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Neighbors Helping Neighbors: The Aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

When Hurricane Maria roared through the Caribbean with 150 mph winds in September 2017, no one in Puerto Rico was left untouched. The storm took out the power grid of the entire island and left most people without phone service and internet access. Some lost roofs and homes. The actual death toll is still unknown. Roads blocked by flooding, downed trees, and power lines made driving difficult, especially without working traffic signals.

Aid for the elderly
But immediately, people started assisting in their own communities—neighbors helping neighbors. After hearing that a nearby 10-story assisted living facility for the elderly had no working elevator, we stopped by to help. Spending time with these folks made us aware of the needs of the elderly during this crisis, many of whom lack family support and resources. With funds raised through an MTW project, we were able to provide seniors with solar lights, portable radios and fans, and insect repellent. This has opened doors for us to share in worship services and to return with a group of youth from our church over Christmas.

Christmas Party

Meanwhile, the seminary where Joe teaches opened its doors just two weeks after the storm despite having no electricity or water. Thankfully, a generator was available for evening classes. Even students who lost homes were back in class and all have demonstrated amazing resilience and determination, some studying by the light of lanterns in the evenings. One student who lost his home remarked, “It was only things that I lost.”  

Churches helping neighbors
Our church south of San Juan, Torre Fuerte (“Strong Tower”), a former prosperity gospel church now embracing Reformed theology, reached out to needy communities after the storm, delivering water, food, and other necessities. Shortly after the hurricane hit, MTW’s Global Disaster Response sent an assessment team that met with church leaders to encourage them and offer their experience and expertise. Local leaders are guiding us in our response to their long-term needs and how the church can come alongside the community.

La Travesía (“The Journey”), the PCA church plant in San Juan, distributed donated relief supplies with assistance from MNA in the immediate aftermath of the storm. They have now joined with other churches to offer leaders monthly training in long-term development and recovery and are also adopting a needy community with damaged homes.

The winds of Maria are still blowing in many ways as recovery continues. We ask for prayer that the gospel of grace will continue to advance into new areas and, in the midst of change and loss, to provide comfort, peace, and hope in Christ.


Joe and Bev Fitzpatrick serve in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Please support future disaster response efforts at mtw.org/compassion.

Be prepared to serve with MTW in the wake of the next disaster. Join us for Global Disaster Response Training this October! Learn more at mtw.org/disaster

Bev Fitzpatrick, San Juan Puerto Rico Mercy Jul 3, 2018
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