ABHMS’ initial ‘Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico’ fundraising goal is surpassed; great need remains

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 2/12/18)—Thanks to the generous contributions of congregations, organizations and individuals both in and outside of the American Baptist family, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) is elated to report that the initial fundraising goal for its “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” initiative—in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA)—via One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) has been surpassed.

March 30 was the target date set by ABHMS Executive Director Jeffrey Haggray to reach $1 million via OGHS for the initiative that seeks to restore entities impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico region. Thankfully, $1,012,946.04 had been collected as of Feb. 9.

“Thanks to our Baptist family in the United States! From the first day, you have been with us with your prayers, your presence and your offerings. Many Puerto Rican families have been blessed thanks to your support,” says the Rev. Edgardo Caraballo Marin, executive minister of Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico. “Last week, the first group of volunteers from ABHMS arrived. They helped repair the roof of one of our churches in Cidra. I pray for them, and for the hundreds of volunteers who will come to our island to help us in the rebuilding process. May the Lord bless you!”

During Phase I of disaster response, ABHMS personnel visited the island within a week of Hurricane Maria’s landfall. They have returned four times since then, meeting with Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico pastors and lay leaders and establishing a team of partners on the island who are collaborating with ABHMS on hurricane response. Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds have been making great impact, with ABHMS transferring funds to various American Baptist churches, partners and schools in Puerto Rico; providing money for food and water on the island; and sending or delivering such supplies as water filters, solar lights, solar chargers, tarps, propane tanks and burners for cooking.

“As a Puerto Rican, I am in solidarity with the deep pain and suffering my island has gone through,” says Dr. Eddie Cruz, ABHMS director of Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement. “The Puerto Rican people—the ay bendito—known for their compassion and warmth, will rise from this adversity and welcome the world to their shore again. As an American Baptist, I am proud that individuals, congregations, regions and other Baptist partners have spoken loudly with their donations. Puerto Rico, you will not be forgotten! Thanks to each of you for helping us address the needs. Please continue to give; our work has just begun.”

As ABHMS moves into Phase II of disaster response, Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds are among those being used to bring up to code two hurricane-ravaged volunteer housing sites: Centro de Retiros Las Cruces de las Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico and Centro de Retiros Genesaret.

Supported by Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico-designated OGHS funds, members of American Baptist Men USA (ABMen USA) from regions across the country are on the island until Feb. 23 to restore the roof at Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Cidra and other sites. Another ABMen USA group will return to the island March 17-25.

“Our church was destroyed by hurricane Maria, but I thank God for his mercy and American Baptist Home Mission Societies for sending the necessary help to us, and for the brothers and sisters committed to repairing our churches,” says Juan Carlos Navarro Centeno, pastor of Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Cidra. “Today we have a place where we can meet again to continue preaching the gospel and worshiping our Lord. Glory to God! Thank you! God bless you!”

In an effort to support Puerto Rico’s economic recovery, tools and other necessary restoration materials are being purchased on the island. In addition, ABHMS seeks to hire individuals on the island to fill several positions that will help to coordinate the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico initiative. The first position to be filled is that of liaison; information about other positions will be forthcoming.

Because the need is so great, ABHMS is not limiting its volunteer-mobilization efforts to specific work weeks on the island. To register to volunteer, complete the “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” online registration packet, indicating your preferred volunteer work week, beginning March 1 or later. Then either email it to Kim Wilkins at kim.wilkins@abhms.org, or print it and send it by postal mail to American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Attention: Kim Wilkins, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851. Or contact ABHMS’ Victoria Goff at 800-222-3872, x2449, or Kim Wilkins at 800-222-3872, x2413.

Volunteers can create their own work groups or contact ABHMS to be placed with a group. Cost of $150 per person per week includes housing, food and supplies. Volunteers are responsible for round-trip transportation to Puerto Rico as well as transportation on the island. In addition, American Baptists can become involved in ABCUSA’s recently announced “Sister Church Initiative” that will offer mainland churches the opportunity to befriend and express solidarity with Puerto Rican American Baptist congregations.

While the first fundraising goal has been met, the need on the island remains great; therefore, ABHMS urges American Baptists to continue to donate to the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico initiative via OGHS. Your gifts of any size will continue to help our American Baptist brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.

Donations may be made via your church; via credit card online at abhms.org > Give Now; or via check designated to “OGHS-Puerto Rico” and mailed to the attention of Kim Wilkins at American Baptist Home Mission Societies, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA, 19482-0851.

One hundred percent of donations go to relief efforts; no dollars are retained for administrative costs. To ensure that your church receives credit for your gift, write the church name on your check or, if giving online, in the “comment” box.

ABHMS has launched a Facebook group as an online gathering place for individuals, churches and organizations working together as a community for Puerto Rico. The group is a central place for information about the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico effort, including volunteer opportunities; discussion about issues impacting Puerto Rico; sharing photos, videos and stories of ongoing work; and calls for prayer and other support for our Puerto Rican family.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

One Great Hour of Sharing is administered by the World Relief Committee of the Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA. The committee facilitates American Baptist emergency relief, disaster rehabilitation, refugee work and development assistance by establishing policy guidelines and overseeing distribution of the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering received by churches.