In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Puerto Rico with a vengeance. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster to affect the two islands. At its peak with maximum sustained winds at 175 mph, the hurricane caused catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across the northeastern Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, the population suffered from flooding, the worst electrical blackout in U.S. history, and extreme damage and destruction to property.
Our sister synod, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico, was severely impacted. The church building in Guayama suffered extensive damage; the church in Humacao was completely destroyed. Homes of pastors and many members also were damaged.
WELS members responded generously with gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief. But the devastation caused by the storm made communication with our fellow Christians in Puerto Rico difficult. Damaged infrastructure made quick efforts to provide relief impossible. It was difficult to know what needed to be done to help and how that help could be delivered.
Early last summer WELS Christian Aid and Relief sent retired missionary Rev. Larry Schlomer to the island. He was asked to stay for up to a year to help the church leaders determine what needed to be done and then to help organize relief and rebuilding efforts.
In the months after Pastor Schlomer’s arrival, he worked, along with WELS volunteer Jerry Zimpelmann, to coordinate repairs to the church at Guayama and to the homes of pastors and members. They also coordinated the work of WELS volunteers who came to Puerto Rico to assist. Most of that work is completed. Significantly, this weekend marks a milestone in WELS efforts to help our sister church body. The church at Humacao has been completely rebuilt and will be rededicated in a worship service on Feb. 10.
Our fellow Christians in Puerto Rico have expressed their deep gratitude to God and to WELS members for this assistance. We thank God for our partnership in the gospel with our fellow believers in Puerto Rico, and we thank God for moving the people of WELS to make these relief and rebuilding efforts possible.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.