Feliz Navidad and Mission Ready!
It’s Christmas time and undoubtedly many of our minds are focused on our families, holiday preparations, parties and presents. We look forward to the birth of our Savior and celebrate all that He provides. In places around the country and world, especially those affected by disaster, people struggling to have the basic necessities for survival may find it hard to see a reason to celebrate. God has given us generous hearts and at this time of year, thoughts of reaching out with kindness and that generosity strongly come to our hearts and minds.
We work in our communities with and among our neighbors and now we have an opportunity to help in another area–Puerto Rico. Next summer, over the course of two weeks, from July 21 through August 3, a group of mostly adult and some high school-aged volunteers from the state will be working in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Puerto Rico and serving alongside our Puerto Rican neighbors in their continued process of rebuilding and strengthening communities after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico. The hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean, with total losses estimated at upwards of $91 billion, mostly in Puerto Rico, ranking it as the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.
A team of experienced leaders, including Pastor Mark Parker, of Breath of God Lutheran Church, Baltimore, MD is working to bring together the group of adult and youth volunteers from the region. The bulk of work efforts will focus on construction, with a mix of skilled and unskilled volunteers. Our volunteers last year ranged from age 21 to age 70. This summer we will also accept some youth who have already completed 9th grade.
Are You Interested in Being a Volunteer?
If you are interested in being a volunteer, here are a few more details. We will be staying in the Lutheran camp in Maguayo, near Dorado–about 45 minutes west of San Juan. The camp has room for up to sixty volunteers at a time. Volunteers sleep in bunk rooms with twin-sized bunk beds and communal showers–comfortable enough, but nothing fancy. The camp also includes a very nice pool, a chapel, office and storage areas, and a main hall for dining/meeting/organizing/relaxing. It’s a good home for groups like ours.
The general timeline is fly out on Sunday morning/afternoon and fly back on Saturday evening. Volunteers will serve over the course of two weeks from July 21 to August 3. Volunteers may sign up for one or both weeks. Monday through Friday we’ll worked construction doing rebuilding in the morning and the afternoon, with time in the late afternoon/evening for the beach/pool, relaxing and exploring the area. We may have the opportunity to take a half day to head across the island and visit El Yunque, an amazing tropical rain forest or explore in Old San Juan.
Registration opens in January with a deadline of April 1. The first deposit will be due at the close of registration, the second payment will be due May 1 and the final payment July 1. The expected cost is anticipated to be less than $600 for one week and less than $900 for two weeks.
If you are interested in volunteering for this unique and rewarding opportunity, please contact Kelly Thurber, our Mission and Outreach Coordinator. More information–including fundraising opportunities–will be forthcoming, but positions are anticipated to fill up quickly, so please let Kelly know if you are interested so she can keep the regional team up-to-date on our interest levels.
As we get together with our family and friends and share the joy and peace of this holiday season, let us keep those who have suffered loss in our hearts and minds. And look forward to the days when we will have the opportunity to give a broader set of neighbors a Merrier Christmas. Feliz Navidad.