By Carl Stagner
September 20, 2017. To most of the country, that date holds no particular significance. But in Puerto Rico, that date will long be remembered as the day everything changed for almost everyone. Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in one hundred years, left widespread devastation in its wake. Utility companies have struggled to restore power, businesses have struggled to reopen, and some churches have even closed their doors. A mass exodus of citizens, without precedent in the history of the territory, has only made the problem worse. Though media coverage has waned, the need for restoration of property—and hope—is more critical than ever. Moved with compassion and compelled by the Spirit, Florida Ministries, the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano), Helping Hands in Motion, and Florida congregations are coming together for Puerto Rico on the third of June for what they’re calling Hurricane Sunday.
“Richard Fields, of Helping Hands, is based in Florida, and has been talking with Florida Ministries for a while about the situation in Puerto Rico,” Amanda Chambers, office administrator for Florida Church of God Ministries explains. “We got in touch with the coordinator for the Southeast Region of the Hispanic Council, Isaias Marquez, to decide on a date that we could rally behind Puerto Rico. The concern has been that they’re still devastated from last year’s hurricane, yet this year’s hurricane season officially starts on June 1. So, on Sunday, June 3, we’re asking Florida churches to raise awareness and funds to support our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters.”
Pastor Isaias Marquez produced a video for congregations to show on Hurricane Sunday and, though he narrates in Spanish, he’s added English subtitles. Participating churches are encouraged to follow the video with an offering to collect not only dollars, but also gift cards for The Home Depot, a very useful store in Puerto Rico over the past several months, as you can imagine. He, like Florida Ministries and Richard Fields of Helping Hands, have a great burden for the territory’s inhabitants and churches. Richard Fields explains why.
“It’s very difficult for Puerto Rico right now. Every church I’ve visited is struggling now, not so much because of the hurricane damage, but because of the mass exodus into Florida and beyond. Our Church of God congregations and other churches have seen attendance cut in half. This has created a shortfall in funds and resources for recovery work and outreach.”
Richard explains that one of the congregations was in the midst of a rebuilding project before Hurricane Maria ever struck. Since the hurricane, the church hasn’t been able to finish. Completing their project is just one of many tasks Richard explains will be made possible because of Hurricane Sunday.
Amanda adds the many residents have left not only because their homes were damaged, but also because their place of employment was damaged. Too many people simply couldn’t go back to work after the hurricane disaster. “When you actually see that these conditions are real, and you realize this is a U.S. territory, and that it’s right near us, it really hits home,” she reflects. “This is a popular tourist destination, and it’s really not another world away. We feel led by the Spirit to do anything we can.”
The Church of God in Puerto Rico is grateful for the assistance. They’re trusting Christ during a nightmare that isn’t over yet. Still, their call to serve the Lord there hasn’t changed, and their resolve is sure. “Se Levantará”—they say—which means, “We will rise again.”
Would you like to participate? Watch and share the video online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwkuHnr7PAI. Donate by sending a check to Florida Church of God Ministries, 5826 Hoffner Ave., Suite #1001, Orlando, FL 32822. For more information, contact the Florida Ministries office at 407-737-7633.
To learn more about the Church of God, visit www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.