The alarm rings; I open my eyes to start my day in Comerio, Puerto Rico. My husband was born in this city, and now my 4-year-old son, Sebastian, and 3-year-old daughter, Sofia, are chasing each other through his hometown. It has been almost two years since we moved here from the D.C./Virginia area to plant One Church Comerio, and it has been a year and a half since Hurricane Maria made landfall.
We are not trained professionals in emergency relief. I am the daughter of a pastor and have known Christ most of my life. A native of El Salvador, I moved with my family to the United States when I was young, and I completed my college studies there. I met Jorge at work, and we quickly became friends. He brought me coffee every morning. Over time, that turned into breakfast and then lunch. Before long, we shared every meal of the day together. We fell in love, and a miracle occurred.
Jorge, like many people in Puerto Rico, struggled with addiction. He moved to the States at age 24 and wanted to quit drugs, but he couldn’t break free. God used my life to testify to Jorge, and in 2012, he accepted salvation. When he couldn’t go on, I assured him Jesus would help him overcome, and Jesus did! In 2013, we married, and Jorge became drug free. My husband fell in love with the Word of God, and after we visited his family in Puerto Rico a few times, he felt a deep desire to share the freedom he found in Christ with the people of Comerio. For the next few years, we went on mission trips to the island with our church in Virginia, doing community events and hosting Vacation Bible School. While we loved ministering there, we were also heartbroken that there was no one to disciple the new believers. We sought God’s direction, and in May 2017, we received the Lord’s answer: Move to Comerio and plant a Church. So we did.
In late September of that year, Hurricane Maria hit the island. It wiped out the electrical grid and left a wake of destruction. But we survived, and we knew it was an opportunity to minister to our neighbors and our community. Already, there was a lack of jobs and much poverty, but after the hurricane, there was an increase in desperation and lack of hope. As part of the Church, we had to opportunity to show the people the love of Christ in actions. In 1 John 3:18, it says, “Let us not love with word or speech but with actions and in truth.”
We joined efforts with FEMA and the local government to help reconstruct roofs for people living under tarps. We partnered with volunteers from Send Relief to repair homes and distribute supplies to the community. Even the mayor of the city called us for help. From groceries to school supplies and shoes to baby items, donations from North America have helped us provide necessities; this is God’s love in action.
It has been a year and a half since the storm hit, and things are getting better, little by little. However, there are still people without jobs, homes or basic supplies. Through our church plant, One Church Comerio, we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and we get to see lives changing and things improving.
Currently, our biggest challenge is the lack of help. All the church members are brand new Christians. Often, Jorge and I are doing everything—I’m leading worship, he’s visiting the sick, we’re both doing the bookkeeping, etc. It can be exhausting. However, we are discipling and training some of the members of the church so they can start taking different roles of leadership, and we are seeing them grow.
The responsibilities at home are similar—much to do and not enough time. With my family and support network back in Virginia, I sometimes feel lonely and helpless. I also have a job outside of the church plant to help make ends meet for our family, and all of these responsibilities make it difficult for Jorge and I to spend quality time together. Honestly, if I ever get 6 hours of sleep, it feels like a luxury. We pray for God to send more families, more help, here to Comerio. But until then, I live one day at a time and remind myself of Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I see Sofia, my beautiful little earthquake, trying to scoop up some coquies (little frog-like creatures) in the yard. Sebastian makes sure she doesn’t squish them while I rush over and catch my children up in a big hug. I am grateful for this beautiful family and for this place we call home. Jorge and I are confident that this is where we are supposed to be. We have seen how a generator can bring light and life to a family in need, and we have seen how discipleship with one girl can lead generations of her family to faith. Comerio and the island of Puerto Rico as a whole is a place of great opportunity for gospel influence. So with every sunrise, we do what we can with what we have to share God’s love.