that was the case after Hurricane Harvey in TX and I know that was the case in PR. I saw it with my own eyes. Furthermore, just last week, Santos Torres, a colleague and member of the church, was told by two mayors of towns on the southeast side of the island, where Maria first made landfall, that it was the churches that came first to give aid and comfort to thousands; not the government!

Sharing lunch with the guest speaker
Crew 288
On to other matters: February 10 was "Love" Sunday. We invited a guest speaker and had treats for everyone as well as a cake after the service. The following Sunday was Scouting recognition Sunday. Our church sponsors a Venturing group called Crew 288 in honor of when the church was legally organized. This Venturing team is active in community service and we are blessed by being their sponsoring organization.

Then two Sundays ago, the 24th, we celebrated Children's Day. The day was made special by a team of Christian clowns who did a great job teaching the children they are special, unique and made by God. After church there was food on the lawn, and an inflatable house for the wee-ones.
Children's Day

Mixed in with these events was a couples' banquet (around twenty participated), a couple of baby showers, the women's prayer group monthly meeting and the decoration committee changing the "look" of the worship area plus a few other odds and ends.

Coming up this Sunday, the 10th, is the church's anniversary...31 years. I will write about that next time.

Thanks for dropping by to read. Until next time...

Johnathan and Mary

January 21

Christmas is finally over and everything is put away. Since our last blog, the church celebrated Christmas on December 23, enjoying the traditional sound of a men's trio who did a wonderful job singing and playing guitars and maracas. The church dinner after the service was very traditional; roast pork, rice, pigeon peas and "pasteles" (a dish made of ground green bananas and an assortment of spices) and flans. The last Sunday of the year was spent viewing photos of the events and accomplishments throughout 2018.

To emphasize "our calling to serve", throughout Christmas the church took up special offerings to help fund a mission project to take place in June. Organized by Santos Torres, one of our colleagues, the goal was to raised money to buy school supplies for hundreds of Dominican children as well as groceries for indigent families. The congregation responded well by giving $550.00 dollars.

The Kings visit the children at church
Moving into 2019; January 6 was Three Kings' Day, the Puerto Rican equivalent of Christmas. Since it fell on Sunday, the day was made special with a play written by our primary music leader and performed by the church's drama ministry. At the end of the play three of the men dressed as the Kings passed out candy to everyone and gifts to the children.

The twelve ministries of the church are off to the races. All but two or three church members signed up to work in one or two of these opportunities of service. Many of the groups have set dates and goals and met with the members. Just one is waiting attention, Community Outreach. Tomorrow night the leaders meet to give shape and direction to this ministry. I do believe it will be a good year.

Ready to leave for the retreat
Mountain youth retreat
Last weekend was our annual youth retreat. We chose a spot perched on the top of a  2,150' mountain. What a beautiful location. The entire southwest corner of the island filled the panorama below us. Although it was one more of many youth retreats we have had (somewhere between 35-45), it was special none the less. The dean for the retreat grew up in our church. He organized a good portion of the retreat and made the calls most of the time. It really was a delight to see him in charge! Since many of the campers were first time campers (most, age twelve), some moms went along to help supervise. They were put to work teaching, cooking and being dorm moms. There were seventeen from our church that attended and four from another congregation, twenty-one in all.

Coming up soon is a women's retreat in February.  The ladies from the neighboring town of Hormigueros are in charge this year. Also, coming up on the calendar is Agape/Phileo Sunday just before Valentines Day. Later on we will mark International Missions Sunday and the church's anniversary.
IDES project

I should add before I close that the two houses being built with IDES funds are progressing nicely. One is more or less done on the outside and all that is lacking is the floor and finish work on the interior. The other is soon to be plastered inside and out. They are turning out beautifully. Hats off to IDES for their help.

That does it till next time. Blessings.