Hurricane Maria Response: How to Help in Puerto Rico?
by David Nakhla, OPC Disaster Response Coordinator (November 15, 2017)
Thank you to all of you who have expressed interest in traveling to Puerto Rico to help with disaster response. THANK YOU for this desire and willingness to go. It’s wonderful. What a blessing!
How to respond to the disaster in Puerto Rico is proving to be difficult to figure out. As you may have ascertained from our reporting, this is not your typical disaster. During our visit there, we did not discover flooded homes that needed to be refurbished or blown-off roofs that needed to be replaced. While that might be the problem in some parts of the island, that was not what we discovered where we went. Rather, because they are built with concrete, most of the homes stood up really well to the winds and rains. So, at this point, we don’t anticipate the need for construction teams to go.
This is not to say that Puerto Ricans have not been impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. They have. The island has lost much of its infrastructure – electricity, water, cell, internet, radio, etc. The intense winds virtually destroyed anything in the air – power poles were downed, cell and radio towers wrecked, trees stripped of all their greenery, entire crops lost. So, now life goes on, but without the conveniences that we all enjoy. They are now washing clothes by hand, and have to function in the evenings with flashlights and candles. If they have a generator, it likely has limited capacity and is possibly powering only the fridge; and the generator itself has to be cared for. They have a difficult time communicating with each other for lack of cell coverage and internet. Life has slowed way down!
As a result, life has become much more difficult. Much more labor intensive. The people are tired. The hurricanes have economically impacted each family individually and the whole island in general. And this has its natural ripple-effect upon the churches and their pastors.
Since we cannot take part in the repair of power lines or cell towers or water systems, the ways in which we can help are not obvious. We are seeking to move slowly, because to send teams prematurely, without a clear plan of how they will be cared for or what they will do while there, can present an added burden to an already strained situation. It is probable that we could send some smaller groups down in the next few months, but first we want to hear from the OP churches and pastors in Puerto Rico as to how teams can be most useful to them. The teams that go will look more like "short-term missions" teams than "disaster response" teams, doing outreach, mostly.
I am asking for patience as we continue to sort this out. I don't think we'll have more to report before early January. Thank you for your patience thus far!
Do continue to pray that the Lord would bless us with wisdom from above and that he would continue to show his love and care for his people in their time of need.
Click here to read the report on my assessment trip to Puerto Rico, October 7-12, 2017.
Please feel free to reach out to me by email or phone (you might get a quicker response if you call!) at any time.
David P. Nakhla
Disaster Response Coordinator
THE ORTHODOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
607 N. Easton Rd, Bldg E, Willow Grove, PA 19090
Cell: (562) 760-7606