A few notes from LCMS Missionaries, James & Christel
One of the struggles here in Ponce is our constant moving. We have shared many times about how often we have moved worship locations due to the earthquake, and then all the changes in form and function with COVID (as I know all of you have done as well). We seem to always be moving.
We said goodbye to our dear friends and fellow teammates, the DiLibertos, as they received and accepted a call to serve in Henderson, NV. We thank God for our time together to serve in Puerto Rico and that their move to Nevada was guided and led in God’s hands. James was made team-lead and has been moving into the responsibilities previously held by Pastor DiLiberto.
After the large earthquakes, we still felt the smaller earthquakes, always anticipating a larger one to come at some point. There was always a small amount of underlying fear for everyone. I think even if we received the insurance payment sooner, we may not have moved forward in fear of having another earthquake, causing additional cracks. Thankfully the quakes seem to have subsided to the 3.0 range which is a new normal for the southern part of the island.
With the help of new member, Raul, from Principe de Paz, and members from both congregations, we tore down the affected back wall of the church and rebuilt it within two days. It was very hard work. Our freshly painted sanctuary (from December) now has one new fresh concrete wall and various patches of concrete all over where the cracks were. It’s pretty rough looking to say the least but moving forward sometimes looks that way at first. We hope to finish the interior repairs by the end of October.
As a congregation we also started to move again, but this time, in what we hope is a forward direction, and not a lateral one to accommodate for a disaster. We received our insurance compensation for the earthquake damage to both the church and mercy house on Calle Salud, which means not only having more funds to repair the damage, but the “OK” to start to move forward (we couldn’t repair anything until claim negotiation was finished). And move forward we did!
The pandemic certainly halted moving forward on the remodeling/building of the church and mercy center, but even more so, to our congregational life. We moved forward a lot on outreach, but our life together greatly suffered. So, this month, we started to move forward. We meet twice on Sunday to accommodate for social distancing and have opened back up our fellowship time after. Not everyone is back, not everyone can stay, but little by little we are moving forward.
Often whether it’s a disaster or not, in church planting one of the best and most critical things you can do is to keep moving forward, even if it’s just baby steps. You just keep going. The Lord will sustain you and guide you and care for you.
We leave with this note, praying that as you continue to move forward in your vocation and congregation, that the Lord will give you His strength and comfort and peace, even in the baby steps.
Tearing down and building up the back sancturary wall.
Our virtual kids program continues! Here is Willaim Torres behind the scenes with our beloved explorer, Carlos! We cotninued to meet once a month on Saturday mornings going through A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories.
For those of you who like to paint or draw, join us to paint on rocks for October, the month of Reformation! Matt 16:18 gives us the theme for “Upon This Rock.” Each day we have a symbol from the Bible that reminds of the what our faith is built upon – Christ!