I sit here and try to think back over the last week of what we have done. The first week we helped our church in Cristo Restaurador cook and bring food to the flood victims near Cristo Redentor. I spent a lot of time driving people and supplies back and forth between the two churches.
One day last week, while we were preparing to cook, a few guys from the neighborhood showed up with an full size plastic trash can (it was new, and looked clean) full of milk that had been donated and they asked if we could boil it for them. Then later as we were loading up supplies of clothes and canned food and water to bring out to the affected area the leader of this group that brought milk, Alonzo, asked me if I could help them bring supplies they had collected out to another area. I agreed to do it after we finished our run and before we needed to take the food out to Cristo Redentor. I thought I was just going to help take the donations to a spot and drop it off and come back to help our group. After getting back from taking the donations to Cristo Redentor and dropping off a group of guys to help remove debris, I told Pastor Ricardo I was going to go help Alonzo take his donations. Ricardo suggested I bring one of the youth with me and so Andrés came with me. Andrés is fairly new to our church and just graduated from the adolescent group to the young adult group. So Andrés and I went to find Alonzo. I had no idea what we were getting into. I was quite impressed, they were a whole group of neighbors who had organized themselves to collect donations and cook food for flood victims. They were bringing food and clothes to people in several different flood locations. They kind of put us as a church to shame. I am glad the Lord put it in their hearts to get involved and do what they can to those in need. I just wish we had more fire and did as much or more since we have eternal resources at our disposal. Ok back to the story, so Alonzo was coordinating who would take supplies to which place. I was impressed at how this young guy had the command of many men older than him in the neighborhood. Some were going in one direction and others in another. Then he asked me if I could go to one affected area and bring clothes and canned food and water. So we loaded up and went toward the place, I still cant remember its name. Andrés and I and three other people from Alonzo's group went towards the neighborhood called Milagro. This was one of the places seriously affected. Some parts of the highway were washed out and even truck beds and buses were piled up in one section. We found a group of people affected and passed out food and clothes. This took a lot longer than I realized and was thankful that fellow missionary Dale was able to take the food from Cristo Restaurador out to Cristo Redentor. When Andres and I got back Dale was about to leave with the visiting team that was with him and I waited around to go pick up the group that brought lunch out to the flood victims near Cristo Redentor. This was just one of the days last week.
Several days we brought lunch out to the affected area. We started bringing food Monday or Tuesday and by Thursday we decided not to bring food Friday until Monday. This was because so many other people were showing up with trucks of food and water and handing it out. It actually turned into a problem with some people getting too much food and others not enough. We quickly realized that we needed to organize these efforts and make a list of people who needed help that we would cook for.
Friday, since we were no longer bringing food out to Cristo Redentor, I decided to help the carpenters at Las Ponas. I brought them 3 wheel barrows and shovels from Cristo Restaurador to help them move dirt into the low areas of their shop. Some of the guys from the visiting team helped us shovel and then we helped pull out a big band saw out of the mud to a new higher ground spot. This same day another group went shopping to buy supplies to donate to each of the members of our churches that were affected by the flood. That afternoon I helped deliver these donations.
Saturday we had to meet again with the team to touch base on what we had been doing. We made a plan to first focus on bringing food to the affected people around Cristo Redentor, second give supplies to the members who are flood victims. Third help the clients of our ministries such as Sinergia and Geneva school. Fourth to help people in areas where they are in serious need. After the meeting one of our deacons, Luis, had communicated with Alonzo the leader of the neighborhood group to find out if there were people that were still in dire need. They had a list of people that had not received any help yet. We loaded up in the car to go find them and it turns out they were much farther away than we realized but by the time we got to them there were several trucks of people serving food and so we headed back. I worry that we may have bitten off more than we can chew by asking about other people that have not be helped yet when we are barely able to reach the people in our first three areas of priority. It turned out to be a good relief that others had arrived to the area. I then spent the afternoon preparing for the young adult meeting and the evening sermon for Sunday night on Psalm 107.
So we decided to start back on Monday cooking for an organized group of people and also serve in the church which was a block away from the landing point were many people were setting up tarps just outside of the affected area. So this week we started cooking at Cristo Redentor. Monday we spent most of the morning bringing supplies and cooking materials. While one group was cooking I went with another group to buy plates and cups to eat with so we wouldn't keep wasting disposable plates. The plan also was to organize the people in the affected neighborhood to starting cooking themselves in the church. We will provide the food and the place but they will start cooking and serving together. This is called an Olla Común in Spanish (Common pot).
Today after we meet together as a mission team to touch base on our plans, I went with a group to go buy the basic long-term foods like sacks of rice and potatoes and other supplies while Dale took another group with Pastor Percy to go cook. Tomorrow some of the members of Cristo Redentor will be cooking.
There are some areas that seem like they are beginning to get back to normal. But there are many other areas where there is much need for cleanup. I pray for help that we will best reach out to the people who are affected most and also use the resources we have received to make the best impact on helping the most needs. Now as some parts of life seem to be getting back to normal I am tempted to start back with our apprentices classes but I also wonder how we should be involved in the reconstruction and cleanup for many people. The immediate relief help is clear and obvious what to do, but there begins to be a transition that is a very hard line to discern when helping begins to become a burden and actually a hurt. I pray for wisdom from God to be able to discern and know when it is time to let someone struggle and when it is time to help. This is also a struggle because we had a tight schedule laid out in our classes with the apprentices. If we miss too many weeks, we will not be able to finish by the end of this year.