Submitted by Marilyn White
Hilltop United Methodist Church, Sandy, Utah
Hurricane Maria (category 4) arrived in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017. According to an article from United Methodist News Service, the eye of the hurricane came in from the southeast, touched near a Methodist camp in Patillas, then cut diagonally through the island near another Methodist camp. Maria exited in the northwest, near the Methodist camp in Arecibo. Maria is considered the worst natural disaster on record to affect Puerto Rico.
That same week, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) reached out to the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) to determine how to best help.1 By mid-October, a portion of the $15 million—from donors responding to U.S. mainland disasters—was made available to the MCPR for assessments. How could we help?2
Needless to say, the first responses were for rescue and recovery, training, project development support, and grants. In March 2018, Ruben Velez, Director of Logistics for the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, said the island was finally transitioning from response to recovery and rebuilding.
With the MCPR in charge, UMCOR established coordinators on the mainland to work with the MCPR in sending mission teams. In addition to their time and support, UMCOR has provided funds to the MCPR for rebuilding supplies.
Still, somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 homes do not have rooves. Even today, the MCPR advises teams to not expect continuous electricity or potable water at work sites.
Marilyn White, of Hilltop United Methodist Church, started looking for Early Response Training (ERT) opportunities and a team to join in March 2018. Unable to find a team, she started working with the Mountain Sky Conference ERT Coordinator, Jay Vestal, to organize one. Vestal put out a call to the ERT-trained personnel in the conference while Marilyn sent bulletin notices to the Utah/Western Colorado District churches looking for “missionaries.” The conference’s United Methodist Volunteers in Missions (UMVIM) Coordinator, Debbie Irby, also joined to the efforts.
God provided. A 12-member team comprised of men and women from across the Mountain Sky Conference3 began to take shape by early August. Some are ERT/Red Cross-certified; some have construction experience and prior mission trips under their belts; some are less-trained, but equally committed. While they are both excited and nervous about their work, they believe in the mission and are willing to be God’s hands to help bring relief to those who’ve lost so much.
Please be in prayer for them.
1 The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico became autonomous (self-governing) in 1992 but maintains strong ties to The United Methodist Church and Global Ministries. Today it has some 12,000 members in more than 100 congregations spread across the island.
2 At that time full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times highlighted the denomination’s commitment to disaster relief and the fact that 100 percent of all donations go directly to relief efforts.
3 Churches represented: Ogden Community/Eagle (ID) UMC, Ogden First UMC, Sandy Hilltop UMC, Salt Lake Christ UMC, Loveland First UMC, Cheyenne First UMC/Cheyenne UU, Littleton UMC, and Bozeman UMC.