Covenanters Wait to Hear from Puerto Rican Relatives

CHICAGO, IL (September 27, 2017) – Many Covenanters with family members in Puerto Rico are still learning about the fate of their relatives after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island on September 20.

Those who have learned that their relatives survived still are concerned about how their family members will make it through the next several months.

Tomas Sanabria, pastor of Albany Park Covenant Church in Chicago, learned that his two half-sisters and stepmother survived, “but that’s what it is,” he says, “survival.”

Some are learning from social media about friends and family. José Humphreys, pastor of Metro Covenant Church in East Harlem, New York City, said one congregation member had not heard from several relatives but happened to see a picture of her dad waiting in line to get gas on social media .

Humphreys’s aunt, who lives near Luquillo, had the roof of her house blown off but is safe, he said.

Residents in Puerto Rico who still can get around the island are checking on relatives and then letting people in the States know how they are faring. They also are taking in family members who have lost homes.

Getting word out from the island has been challenging. Daisy Echevarria, an employee at Covenant Offices, said her family had finally heard from her step-brother last night. He had driven an hour to find a weak cell-phone signal and get out a brief message before the signal dropped.

Rebecca Gonzalez, executive director of operations at Covenant Offices, said she had been learning about relatives as family members relayed messages among themselves. One relative had a motorcycle and went looking for family members and took pictures to send to relatives. She learned about her father’s family only last night after a message was posted on by another relative Facebook.

Covenant minister Gricel Medina still is waiting to hear about some of her relatives. “It’s very heartbreaking,” she said. “This is a catastrophic situation that is only getting worst with time.”

Government officials have called the damage to the island of 3.5 million people “apocalyptic.” Maria ripped up much of the nation’s power grid, and residents could be without electricity for four to six months.

“The main issue right now is getting access to areas because of the flooding and debris on the roads,” Humphreys said.

Gonzalez said her family was drawing on wisdom gained from surviving Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the island in 1989 and left some areas without power for months. They have generators and sometimes they can get electricity by hooking them up to their car batteries.

Gonzalez said her family’s faith also will sustain them.

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About the Author

Stan Friedman

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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2 Comments

  1. My family members sent their children to New England to live with relatives for a year when New Orleans was flooded. Puerto Rico’s (PR) infrastructure cannot be rebuilt quickly (former utility employee / engineer). Also, I did not find any Cov churches in PR in my on-line search. For the short term the USA Christian denominations may find that matching up people in distress with those having space and time is a certain way to be a needed blessing to so many. Remembering there was only one on the road to Jericho that needed help. Can “The Body” do this?

  2. I cannot imagine the struggle to survive so many must feel right now in Puerto Rico. We need to step up and commit prayers, time and money to help rebuild while making sure we let Congress know that it is our moral responsibility to build a stronger infrastructure on the island. Puerto Ricans are not only our brothers and sisters in Christ but are US citizens and should not be ignored. We helped Houston and Florida -now is the time to commit to helping Puerto Rico.

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