Samaritan's Purse teams reach out to a forgotten community in Puerto Rico
by Laurent Trabadello, ministry development strategist for Samaritan’s Purse Canada
The view used to be spectacular. From lush green hills you could see as far as the city of San Juan, with the deep blue Caribbean beyond. Today, no one even notices the view. Dark gray clouds cover the horizon and trees are barren, twisted, and uprooted—a sobering testimony to Hurricane Maria’s powerful winds that lashed Puerto Rico.
Every day, heavy downpours continue to drench the central districts, including the town of Morovis. With every rainfall, people are reminded of their loss. Many roofs were torn apart by heavy winds, exposing homes to the destructive power of water. Furniture, appliances, mattresses, and lifelong memories and belongings are piled up outside damaged homes, along with the twisted remains of tin and plastic roofs.
When the afternoon clouds roll in and the dark sky opens up, the same solemn ritual occurs in damaged homes as brooms sweep water from barren rooms.
The scene is repeated all across the island, but in one particular neighborhood, the mood is even more somber. The neighborhood is called Tierras Malditas, Spanish for “Cursed Lands.” This area of Morovis has a history of violent family feuds, drugs, and prostitution.
Hurricane Maria has forced families to come together, huddling for protection from the elements in the few buildings that are less affected. Alex, a community leader, points to a home and tells us that 13 people live in one small space.
In another house, a man in a wheelchair is soaked by the rain and is trying his best to remove the water that has accumulated in what used to be his living room. The roof, and a good portion of the wall, are gone.
As we walk through the streets, everyone seems to recognize Pastor Angel and his wife Brenda. They come to this neighborhood often to build relationships and to show people that they care. I can see that they are well respected.
Many people have complained that this area is forgotten and is far from the attention of local officials and aid agencies. But the local church has not forgotten them, and Samaritan’s Purse is partnering with these local pastors to bring much needed assistance and to demonstrate God’s love in tangible ways.
We are distributing heavy-plastic tarps to help people protect their homes from the daily downpours. We are also providing solar lanterns that provide some light to their dark nights caused by power outages across the island. It will be months before power can be restored.
Hurricane Maria victims can count on love and help from the local church and Samaritan’s Purse. We are committed to distributing thousands of plastic tarps, lanterns, hygiene kits, water filters, and other needed supplies to those in desperate need.
Our prayer is that as our disaster response team works in collaboration with local churches, Tierras Malditas may become Tierras Benditas (Blessed Lands). We pray that no village feels forgotten. We pray that people in this community will see God’s love and redemptive power.