“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Brethren Disaster Ministries is organizing the Church of the Brethren response in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria. The response will include--in the short term--the shipping of a container of disaster relief supplies and a visit by associate executive director Roy Winter, tentatively scheduled for next week. In the long-term, plans are being developed for relief and long-term recovery programs, including home repair.
Today Winter was able to talk by phone with Puerto Rico District executive Jose Calleja Otero, for the first time since the hurricane struck. “He only had a little power on his phone, so it was short,” Winter reported. Otero is working on assessing the situation, and is working to connect with the Church of the Brethren pastors in the district.
“He asked for prayers for everyone in Puerto Rico,” Winter said.
So far, Brethren Disaster Ministries has received no news of any loss of life among the Puerto Rican Brethren. There is damage to homes and churches, however, and there is no water or electricity service.
On another front, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) volunteer teams are continuing their work to serve children and families affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The CDS response to Hurricane Irma in Florida concluded today, according to associate director Kathleen Fry-Miller.
In other urgent news from Global Mission and Service, a leader of the Church of the Brethren in the Democratic Republic of Congo is reporting that violence is threatening areas where church members live.
Plans for disaster response in Puerto Rico
Supplies are being gathered at the warehouses at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and Material Resources staff there are working to fill a container to ship to Puerto Rico as soon as possible. The container will include canned chicken from Mid-Atlantic and Southern Pennsylvania Districts, generators, tarpaulins, flashlights, batteries, and chain saws.
Now that communication with Church of the Brethren leadership in Puerto Rico is being re-established, Brethren Disaster Ministries staff will take a small team to assist in an assessment of the crisis and to plan for relief and recovery operations.
“The Red Cross, FEMA, and the Puerto Rican government are much better equipped to address early response issues. Our resources, support, and programs will be much more effective when we can gather the church leadership,” Winter said.
Through Facebook messages and connections within the Church of the Brethren in the US, a few reports have been received from Puerto Rican Brethren. These describe flooding, destruction, and debris. They indicate that the Castañer hospital may be functioning, but is running out of supplies and has not received any government support since the hurricane.
“Please keep sharing so we can gather a better picture of the state of Brethren families and churches,” Winter requested.
“Please pray for all those impacted by hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. It is a desperate situation and a growing humanitarian disaster.”
For more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries, go to www.brethren.org/bdm . To support this disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren, give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at www.brethren.org/edf .
Children’s Disaster Services continues serving in Texas
Three more teams of volunteers from Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) are serving in Texas, continuing the response to Hurricane Harvey. The teams are working in FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in the towns of Beaumont, Port Lavaca, and Katy.
CDS teams have concluded their work in Florida, following Hurricane Irma. As of today, CDS teams in Texas and Florida have served more than 1,250 children with 73 volunteers in 17 different locations in the two states.
“We continue to send kind thoughts and prayers to the children and families of Texas and Florida as they work to pull their lives back together, and to families in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as they face such incredible loss and devastation,” said Fry-Miller.
For more about the work of Children’s Disaster Services, go to www.brethren.org/cds . To support this disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren, give to the Emergency Disaster Fund at www.brethren.org/edf .
Prayer requested for Brethren in the DR Congo
Word has been received from Lubungo Ron, leading minister in the Church of the Brethren in the DR Congo, that violence is “on a high level” in areas where Brethren live and congregations are located.
Last week, the mission office received the following message from Ron:
“Greetings, the violence is on high level in South Kivu province, especially in Fizi and Uvira territories, people are killed day by day, it is like a massacre. In Ngovi people live with lots of fear, all area is under insecurity.”
Yesterday, via Facebook an update from Ron was shared by Marla Bieber Abe, a Church of the Brethren pastor who has been helping to support the Congolese church:
“Mai-Mai rebel are close the town of Uvira where my family is staying, the military of government begin to flee the town and shooting the gun wherever they are, all people are into their home, myself I am out of the town together with my wife. Please pray for us and the Brethren families in Congo.”
The Global Mission and Service office has shared a Reuters article published today about the violence threatening the Uvira area in the DR Congo. Find it at www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-violence/rebels-close-in-on-east-congo-city-amid-gunfire-idUSKCN1C22S5 .
Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Kathleen Fry-Miller, Kendra Harbeck, Roy Winter, Jay Wittmeyer, and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Please send news tips and submissions to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org .