Hi again friends! Here is my 4th post during the hurricane in Puerto Rico. If you are here for the first time, here are the first 3 posts:
Written the morning of September 23, 2017
And on the third day the sun came out. The sun! It is a beautiful thing.
One thing that has been on my mind is that my aunt and uncles house had barely any damage compared to the houses around us. For that I am thankful, but it brings a question and a hard truth. Why did our house have barely any damage and theirs did? How can we claim God’s protection, when their houses have so much damage? I don’t really have an answer, but these two truths. God didn’t protect us in the way that He did for our comfort, but for His love to be shared. We were allowed to be here to help, and to hopefully be an encouragement to those around us. And this leads us into the third day.
Mike wasn’t the only one who got his hands dirty. Although I am still recovering from hurting my leg last week, I have been busy cleaning up around the house. I have pulled bushes and leaves of palm trees that are bigger than me from the pool. I helped take down the storm shutters, picked up broken roof panels, used a machete to cut up a tree to clear it from the road (yup I did!), and swept up broken glass. My heart aches knowing that this shattered glass reflects the lives of so many people on this island. What used to be luscious green palms that bring beauty to the scenery here, are now landscapes of brown empty branches…at least for the trees that stayed standing anyway.
Andreas shared with us that as he was listening to the radio during the storm, that the broadcaster said that the sustained winds were 175 mph, and gusts were up to 200 (not sure how true that is, but it is what was reported). That number is overwhelming to hear, and a much higher number reflects the lives that have been effected by this massive storm. I imagine for many it feels hopeless.
And as time goes on, it’s not assumptions of the damage, it is now seeing and hearing people’s stories of their loss.
We were able to get out to the grocery store today to restock some food, since we still don’t know how long we will be here and get something for dinner tonight. The town doesn’t look like the town we came to on Sunday. It is devastation. Trees uprooted and all over the place. Metal roofs lying in the middle of the road, telephone poles that were easily snapped in four, the place we had dinner Sunday night had their top floor blown out.
I SEE BEAUTY IN THE BROKENNESS
The gardener and his wife came by the neighborhood to survey the damage and his wife was telling me that they had a lemon tree farm and it is all gone. Part of their income, gone. As we said goodbye she asked us to please come back again. There must have been a part of her that asked us to come back for fear that this storm would keep people away in the future, and tourists are a big portion of the islands income. We will come back, we love it here. The truth is that we actually love it more now than we did before the hurricane hit.
My heart is a mix of strong emotions right now. Stronger faith that I have ever had, yet heart break. More trust in God than I have ever had, yet the sadness of the loss. We get to go home… at some point, we still don’t know anything about airports and flights. But they are home, and some of these people lost everything.
I have been seeing something else as I am here. I see that in the brokenness there is beauty.
A LOT HAPPENED ON THE THIRD DAY
Our mission here has been to encourage the people around us. My aunt’s house has a built in generator that powered the entire house (including the kitchen). The other houses either didn’t have power at all or their generators didn’t power the entire house. So, two nights ago Mike invited Andreas over for dinner. We didn’t have much because we didn’t want to buy too much food at the time, but it was more than the Ritz crackers he was going to eat. Mike made scrambled eggs, and ham, and Andreas made authentic tostones (I was in heaven). I know that God wanted us to meet Andreas, because Mike and him are ridiculously similar. They were talking and laughing like they had known each other for years, have similar mannerisms, and even use the same quirky (I say that in love… really) jargon.
Then last night we had the ladies across the street over for a real dinner. Catherine and Anne. We listened to more stories of the devastation, and also shared about our lives. We felt like we had known these ladies for years, as we laughed over a glass of wine, chicken with salsa, rice and beans, and flan for dessert. Later on Andreas joined us after a hard day of seeing more of the devastation and over more stories and laughs he made more tostones to end the evening.
Incredible beauty in the brokenness.
THE CHURCH DOESN’T NEED WALLS
The beauty is that this island will be okay. It will be more than okay, because He makes all things new. It will take time but they will rebuild, and they will be stronger than before.
A lot happened on the third day… just like on the third day Jesus rose from the dead.
Catherine was telling us about a church up the hill. She said it was called The Church With No Walls (or something like). It was a church that had a roof but literally had no walls, and when she drove by it yesterday the church was gone. Let me tell you the truth in that. The church is more than the building. It is Jesus living and breathing life through His people. The church doesn’t need walls. In fact, the church needs to tear the walls down that keep people from knowing who He is. Surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, His church will go forth. There will be redemption in this destruction, because His mission is bringing the dead to life and it is a beautiful thing.