17th October 2017
Juana Reyes and her young daughter, Lady, slept soundly even as Hurricane Maria’s fierce 155-mph winds lashed Puerto Rico on 20th September. Around 5 a.m., Juana was abruptly awakened when her tin roof collapsed. Portions fell atop her and pounding rain poured into her bedroom. Then she heard Lady scream as a lamp crashed to the floor near her.
Juana grabbed some clothes and Lady, and they raced down the outside stairs to the home below theirs. The neighbors graciously welcomed them inside. “Lady and I could barely make it downstairs because the winds were so blowing so hard,” Juana said.
When the massive storm finally passed, Juana went upstairs to survey the damage. Most of the roof was gone and what twisted pieces remained clanged in the stiff breeze. Juana looked around and saw that her furniture and other belongings were drenched and most likely ruined. She slumped onto her waterlogged bed and started weeping.
But she also prayed. “God, You have been good to me in the past, help me to trust You again. Please help me and Lady survive.”
Juana returned downstairs to a warm embrace from her neighbors. “You can be with us as long as you need,” her friends told her. She stayed there for a little over a week, until her uncle found her another temporary living situation.
In early October, her prayers were answered again. While walking in the hard-hit Barrio Obrero community outside San Juan, Juana met a Samaritan’s Purse team member who was there to help distribute emergency relief supplies.
He pointed her to the Iglesia de Dios, the local church at which the distribution was being held. There Juana received heavy-duty shelter tarpaulin and a hygiene kit—which includes toilet paper, soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, laundry bar, a comb, and a wash cloth. She hasn’t been able to work since Hurricane Irma hit, which preceded Maria, so she greatly appreciated the assistance.
“I really needed the hygiene kit and can use those items right now,” she said. “And I can cover my roof to keep my things from getting damaged.”
Juana voiced her gratitude for the assistance from Samaritan’s Purse and the local church. “I love the fact that this is done in our Lord Creator’s Name,” she said. “It’s definitely God’s love and His faithfulness that are keeping me on my feet.”
Dealsi and Blabimiro, longtime neighbours and friends, also came to the church that day. Dealsi lives on the first floor, while Blabimiro lives upstairs in the two-story home.
They both said they had never experienced a hurricane like Maria—which blew houses apart, filled roads with water, and tore at the U.S. territory’s infrastructure.
“It felt like it was a horrible monster,” Dealsi said. “It was very scary.”
Blabimiro was especially thankful for the plastic tarp we provided her. “I needed something to cover my roof to protect what little I have left in my house.
“I’m very grateful that there are people coming here to help and that the church has remembered us,” she said.
“I’m very grateful that there are people coming here to help and that the church has remembered us.”
Ramonita Berdomo, pastor of Iglesia de Dios for the past six years, was surprised when we presented a 2,000-watt generator and fuel to the congregation. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was decimated by Maria, and this generator will deliver electricity to the church. Providing generators to local churches is a high priority of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham.
“I don’t have words to express my thanks,” Pastor Berdomo said. “I was not expecting this. This is such a blessing.”
Arcadio Cuevas lives in Canovanas, about 17 miles southeast of San Juan. He moved to the island 20 years ago from the Dominican Republic.
When Hurricane Maria roared ashore, Arcadio grew scared. The ferocious sounds of the winds and the banging of flying debris against his wooden house were loud and frightening. As the storm grew even stronger, he knew he might not survive in his home, so he ran to a neighbor’s house and stayed there until Maria passed over the island. When he was able to safely go outside, he hurried back home, only to find it destroyed.
Where would he turn? Arcadio came to a Samaritan’s Purse distribution held at a church in his neighborhood. He frequently walks by the church but has never attended. When he heard Samaritan’s Purse would be distributing emergency relief supplies there, he was encouraged because he was familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. “You are doing what the Good Samaritan did,” Arcadio told our team as he received tarp and other emergency supplies.
In addition to our non-food-item distributions in Canovanas, we’ve just completed installing a Living Water Treatment System that is providing treated and chlorinated water for the area. Our team has trained municipality staff to operate and maintain the system.
Our Puerto Rico response continues to expand. With our helicopter, we’re now reaching clusters of poorer villages up in the mountains isolated by mudslides and debris strewn about on the cracked roads. When our teams fly in with emergency food kits—filled with rice, beans, oil, sugar, and salt—people rush to us to tell us we are the first to come to their aid.
In order to better reach these pockets of people, we’ve established a second base of operations in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, located on the island’s southeastern coast. Prayer meetings are springing up at partner churches, asking for God’s blessing as we not only bring food and other relief supplies but also the hope of the Gospel.
At the same time, we’re distributing food kits, tarps, hygiene kits, solar lamps, and generators to affected neighborhoods in Ponce itself.
We’re also working with the Department of Health to see how we can help meet pressing physical needs. We recently delivered generators to two urgent care clinics that are without reliable sources of power.
And we’re now deploying a five-person medical team—two doctors and three nurses—to provide medical care in difficult-to-reach areas of central Puerto Rico. The team will travel by helicopter and 4x4s to reach these remote areas. They arrived on the ground at the weekend (14th – 15th October) and set up mobile clinics at strategic locations.
Please pray for God’s guidance and protection as we continue to minister to the people of Puerto Rico.