September 29, 2017
By Jeff Huett
DECATUR, Ga. — Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Disaster Response personnel are actively assessing how churches and Cooperative Baptists can best help the residents and churches in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The powerful hurricane hit the U.S. territory nearly a week ago, causing devastating flooding and destroying the island’s utility infrastructure.
Iglesia Bautista de Metrópolis, which CBF Missions Council member Jesús García leads as pastor, will serve as the Fellowship’s base of operations on the island, while First Baptist Church of Newport News, Va., will lend coordinating support stateside. CBF also will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), as well as other local and national partners, including friends in the North American Baptist Fellowship, in any response.
Gifts to assist in CBF’s hurricane response can be made here.
Garcia said that he and his congregation have felt the cooperative spirit of CBF for years and appreciate the partnership with CBF in the midst of this storm.
“Being part of CBF has been a blessing,” Garcia said. “Our church has experienced what cooperating really stands for. Every year we have had different CBF missions groups that have come to Puerto Rico to partner and work alongside with us.
“Right now in the midst of Hurricane María we have felt the love of our CBF family. Puerto Rico is much stronger than a hurricane, and having CBF family walking with us will make this difficult journey much easier.”
Randy Shepley, who like Garcia is a member of the CBF Missions Council and is pastor of First Baptist Newport News, said a trip to Puerto Rico five years ago was life-changing for him and has led to a powerful partnership between his congregation and Iglesia Bautista de Metrópolis.
“The people of Iglesias Bautista Metropolis understand authentic community in a way I have never seen,” Shepley said. “They worship, serve, love and build beloved community not only in their own congregation but among many congregations in Puerto Rico.
“Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the devastation that has overwhelmed Puerto Rico, it is my prayer that the friendship of our two churches can serve as a catalyst for CBF individuals, churches and groups partner to bear witness to Jesus Christ by seeking transformational community development and renewal in Puerto Rico during these hard days.”
In keeping with CBF’s focus on long-term impact, CBF Disaster Response participates in networks seeking to help communities after a devastating event, but employs most of its resources on the long-term recovery, rehabilitation and resiliency of a community after first-responders have finished their work.
While short-term volunteer opportunities in Puerto Rico will not be available for some time because of issues such as the island’s devastated power grid, opportunities in the coming weeks will be found here.
In partnering with CBF in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Shepley said, “you will serve the broken, embrace new friends, and experience God’s mission first-hand.
“Through partnering with CBF, we will see new hope born for the people of Iglesia Bautista Metropolis, and through their beloved community, we will experience God making Puerto Rico and all of us new as well,” Shepley said.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Xiomara Reboyras Ortiz, Cooperative Baptist and native Puerto Rican, has written a litany for Puerto Rico. Congregations and individuals are encouraged to hold Puerto Rico in prayer as recovery and rehabilitation begin.
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry
efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.