Home Living Today World San Juan pastor serves meals, Gospel after Maria by Diana Chandler

San Juan pastor serves meals, Gospel after Maria by Diana Chandler

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (BP) — Hungry and thirsty two weeks after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, the teenage girl approached as Southern Baptist church planter Johnny Baez was serving beans, rice and filtered water.

“I’m hungry and I don’t have nothing at home,” she told Baez, “and I just start walking to see if I find something to eat.”

Baez shared the girl’s story with Baptist Press by telephone Oct. 6, recounting that he persuaded her to accept a meal at his church plant, Iglesia Bautista de la Familia Santurce — the Baptist Church of the Family in Santurce. Baez said the girl thought she was poorly dressed and had been too “embarrassed … to go inside a church.”

Her story is only one in the community of Santurce, one of San Juan’s poorest. The island remains devastated after Hurricane Maria struck Sept. 20 with a wind force just shy of the 157-mph Category 5 storm ranking. While the official death toll from Maria is 36, funeral directors there say the death count might include dozens more, the week.com reported today.

Southern Baptist pastor Felix Cabrera, a member of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance (HBPA) leadership council, has been in San Juan Sept. 30 to help. North American Mission Board (NAMB) Send Relief leaders and volunteers began arriving Sunday, Oct. 8.

“I know they are trying to do their best to help,” Cabrera said of Send Relief. “At the same time, our efforts as HBPA pastors and churches in the mainland [are] helping pastors and churches in the island. We are desperate to have food in our churches to start serving hot food in the communities.”

In cooperation with the Hollywood, Fla.-based Come Over Ministry, an international church planting outreach led by Colombian native Martin Vargas, the HBPA helped supply 12 power generators for churches. Vargas recruited Banyan Air Service and other private jet companies to transport the generators, Cabrera said.

“Unfortunately, right now we have other generators for churches, elderly homes, and food and water stuck in Ft. Lauderdale,” Cabrera said, “but we [haven’t] found jets to transport these to Puerto Rico.”

Cabrera estimates today (Oct. 9) that electricity has been restored for only 12 percent of the population.

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