Monday, three days after Hurricane Maria passed, the students from Universidad de Puerto Rico -Rio Piedras cleared the streets with machetes. The students also helped move the pews in the FIrst Baptist Church or Puerto Rico to make room for over 100 volunteers who needed a home base while they worked.
Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico Executive Minister Rev. Edgardo M. Caraballo Marín and American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) General Secretary Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer are pleased to invite churches throughout our country to sign up to participate in the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico – ABCUSA Sister Churches Initiative.
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies is coordinating a comprehensive American Baptist response to the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Rebuilding, Restoring and Renewing Puerto Rico will be a multi-year initiative consisting of a fund-raising goal of One Million Dollars through One Great Hour of Sharing to provide multi-pronged support to our American Baptist family and others in Puerto Rico.
Ms. Victoria Goff, Director of Disaster Response and Development, is ABHMS’ staff lead in developing the coordinated strategy. Victoria will convene a Task Force comprised of diverse American Baptist partners to design and implement the multi-year strategy. The Task Force should include representatives from the American Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, Region Staff, American Baptist Men, American Baptist Women, ABEC, ABF, Office of the General Secretary, Board of General Ministries, International Ministries, the Latino Caucus, American Baptist Colleges and Seminaries, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, among others.
ABHMS has faithfully deployed mission staff, disseminated One Great Hour of Sharing Funds, mobilized volunteers, and managed resources in the aftermath of natural disasters. In the words of Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS Executive Director, “Hurricanes Maria and Irma have presented American Baptists an extreme challenge to be the hands and feet of Jesus in ways that exceed past interventions and responses. We must develop a comprehensive response that fully engages our ABHMS partners in collaborative, strategic and effective ways in Puerto Rico.”
Vickie and other ABHMS staff will visit the Gulf Coast and Florida next week—then Puerto Rico as soon as possible—to show the support of the American Baptist family.
We earnestly solicit your partnership as we undertake the long-term response effort ahead. From Hurricane Katrina and other extreme disasters, we have learned that long after the news reports have ceased, the rebuilding needs will remain. ABHMS has responded to the call and is committed to leading a massive multi-year effort with our American Baptist partners to address the manifold needs that exist in Puerto Rico.
Roberto Dieppa-Diaz, Interim Executive Minister of ABC Puerto Rico contacted the Office of The General Secretary of ABCUSA today (September 25, 2017) and wanted to convey their appreciation for all of the prayers and expressions of support they have received since Hurricane Maria devastated their island. Today (9/25/2017), they are holding a meeting to continue the damage assessment process they have undertaken, and have asked that visits by volunteers to the island be delayed at this point until that assessment is complete and conditions on the ground are in better shape. Specifically, the government needs to make the island safer for visitors by clearing roads, restoring electricity, opening ports and ensuring the supply of gasoline. When the Convention’s damage assessment collection is complete, we will receive their report on how to come alongside them in rebuilding the churches, homes and lives of our brothers and sisters, as well as their communities. I assured them of our solidarity, support, prayers and love. At this time, it is vital that our churches across the country prepare for this unprecedented relief effort by making donations to One Great Hour of Sharing.
ABCNJ has pledged its solidarity with our national effort and through ABCNJ Disaster Relief Coordinator, Denise Gratzel, we are staying in close contact with Vickie Goff of ABHMS. In the meanwhile, our Denise Gratzel will begin to assemble work teams to stand ready for deployment the moment we are called upon.