There’s still plenty to do in Puerto Rico one year after the hurricane.
By Marisol Ferrer Malloy
“What can we do to help?” That was the question many people asked me after September 20, 2017, when Hurricane Maria struck the island of my birth, Puerto Rico. I didn’t know how to answer. I was too busy trying to reach my cousins. I told everyone to wait until I could see for myself. One month later, my husband, Paul, and I headed to Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, to find my cousins. We got a firsthand look at the devastation.
We found my cousins living on the first floor of what had been a two-story house. Hurricane Maria caused a tree to fall on the upper part of the house, leaving it with just one livable floor. Thankfully, everyone was safe, but there was no electricity or running water anywhere. And there was a general sadness across the island where the hurricane left a trail of destruction, especially in the smaller towns. San Juan was all over the news, but the little town of Vega Baja, where much of my family resides, was left to fend for itself.
We visited another one of my cousins, Nieves Ferrer Jr., who lost his brother the day before the hurricane and his father three weeks later. When we walked through Nieves’s house, I felt sorrow. I told Paul, “We have to turn this sorrow into a house of joy.” God placed in our hearts the idea to convert the house into a missionary home. The house is across the street from the church where Nieves is pastor. As the book of Proverbs says, we make the plans, but it is God who directs the steps. We are working out the plans but trusting God’s guidance through the process.
When we returned to the mainland U.S., the opportunities continued to abound for people who wanted to help across the country, across denominations, across an ocean. We partnered with Cypress Missions, founded by Fred Fiorentino, a member of The Church in Brielle (RCA) in Brielle, New Jersey, to lead missionary teams. Since October, teams have traveled to Puerto Rico eight times, including a specific trip to repair the church and the mission house. Another trip is scheduled for late October.
The church has played a very important role in the town of Vega Baja. We bought a generator to use for worship services because the area still lacked power. Shortly after, the local electrical engineers decided to unite and fix the town’s power themselves. They needed a place to meet, and my cousin’s church was the perfect place. Thanks to the electricians’ meetings held at the church, the town managed to restore power after six months. Pastor Nieves was recently recognized for his help in gathering the community together.
“How can we help?” you ask. Pray for Puerto Ricans and for mission teams and consider joining a future trip. Mission teams continue to work there, employing locals and stimulating the economy. If you are interested in a future trip, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The good news has a tangible impact when we commit to doing long-term good.
Marisol Ferrer Malloy is the planting pastor of FIRST at Long Branch (RCA) in Long Branch, New Jersey. She leads mission trips to Puerto Rico and Mexico with her husband, Paul Malloy.