Hurricane Maria's powerful hit left devastation across Puerto Rico. Many communities are still without water, medical care, adequate shelter and power with no firm idea of when these necessities will be fully restored. Our team member Daniel Zeidan writes from our ongoing relief work.
Every time we fly into the mountains of Puerto Rico we pray that the Lord will guide us to the communities and homes most in need, and He is always faithful. Earlier this month, our Samaritan’s Purse helicopter landed in the mountainous region of Utuado so that we could provide much needed relief items. Utuado is one of the municipalities worst hit by Hurricane Maria, and from the air we could see the widespread devastation.
We landed in one of Utuado’s mountain hamlets. The local residents had not received any hurricane aid. Many were still busy trying to dig through debris from landslides and cut through fallen trees in order to make roads accessible into smaller, isolated communities.
The residents were startled at first when they saw us land, but were extremely grateful for the food we distributed. Some homes are still unreachable by road or vehicle due to the landslides, and community members carried about 25 food kits by foot to families stranded in these areas.
A sturdy farmer in his mid-50s greeted us and told us that he had helped dig out the bodies of two sisters and their mother from their collapsed home. He added that the father, upon seeing his destroyed home and deceased family members, could not handle the pain of loss and killed himself a few days later. For some, the loss and despair was too much to bear.
Serving in Jesus’ Name
Up on the hill, across from a half-destroyed chicken farm where our pilot landed the black and yellow Samaritan’s Purse helicopter on a narrow strip of land, a figure emerged from his small home. He was probably in his 60s, wore tattered clothes, and his white, unkempt hair glowed in the afternoon sun.
His name is Don Miguel, and he explained that his home was overwhelmed by the storm. He told us that they had very little food left and that they have not received any aid in Maria’s aftermath.
The house had been devastated. Don Miguel was completing work on one of the exterior walls that had collapsed. The roof was missing and an old, dilapidated purple tarp was placed on it, dripping in many places onto the clothes and mattresses below. Everything inside was damp.
Don Miguel introduced us to his wife, who is disabled and uses a walking aid to move around the house. Her eyes expressed exhaustion and detachment.
I asked Don Miguel to show us his kitchen, and he obliged, somewhat embarrassed. A couple of tins of food and a meagre container of sauce set on the kitchen table, enough supplies perhaps for another day or maybe two at most.
He told us that since Hurricane Maria he had only once ventured out of the hamlet in search of food and medicine for his wife. Their electronic pension card was useless without electric power, and there was no way for them to get more cash to buy food and other essential items.
Walking out of the damp house, we handed Don Miguel a heavy-duty tarp for his roof and one for his neighbour. We promised to return later with food. We embraced him and prayed with him. He wept, quietly, and with dignity. We told Don Miguel that God had not forsaken him and his wife, and that despite their loss, there was hope. God Almighty will help them get through these hard times.
He thanked us. It is in moments like these that God’s presence is near. People experience the hope of Jesus Christ because we are serving in His Name.
We returned a day or two later with food for Don Miguel and his neighbours. As we left and circled the air between the mountains and above the narrow strip of ground, we could see the blue Samaritan’s Purse tarp shining in the sun on top of Don Miguel’s roof.
Before we left, Don Miguel came out to greet us, smiling and looking more hopeful.
“Thank you so much for remembering us,” he said.
Prayer Requests from Puerto Rico:
- Pray for the Samaritan’s Purse team working in Puerto Rico. Pray that God will give strength and wisdom as they go through each day of early mornings, late nights and hard work.
- Thank you for many opportunities to pray with people and share the hope of the Gospel.
- Pray for the people of Puerto Rico. We have been amazed by this nation’s resilience and strength but there is still so much need here. Many communities are still without water, medical care, adequate shelter and power with no firm idea of when these necessities will be fully restored. Some are predicting that it could take years to completely restore power back to Puerto Rico!