May 22, 2018

Mom needs a repaired roof
Good morning. The calendar reminds me we are in the last third of the month. Wow, time is moving quickly. This past month has been filled with a flurry of events and activities. Perhaps I should make a comment or two about the continued hurricane relief effort even though we are at the eight month mark. Presently I am working with seven families providing them with roofing supplies, mattresses or some appliances. I received a call last night from an individual who had lost the roof of his home and all its contents. Finally, he is able to move back in and is ready for the help we had promised him. I got another call today asking if I could help a pastor in a town on the southwest-side of the island who lost everything.  Yet another case, the lady pictured to the left lost most of the roof to her home. She is a single mom. Her husband abandoned her and her two children soon after the storm. I have seen so many similar cases. It is heart-breaking. We bought her roofing materials. At last count we have helped one-hundred and fifteen families recover a sense of normality with the purchase of major appliances, furniture, roofing and flooring and even car repairs. This weighted focus is ending as we come to the end of our available funds. It has been quite an experience.

Food storage workshop
Although all of the islanders are looking anxiously towards hurricane season, which is right around the corner, perhaps our biggest threat isn't a hurricane of the magnitude of Maria. Such a devastating storm comes only every eighty or ninety years, on average. However, in the back of the mind of so many on the island, is the very real possibility of a major earthquake. These have occurred since the seventeenth century with startling regularity, every seventy years. In 2018 we are thirty years over the average time lapse and everyone is expecting the big one at any moment.  In an effort to prepare our church members we have, in the past, and again last Saturday, offered a workshop on how to vacuum pack food to last at least five years. The group was smaller than we had expected, around ten. We will offer it again before too long.

Church events have been coming and going like clockwork. The end of April, after church, the sky above the church property was dotted with homemade kites and the air was heavy with the fragrance of roasted hotdogs. We had a good crowd and an enjoyable couple of hours together.

Mothers' Day was also a big deal. It always is all across the island and our church is no exception. Every year we go all-out to make sure the mothers are honored. The service included a brief sermon, special music, interpretive dance by the girls of the church, gifts for the moms and the whole day was tied together with some shared goodies in the basement. Attendance was down a little; we had expected over one-hundred but had ninety.

This week, under the guidance of Santos Torres, my colleague, the church is providing the refreshments for a VBS in a public housing area. Chad Mayes from Haroldsburg, KY and Asbury University athletes are providing sports and handcrafts for the outreach effort. Last night, the first night, seventy children showed up.

Finally, just in passing, the United Women ministry as well as the Prayer ministry have had well attended events this past month. The women are pumped. The girls in the interpretative dance ministry meet each week to polish the movements for the songs we will be singing the following Sunday. The youth are excited about helping teach the smaller children during Jr. church. There are other good things happening (including new air conditioners for the auditorium) but I will spare you those details.  I suppose I should stop. Blessings to you.

Johnathan and Mary

April 21, 2018

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria statistics: Good morning from PR. It is time for a quick update. Since our last blog, several church events have taken place but first, a little bit more about Hurricane Maria: Last week they released the final statistics about the storm. We received 38 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. It came ashore as a category 5 and exited our side of the island as a category 4. It has the distinction to be recognized as the storm with the the largest blackout in US history (3.4 billion hours of electricity have been lost.), and worldwide, surpassed only by a typhoon in the Philippines. 80% of the light poles were compromised or destroyed, 1,500 roads and bridges were damaged, 400,000 homes were damaged and 70,000 destroyed. Today, at seven months, there are still 100,000 clients (around 200,000 people) without electricity. Over 200,000 people have left the island and the number is projected to reach 500,000.

In response, the US government has allocated $20.0 billion for the reconstruction of PR through a  Community Development Block Grant, a historical amount, and more is expected. Including funds sent through FEMA and the US Army Corp of Engineers, the total amount is estimated to be $31.8 billion. The total amount needed to improve the infrastructure to withstand category 4 storms is $50.0 billion according to a FEMA estimate. Local officials place the amount at $92.0 billion.

In some ways, life is back to normal on our side of the island. However, we continue to drive around washouts, avoid closed roads, work our way through the roads that are open but ever careful, since only a few traffic lights are working. And, everyone contends with frequent losses of water and power. Two days ago we were without electricity for over thirty-six hours.

International day of  Missions
On to church matters: The church has been busy. I believe we are turning the corner on the effects of the storm. Through mid-March, attendance was way down. We had no electricity for four months nor water for two here in Aguadilla. After recovering power we discovered all the church's air conditioners but one were ruined. Even the water fountain was damaged. Multiple-sicknesses have been rampant for over two months. Nevertheless, the church has weathered the storm and attendance is climbing back up. Nearly every Sunday it is in the 80's. Last Sunday we had 106. Visitors are coming in nearly every week. Some are staying. Monday there was a baptism and today I baptized another person. We have seen some re-dedications as well.
Good Friday

Special church events: Good Friday is always a special service in the church. We have done dramas and cantatas in the past. This year we were blessed with a guest singer who did a beautiful job singing and exhorting the congregation. Mary counted 126 in attendance, a full to overflow crowd.

This past Sunday was our International Day, of Missions, an event we have emphasized for the past three years. This year our speaker had ministered to people from Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. He gave us a primer on how to prepare and act on any trip to any country in Latin America. Our church has made six trips to the Dominican Republic and intends to make a seventh trip next year. People listened carefully to his advise. The service was followed by an international dinner, comprised of dishes from the countries he had visited; cooked by some of the women of the church --with fear and trepidation! The attendance was good and we enjoyed a positive ambiance from start to finish. There were also many compliments on the food!

Thursday baptism
We continue to bless people affected from the hurricane. With the help of FundaciĆ³n Lazos de Amor Inc., we have been able to provide groceries to hundreds of people. Everywhere we go, as we visit, we offer a bag of food in the name of Christ, and in the name of the FundaciĆ³n de Lazos de Amor and the church, Iglesia Cristiana de Aguadilla. Today we helped out a family that has an eleven year old child who has been bedridden since a toddler. In addition to food, we paid a few months of expired water and electricity bills. Everywhere we look we see great needs. In another situation today, we visited an older single woman who's roof had been damaged in the storm. She was floundering in hopelessness, having no one to guide her toward repairing her home. Santos Torres, my co-worker, made a phone call to bring in a contractor friend for an estimate to repair the roof. She was so very grateful for the guidance. Perhaps soon she will be able to live in her house again. And so forth and so on goes our days. In and among these needs clamoring for attention, we carry out the tasks of Bible studies and sermon preparation, church board meetings and visitation of church members and all that is affiliated with an active church. Days are busy...but happy!

I guess that is it for now. Thanks for reading the blog.