Almost five months since two Category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria – made landfall in Puerto Rico, Bishop Hector Ortiz of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico was in San Antonio, telling the church’s story of recovery response to the devastation.
Ortiz met with United Methodist Church leaders to share how the church is setting up the infrastructure to receive volunteer teams that wish to come and be part of the rebuilding process.
A third of the population still does not have electricity and over 300,000 people have left Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland. Upwards of 30 Methodist churches in Puerto Rico were damaged.
Conference leaders empathized with Bishop Ortiz’s story, as Methodists here have been dealing with the recovery of the Texas Gulf coast from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey last August, including damage to Methodist churches in the conference’s area.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, the church’s global relief agency, is working with both Rio Texas and Puerto Rico to provide funding and support recovery needs assessments through case management.
Bishop Ortiz indicated that in some areas of the island, relief work as basic as placing tarps on roofs to prevent leaking and mucking out debris is still desperately needed. In other areas of the island, the rebuilding of homes and buildings has started.
Bishop Ortiz champions this mission of Puerto Rico’s recovery, a ministry of traveling, connecting and listening to people, offering hope through his pastoral presence and prayers.
A distinct facet of his visit was to invite U.S. United Methodist Churches to partner with Puerto Rican Methodist churches in the rebuilding process. As U.S. volunteer work teams come to help, Puerto Rican Methodists will be alongside them. The bishop highlighted the need for attentiveness to his flock of pastors because of burnout due to “compassion fatigue.”
Bishop Ortiz shared again the country’s recovery status with various UMC congregations and pastors as well as members of San Antonio’s Puerto Rican community.
Despite the story of hardship reflecting the slow and methodical pace of the recovery, Ortiz’ story reflected the confidence that Puerto Rico’s future is bright.
“With the help of God, we want to rise up again. We are going to rise up again,” he said.
Information on how you can help the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico is on their official Facebook page here. You can also send a check or money order to: Iglesia Metodista de PR. PO Box 23339 San Juan, PR 00931.
Mariana Bracetti #8 San Juan, PR 00931.
Written by Abel Vega, Outreach Vitality Director
This 'Belief' editorial was featured in the March 4, 2018 edition of the San Antonio Express-News