I want to thank you for your solidarity and concern for Puerto Rico. Let me give you some overall, first hand, information:
It takes a tremendous emotional effort to describe what Maria has left behind. Hurricane Maria slammed the Island with 190 miles wind and rain. The last time a Hurricane of such intensity hit Puerto Rico was in 1928. Nevertheless, Maria broke the record. The Island will be without electrical power for at least six months, and in some areas for up to 12 months. Running water may take about three months, although some areas are beginning to report that it is slowly returning. Fallen trees, debris, fallen light posts and street lights are all over making is almost impossible to distribute aid efficiently. Essential articles like drinking water, gasoline, ice, and cash have been the most hectic to obtain. Long lines and traffic jams have made gathering these items very difficult. For drinking water, gasoline, ice, and cash, the lines are between four and seven hours waiting time. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Synod congregations in Puerto Rico are divided into three sections: Metro, Bayamón, and Toa. The Metro area is still without power and running water. As of now, about 9 to 10 percent of the island has electrical power: mainly hospitals. The Bayamon area suffered greatly, seven families from Zion Lutheran Church lost everything. In the Toa area, six of eight of our congregations are in rural areas. Maria had a feast with the water, mud, landslides, roofs, flooding, destruction. Many of the families are still wearing what they had on the day of the storm because of the sediment and mud that filled their homes. In some churches, such as San Pedro Lutheran Church which was flooded with 6 feet of water, the majority of the people of their congregation lost everything.
Is for this reason that we, a group of Puerto Ricans who have moved stateside to pursue studies and work, are currently working hard to collect and bring "relief efforts" to Puerto Rico. We organized a mission trip to Puerto Rico from November 16th to the 27th. The Youth Ministry of the ELCA in Puerto Rico will join forces with us to create Community Service Brigades. During our time on the Island; we will establish distribution centers to deliver what is needed to where it is needed. Also, we will do hands-on work which includes cleaning houses, churches, rebuilding community spaces and serving a community Thanksgiving lunch. Furthermore; we will be taking more than 1,000 pounds of supplies, canned foods, clothes and first aid items to help our communities. To achieve our goal, we need your help. With your contribution, we will be able to bring the aid people so desperately need.
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