Puerto Rico Update 1/11/18: 100 Days and Counting

A team from In Touch arrived in Puerto Rico, Sunday, January 7, to join the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in distributing In Touch Messengers to those still struggling without power on the island since Hurricane Maria hit over 100 days ago on September 20, 2017.

The strongest storm to make landfall in Puerto Rico in 85 years, Hurricane Maria’s damage, combined with the already struggling infrastructure and economy, is making many residents wonder if life will ever get back to normal.

In Isabela, Pastor Jose Ponce and his small congregation of Iglesia Bautista Resurrección distribute non-perishable food, water, and hygiene items along with Messengers at a neighborhood basketball court. Approximately 50-60 families lined up to receive the food and Messengers earlier this week.

He told us as he held up a Messenger, “We are giving out food today but In Touch has brought us something even more valuable to give out: heavenly food.”

Each Messenger has a built-in flashlight, FM radio, and gospel messages to encourage people as they wrestle with the devastation caused by the hurricane.

While in Isabela, the In Touch team met Wanda Vargas. She and her family live on the edge of Isabela in Communidad Los Ponce and have been without electricity since the hurricane. The family stayed with relatives during the storm and returned home to find part of the roof gone from their house and much of the contents ruined. Their simple, 5-room wood house with a tin roof is now covered with a plastic tarp to keep out the elements. Wanda’s husband, Luis, lost his job because of the hurricane and now does odd jobs around the area to try and feed his family. They are dependent on charity from their neighbors and from Pastor Ponce’s church.

Messenger - Puerto Rico

We were able to give Wanda and her family two Torches. Like the Messenger, the Torch is a solar-powered device containing encouraging messages, but it has a bright lantern and loudspeaker for larger spaces. It can also be used as a charging station.

Prayers for endurance are much needed during this difficult time for the citizens of Puerto Rico. Join us in praying for our team on the ground and those in need—pray for crime prevention, health, wisdom, and electricity as they try to recover from the destruction.

Our goal is to send 20,000 messengers to Puerto Rico. You can support this effort by visiting our Messenger page. Check back often or follow us on social to stay informed about the latest Messenger Lab projects.


UPDATE 11/6/17 — 4,500 solar-powered Messengers with built-in flashlight, FM radio, and gospel messages have been sent to Puerto Rico to encourage its citizens as they continue to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Getting from point A to point B continues to be a struggle for the citizens of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island over a month ago. Improvements are being made, but it’s a long, slow slog.

Thankfully, San Juan’s international airport is back in service, allowing us to send two shipments of Messengers and have them picked up by our on-site contact, David Lutrell. Our goal is to eventually send 20,000 Messengers. Each solar-powered device has a built-in flashlight and FM radio, particularly useful to those without electricity. Of the first shipment of Messengers, 500 have already been sent to Christian Community Church for distribution in Comerío, one of the hardest hit towns in the mountains.

Each solar-powered device has a built-in flashlight and FM radio, particularly useful to those without electricity.

It’s hard for many of us to imagine, but the situation in Puerto Rico is still chaotic. Most water is sent to the mountain regions since they were the hardest hit—the Army flies it to the mountains via helicopter. Those residents have no power at all and probably will not have it for months to come.

The roads are still a mess as well. David said the drive to the airport was an adventure; there were downed trees everywhere. Debris from the trees blocked the storm drains, causing the roads to keep flooding. Another tropical storm had come through, too, bringing more heavy rains.

The metro region of San Juan has power some days but not others. Cellular and internet service are spotty, too. David and his sister, Janet Lutrell, buy bottled water each day and have to carry gallon jugs upstairs in the dark.

Messenger - Puerto Rico

Still, they are determined to get the gospel out each day. David rigged an old communication unit on the back of a truck so he could broadcast the In Touch program. “It's really a box on the back of a pickup with an audio console, CD player, computer—only room for 2,” says Janet, who works for WBMJ Rock Radio Network. The network is in the process of buying a 1,000-watt tunable AM transmitter at a deeply discounted rate to use as an emergency transmitter for their 3 stations. In addition, efforts have been made to start rebuilding the 200-foot tower needed to broadcast on the nearby island of Vieques.

WBMJ is on air each day during the daylight hours, but shuts down at nightfall to help conserve their generator. David said now that the In Touch broadcast is back on, people stop by to thank them for the encouraging messages.

Our goal is to send 20,000 messengers to Puerto Rico, and we’re just getting started. You can support this effort by visiting our Get Involved page. You can also be praying. Janet asks that we all pray for endurance, crime prevention, health, wisdom, and electricity as the days without power go on.

Check back often or follow us on social to stay informed about the latest Messenger Lab projects.

Read about how this campaign got started: Messengers for Puerto Rico

Related Topics:  Community  |  Evangelism  |  Encouragement

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