UMCOR in Puerto Rico

“A meeting of love, solidarity, commitments and new alliances” as officials of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico meet with Luis Morales, the representative of UMCOR. Morales arrived on October 14 to conduct an inspection. He was greeted by a group of students, teachers, parents, pastors and trade union workers busy rebuilding at the site. ~Facebook photo/Methodist Church of Puerto Rico

A message from the leader of the Methodist Church in Puerto Rico, Bishop Hector Ortiz.

The best word to describe the situation in Puerto Rico is “catastrophe,” says Bishop Hector Ortiz.

He calls the churches in Puerto Rico, “communities of hope” in the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Maria.

Ortiz, spiritual leader of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, relates how churches in San Juan got to work immediately after the storm, serving 2,400 meals in the first 10 days after the blast.

He says the church must maintain their spiritual strength to serve the people of Puerto Rico in the reconstruction of the island.

During their October. 12-14 meeting, directors of the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR approved more than $7 million in grants for hurricane and other disaster-relief work.

UMCOR already had received some $15 million from donors in recent months to respond to U.S. disasters. Full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have highlighted the denomination’s commitment to disaster relief and the fact that 100 percent of all donations go directly to relief efforts.

Bishop Ortiz normally would have been a part of the Global Ministries meeting. However, given the continuing dire situation there after Hurricane Maria, Ortiz had a brief livestream conversation on Oct. 12 with his fellow directors instead.

Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery is estimated to cost up to $95 billion, said UMCOR’s President, Bishop Thomas Bickerton. That, he said, is “a signal to faith-based organizations that we need all hands on deck.”

“The past three weeks have been truly heartbreaking,” the bishop said. “Thousands of families lost their homes.” The Puerto Rican church’s partnership with UMCOR and Global Ministries is of utmost importance, he added.

Thomas Kemper top executive for Global Ministries, announced that Luis Morales, disaster coordinator for the South Georgia Conference, was traveling to Puerto Rico on Oct. 13 as an UMCOR consultant. “They (Puerto Rican Methodists) already have distribution centers in 20 local churches and are trying to stand with the people in Puerto Rico,” he said.

UMCOR sent a $100,000 grant to the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, and assessments are still in process for a larger grant for relief and recovery work. Ortiz finally was able to purchase a generator so the Puerto Rican church office can reopen, Kemper told United Methodist News Service.

New York Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, UMCOR’s president, said that by addressing the needs in Puerto Rico, The United Methodist Church has a way “to extend its hand in the midst of an area where poverty and lack of infrastructure provide an opportunity for response.”

Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery is estimated to cost up to $95 billion, Bickerton noted. That, he told UMNS, is “a signal to faith-based organizations that we need all hands on deck.”

It’s important to view the United Methodist response in Puerto Rico as a long-term program, Kemper pointed out. “I really hope, in the future, we can buy more locally instead of shipping,” he said. “We have a whole network (in Puerto Rico), which will be here for the long haul.”

In this video message, the bishop expresses gratitude to The United Methodist Church for support in the recovery and urges those who want to help to donate to UMCOR’s Domestic Disaster Response Advance #901670.

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