$1 million raised for Puerto Rico

American Baptists reach rebuilding initiative goal, volunteer teams encouraged to plan work.

February 14, 2018

Supplies sent by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies for the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico are unpacked.
Credit: IBPR Photo

American Baptists have reached their $1 million goal for rebuilding Puerto Rico nearly two months earlier than they had anticipated.

Shortly after Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, The American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) announced it intended to raise $1 million by the end of March 2018 to support its "Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico" multi-year initiative.

As of Feb. 9th, $1,012,946.04 had been collected through the denomination's One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) to support the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico region.

“Thanks to our Baptist family in the United States! From the first day, you have been with us with your prayers, your presence, and your offerings. Many Puerto Rican families have been blessed thanks to your support,” says the Rev. Edgardo Caraballo Marin, executive minister of Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico. “Last week, the first group of volunteers from ABHMS arrived. They helped repair the roof of one of our churches in Cidra. I pray for them, and for the hundreds of volunteers who will come to our island to help us in the rebuilding process. May the Lord bless you!”

During Phase I of disaster response, ABHMS personnel visited the island within a week of Hurricane Maria’s landfall. They have returned four times since then, meeting with Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico pastors and lay leaders and establishing a team of partners on the island who are collaborating with ABHMS on hurricane response. Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds have been making great impact, with ABHMS transferring funds to various American Baptist churches, partners, and schools in Puerto Rico; providing money for food and water on the island; and sending or delivering such supplies as water filters, solar lights, solar chargers, tarps, propane tanks and burners for cooking.

“As a Puerto Rican, I am in solidarity with the deep pain and suffering my island has gone through,” says Dr. Eddie Cruz, ABHMS director of Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement. “The Puerto Rican people—the ay bendito—known for their compassion and warmth, will rise from this adversity and welcome the world to their shore again. As an American Baptist, I am proud that individuals, congregations, regions and other Baptist partners have spoken loudly with their donations. Puerto Rico, you will not be forgotten! Thanks to each of you for helping us address the needs. Please continue to give; our work has just begun.”

As ABHMS moves into Phase II of disaster response, Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds are among those being used to bring up to code two hurricane-ravaged volunteer housing sites: Centro de Retiros Las Cruces de las Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and Centro de Retiros Genesaret.

Supported by Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds, members of American Baptist Men USA (ABMen USA) from regions across the country are on the island until Feb. 23 to restore the roof at Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Cidra and other sites. Another ABMen USA group will return to the island March 17-25.

“Our church was destroyed by hurricane Maria, but I thank God for his mercy and American Baptist Home Mission Societies for sending the necessary help to us, and for the brothers and sisters committed to repairing our churches,” says Juan Carlos Navarro Centeno, pastor of Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Cidra. “Today we have a place where we can meet again to continue preaching the gospel and worshiping our Lord. Glory to God! Thank you! God bless you!”

In an effort to support Puerto Rico’s economic recovery, tools and other necessary restoration materials are being purchased on the island. In addition, ABHMS seeks to hire individuals on the island to fill several positions that will help to coordinate the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico initiative. The first position to be filled is that of liaison; information on other positions will be forthcoming.

ABHMS has launched a Facebook group as an online gathering place for individuals, churches, and organizations working together as a community for Puerto Rico. The group is a central place for information about the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico effort, including volunteer opportunities; discussion about issues impacting Puerto Rico; sharing photos, videos and stories of ongoing work; and calls for prayer and other support for our Puerto Rican family.

Individuals or teams who wish to volunteer their time to help rebuild Puerto Rico after March 1, should contact Victoria Goff, ABHMS associate director of Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement and director of Disaster Recovery for Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico, at 800.222.3872, x2449, or Kim Wilkins, ABHMS Disaster-response Ministries administrative assistant, at 800.222.3872, x2413.

Volunteers can create their own work groups or contact ABHMS to be placed with a group. Cost of $150 per person per week includes housing, food, and supplies. Volunteers are responsible for round-trip transportation to Puerto Rico as well as transportation on the island.

Although the initial financial goal has been reached, due to the extent of the devastation, additional funds will be needed. Online donations are encouraged. Checks, designated to “OGHS-Puerto Rico” may be mailed to the attention of Kim Wilkins at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851.

One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs.

One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches.

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