Puerto Rico Mission Trip - Recap
Our time in Puerto Rico was rich, educational, and life-giving. It was a privilege for our group to witness to God’s work on the island and to the resilience of its people.
In our time working in the garden at Camp El Guacio, we created raised beds with cinderblocks and cement, filled the beds with compost, weeded and cleaned up several other beds, and pruned plants in order to generate new life. It was holy and messy work, and it felt like a gift to get our hands dirty each day. After working hard at the camp, we finished up our week of work with a trip to Cesar Oliver’s hydroponic farm where we harvested sweet peppers that will be used to make pepper jelly to generate profit. Oliver’s farm is unique in that it employs senior citizens, giving them a chance to make a bit of income and do meaningful work that combats the societal tide of despair and hopelessness.
Since Hurricane Maria hit, the rates of depression on the island have gone up by 80%, and rates of violence and suicide have also risen dramatically. The collective trauma of the massive storm continues to have major consequences on people’s wellbeing. Even now, 21 months after the Hurricane, over 30,000 homes still do not have adequate roofs, and 50,000 roads have not been repaired. Additionally, many communities are still without electricity. The recovery effort is bolstered by places like Camp El Guacio, which have been providing basic necessities since days after the storm, and continue to provide respite, supplies, psychological and trauma care, opportunities to work and grow in faith, and hope for new beginnings. We were lucky to be invited by the campers at El Guacio to join them for a bonfire on Friday night where we sang in praise to God and heard testimony of the many ways that El Guacio has been a home for them.
With our work at Camp El Guacio complete, we spent time exploring God’s good creation. Our group traveled to the beach town of Rincon and spent an afternoon in fellowship. On our last full day we explored Old San Juan, seeing two 16th century fortresses, sampling the local food, and enjoying some free time in a beautiful place. Finally, we worshipped on Sunday morning at Iglesia Presbiteriana en Hato Rey – a lovely and warm community that welcomed us with lots of hugs and gratitude for our work.
I speak for our whole group when I say thank you for sending us on such a wonderful trip. I hope this is the beginning of a new relationship that flourishes in years to come.