ABHMS coordinated churches that rebuilt home declared uninhabitable by FEMA
As part of ABHMS’ Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico effort in response to Hurricane Maria, Abigail Medina Betancourt, ABHMS Intercultural Ministries Specialist, planned for volunteers to put a new roof on the home of Santos and Denisse Sepulveda in Loiza. When she visited the home to evaluate the work needed, however, she realized the home needed far more than a roof.
In fact, the house needed so much work that Betancourt cried.
Although there were no doors, windows, furniture or a toilet and FEMA deemed their house uninhabitable, FEMA would not help them. The couple had been living in public housing.
That’s when Betancourt saw firsthand that God provides.
“It was then that I understood that, for God, there are no limits,” she writes. “I received approval to work with the roof. Because of the extreme need, we made an exception and included doors and windows. In February 2020, we received 140 volunteers. Of these, approximately 40 worked at the Sepulveda’s house for four weeks.”
These groups brought not only labor but also funds to cover the needs that the project could not meet:
- Grace Baptist Church, Esperanza Church and Cedar Hills Baptist, all of Portland, Ore., and New Community Church, Menlo Park, Calif., readied the house for other teams to do reconstruction. They chipped in for a $6,320 donation.
- The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts did reconstruction, working two weeks in a row. They gave $3,000 in kitchen and bathroom furniture;
- Brewster Baptist Church, Mass., also did reconstruction. They gave nearly $3,000 in electrical and construction materials as well as a $480 gift card.
Then there was the Southern Tier, N.Y., group, which visited the Sepulvedas but didn’t work on their house. Instead, they worked in another town in Puerto Rico. Yet they donated $1,500 in household goods to the couple.
If that weren’t enough, First Baptist Church of Lansdale sent a $600 donation with one of the other teams.
“The situation that once filled my heart with anguish now fills it with the immense joy at seeing God at work through people willing to hear God’s voice and respond to God’s call,” Betancourt writes. “This is how the kingdom of God is built here and now.”
The couple was able to move back into the restored home before Denisse died unexpectedly in February 2021.