American Baptist Home Mission Societies pledges to rebuild, restore, renew Puerto Rico

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/22/17)— In response to the devastating one-two punch leveled at Puerto Rico first by Hurricane Irma and most recently by Hurricane Maria, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS), in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA), will launch a multi-year initiative, “Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico,” Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray announced today.

“Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico” seeks to raise $1 million within the next three to six months through One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) to support rebuilding the homes, churches and lives of our brothers and sister in Christ. ABHMS has pledged $25,000 to launch this major renewal effort, matching OGHS funds already earmarked for Puerto Rico recovery.

“Within the next three to five years,” Haggray said, “we will work with our American Baptist partners to restore all 114 churches and nine missions in the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico as well as Corporacion Milagros del Amor and Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico.”

Adds ABCUSA General Secretary the Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer: “I wholeheartedly endorse this denomination-wide effort to come alongside one of our regions. I hope every American Baptist will give generously to rebuild the Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico. In the midst of all the calamities that have hit Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico City, God demonstrates his loving presence through the prayers and deeds of God’s people. We stand in solidarity with those struggling to rebuild their lives.”

News reports cited “catastrophic flooding” on the island yesterday, a day after Hurricane Maria made landfall there as a Category 4 storm with winds up to 155 mph. The storm, which left the entire island without electricity, has been described as the “worst storm to hit the island in a century.” Its fury left behind a trail of destruction across Puerto Rico.

In this first phase of the long-term ABHMS initiative, a task force of staff and American Baptist partners is being convened by Victoria Goff, associate director, Mission Advancement and Passionary Movement, to develop a comprehensive plan for sustained support of the region. The Rev. Salvador Orellana, director of Latino Ministries, will provide logistical and relational support to the initiative.

“We are dedicating staff to work on this,” said Haggray. “We are coordinating a national response, and we will work closely with our partners in Puerto Rico in this ministry of intervention.”

The relationship between the Puerto Rico region and ABHMS has longstanding and deep roots: The American Baptist Home Mission Society, a forerunner of today’s ABHMS, established the first Baptist church in Rio Piedras in 1899 and sponsored home missionaries from the mainland who ministered across the island.

While an initial ABHMS disaster response visit is planned for next week, full damage assessments will not be complete for several weeks.

In the meantime, please pray for healing for the people of Puerto Rico, and sign up for updates as they develop about recovery plans, ways you can help and volunteer mission opportunities. Litanies, written by ABHMS staff, are available free of charge.

Please give generously to the Rebuilding, Restoring, Renewing Puerto Rico multi-year initiative. Your contribution, no matter the size, will make a big difference for our Puerto Rican American Baptist family. Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that close to half of the population in Puerto Rico was living in poverty.

Donations may be made via your church; via credit card online at > GIVE NOW; or via a 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.

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.