James and Christel Neuendorf – Puerto Rico June 2019 Update

 

A few notes from LCMS Missionaries, James & Christel

The month of June was packed full of exciting developments. At the beginning of the month we celebrated Pentecost with the first ever combined service between the congregation in Mayaguez and the new church plant in Ponce. We packed everyone into a big van and brought them to the other church, and it was a huge hit! I preached at the joint service, and afterwards we had a big fellowship meal. Ponce members were talking about their brothers and sisters in Mayaguez for weeks afterwards. At the service, we also installed our first congregational council, and held our first meeting at the end of the month, this was a critical step for raising up leaders within the church!

Next, back in Ponce, we had our first “Family Day” as a congregation with a treasure hunt, hotdogs, and frisbee in the park. It was a great way to start forming deeper relationships between members of the church! Then we had our special Saturday Bible Class which we do once a month, we had great attendance for a special class on the doctrine of Creation, which fit perfectly with the month of June’s Bible Study topic which was the book of Genesis. We were blessed with two waves of volunteer visits, helping the congregation put on a double back to back VBS in the government housing community of Juan Ponce de Leon. We had a good turnout of kids, and despite some hiccups with the bureaucracy, were able to do some wonderful outreach to kids who have been through a lot. The first VBS was the excellent Camp Courage curriculum which was provided by LCMS disaster response for kids who have been through trauma, which led to some good discussions with several of the kids who were going through some difficult things. We were blessed to have the help of a volunteer from St. Paul, Northville Michigan, and several members of Fuente de Vida!

The second VBS was a bit more ambitious, as we wrote our own curriculum, something we called “Project Exodus.” The theme was a mad scientist who invented a time machine, through which the kids traveled back to the time of the Exodus and experienced the events first-hand. We made costumes for the kids, props, sets, and wrote over 20 pages of script, and then to make matters even more complex, the three days we had planned needed to be rescheduled down to one crazy day including the events of all three! Congregation members and our volunteers from New Life Community Lutheran made it possible and it was a tremendous, if exhausting, success! We learned that several of our congregation members really enjoy putting on dramas, something we hope to do more of. We are hoping to make follow up visits with some of the families from the VBS in the coming weeks.

We prepared for Hurricane season with a special litany in our service at the beginning of the month, and then at the end of the month we hosted a preparedness workshop. We had representatives from ENDEAVORS Ponce, who we work with on roof projects, and from the Municipality. The congregation prepared bags of supplies to start a disaster preparedness kit for each family, and these bags were distributed at the event. We were blessed with several first-time visitors for the event, and follow ups are ongoing!

I know… we are far beyond our word-count for this newsletter, but there was one more important event in June that we absolutely have to share. Our administrators came down for a visit to see the properties we have been exploring for the building purchase in Ponce, and we took them to 46 different properties, 5 of which were under serious consideration! After a very long day of discussions, ending late at night, we decided to make an offer on an exciting property in an ideal location for our church plant and mercy center. Just a few days before this newsletter, an inspection was conducted, and we are very, very, close to making an offer. Please pray earnestly about this, because God willing, the NEXT newsletter will be all about what’s next!

#lifetogether. Our theme for this year as the congregations, as a team, is Life Together. We, Fuente de Vida,  celebrated together with Principe de Paz on Pentecost Sunday in Mayaguez. We enjoyed a full morning of worship where both congregations installed their new councils, and later food (of course) together. We praise God for the gift of our church families. 

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June marked 100 houses helped in the area of roof repair on the island through the gifts from LCMS Disaster Response. We celebrate the opportunity to be able to help so many people who are still being affected by the hurricane. We ask for your prayers as this next fiscal year we are concentrating our efforts not only on roof repair but more follow up and bringing our congregations alongside those who are in need of the actual labor part of getting their house back together. This is a continual challenge as many people that we help do not have the means to pay someone to rebuild their house and they themselves are unable to do the work. 

June 1 was the first day of hurricane season. As our mercy event this month we hosted a disaster preparedness workshop. The municipality gave a talk on how to be prepared and what to do in the event of ANY disaster. We had our friend and representative from ENDEAVORS come and share about their social services in getting help from FEMA, and then we closed with a demonstration from a new friend of ours on how to preserve rice. 
As a congregation, we put together preparedness bags the Sunday before and advertised the event. Three of the families we have helped with roof repair also came! 

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Building search day! A full day of looking at several buildings that could be our new church home. Pictured above are our supervisors and some of the council members of Fuente de Vida. We took a coffee break at a cafe that’s on the other side of the block from our current church location. This was their first day open! It was so exciting to see new business back in the downtown area of Ponce. 

At the end of May, I went out to look for the American Cross. Google had two locations for them. I had a location from a friend. None of them were right as the office closed down and appears to now only be in San Juan.

However, on my “búsqueda” (search) I found myself in the office of Hon. José A. Banchs Alemán. He is a representative for this area in Ponce. I met his office staff and later received a call from them as they had people who were in need of roof repair. I was invited back this month to actually meet him. His office has been a great help in reaching out to the community as well as learning more about the government of Ponce. 

A quick video recap of June 2019.

Prayers:

  • Many of our congregation members are dealing with depression, please pray for them and our plans to begin a regular support group for people living with depression.
  • There are a few serious health concerns in the congregation, you can pray by name for Luis Enrique and Eduardo Cortes. You might also include a man named Miguel who is fighting cancer and is one of our evangelism follow ups.
  • Please pray earnestly for the negotiations on the building purchase, as well as wisdom for all of the subsequent plans and renovations required.
  • Many of the kids from the VBS expressed that they are living through a lot of insecurity and anxiety, pray for the peace that comes from Christ’s presence for them, and that the Lord would bring them to our church for baptism and His many gifts. 
  • Pray for our newly installed congregational council, Luis, Edwin, and Eduardo.

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A very special thank you to our friends who came in June to help us with VBS!

Jake Fairbairn, from St. Paul Northville, MI came for a week to help us with Camp Courage. He also did a TON of prep work for the VBS the following week. 

Kay Baxter, Brooke and Lucie Orozco from my (Christel) home congregation, NewLife Swartz Creek, MI came the following week and helped us with an Exodus VBS. 
It was great to share in ministry with those who have prayed and supported  the people here in Puerto Rico as well for the work that God has blessed us with!

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