In Fiona’s wake, Send Relief begins serving meals, assisting in recovery
by Brandon Elrod
PUERTO RICO – Following Hurricane Fiona’s landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, Sept. 18, Southern Baptist churches on the island have begun meeting crisis needs and engaging their communities with the Gospel through Send Relief.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, all North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief staff are safe,” said Jonathan Santiago, Send Relief’s ministry center director in Puerto Rico. “We are in the process of responding all across the island.”
The entire island lost power, which has made feeding those in need a top priority. Send Relief has launched six response sites through local churches across the island, some of them Send Network churches that were recently planted.
“My heroes! Our Send Puerto Rico church planters are at work, meeting needs and changing lives with the gospel,” tweeted Felix Cabrera, director for Send Puerto Rico. “Please continue praying for them.”
Send Relief’s immediate response so far is focusing on providing meals and water as long as these needs persist. Each site can produce up to 2,000 meals a day, and local Puerto Rican Southern Baptist volunteers have been driving the response.
Before Fiona made landfall, Send Relief leadership pre-staged equipment and resources to enhance their ability to respond, and on Tuesday morning, Sept. 20, they began delivering food, water and other emergency supplies to the six churches, which are located in the hardest hit areas.
“Puerto Rican Southern Baptists have been eager to serve their neighbors and communities,” said Coy Webb, Send Relief’s crisis response director. “That’s why hundreds of people have trained to respond to crises like Hurricane Fiona in recent years, and now they’re putting themselves into action to meet needs and proclaim the hope of the Gospel as they serve.”
Volunteers also began removing debris from people’s yards and started the recovery process. Local churches are receiving calls from people who need help, which may open up opportunities for volunteers from the mainland in the coming weeks.
Hurricane Fiona is the first major hurricane of the 2022 hurricane season and has reportedly killed five people across the various islands of the Caribbean.
After hitting Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm, Fiona has since migrated further north into the Atlantic where it has become a Category 4 storm. According to the National Hurricane Center, it is slated to make landfall in northeast Canada by this weekend.
Fiona made landfall nearly five years to the day after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Send Relief was still actively organizing trips to help homeowners rebuild from the historic 2017 storm when Fiona hit.
“Southern Baptists, we want to thank you for your prayers. Thank you for reaching out and thank you for all you’ve done to make this response possible,” Santiago said. “Thank you for your giving that allows us to bring the gospel through serving people.”
To learn more and donate to Send Relief’s hurricane response fund, visit Send Relief’s Hurricane Fiona response page. Send Relief’s opportunities for teams to serve on mission trips remain available as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.