On August 25, 2018, a five-member team hopped an early morning flight to Puerto Rico to serve our Lord by serving new friends on the small island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. One year after Hurricane Maria affected this island community with 175 mile per hour winds, water and debris, the recovery continues. This team included District Superintendent Londia Granger Wright, Manchester UMC Pastor of Administration and Generosity Phil Estes, Lay volunteers Mike Clement and Ron McCoy, also of Manchester UMC, and Susan Zahringer, Communications Coordinator at Arlington UMC.
We found opportunities to power wash and reseal the rooftops of homes that had been destroyed not only by the storm but also ravaged by looters while the residents were away seeking shelter and medical care. One of those residents was a single mother named Elizabeth. Just after the storm hit, she traveled to San Juan for major surgery since the Vieques hospital had been destroyed in the storm. When she returned everything she owned had been stolen, including the kitchen sink. She invited us in, hot and sweat-soaked, to take a break from our work. We said we couldn’t possibly sit on her furniture since we had been applying roof sealer. But Elizabeth insisted, “No. Sit, sit! These are only things that can be replaced. Our friends, our family are much more important.” We were humbled by her care and kindness and enjoyed the conversation and opportunity to make a new friend. Elizabeth’s welcoming gift of rest reminded me of the story of Christ who modeled servant leadership by washing the feet of the disciples. Elizabeth’s joyful hospitality washed our hearts in the love of our Lord.
The beauty of service through the Global Connect program is that while we begin with the intention of giving ourselves in service, we find ourselves receiving more than we could possibly give, through the presence of the living Christ, seen and felt through our friends in need. While living and working together for one short week, we grew in faith, and found that we received the gift of God’s love from new friends like Elizabeth … and our understanding of God’s love was changed forever.