I have long been intrigued with T. S. Eliot’s poem, Journey of the Magi. Eliot’s description of the Magi’s visit to the Christ child evokes unsettling images of changes that occur along the way, changes that insure that it will be impossible to return to the status quo. Eliot writes, “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here . . . .”
I have just returned from such a journey, traveling with members of Covenant and our Presbytery to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Our purpose was to walk alongside our brothers and sisters who are recovering from Hurricane Maria. Each one of us was deeply affected by our experience. I hope you will have an opportunity to listen to some of our stories.
Our team was diverse, ranging in age from 11 to 75 years. We worked and played together well. Each night we met to unpack the day and share our thoughts. Listening to the voices of youth, young adults, and seniors describing their experiences felt as if we were all standing on Holy Ground. Often during this trip I felt the Spirit move in our midst.
The most difficult aspect of such a journey is deciding what to do with the knowledge that we picked up along the way. Our team began this process before we left the island. We talked about the needs that we saw and shared our ideas. Some people dreamed big, and others looked at smaller ways that we might make a difference in the days to come.
Here are a few of our ideas and our rationale:
- Help with funding a new center for Suicide Intervention and Prevention. The suicide rate has increased exponentially in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
- Support a social worker who is serving those who have been. The paperwork required to receive assistance is impossible for those who are not able to read or navigate the forms and red tape.
- Provide assistance to repair the home of a community leader who cares for the needs of a whole neighborhood. This tireless leader was forced to leave her own home and lives with a family member.
- Support the work of the Presbyterian Camp. The camp director has opened the camp as a place of healing and restoration, giving out supplies to the neighborhood and starting a community garden.
- Partner with a congregation that is reaching out to people who are inaccessible by ordinary means of transportation. This congregation worked with the community to restore water and power after the storm and now is moving into the mountains to help those who are still without basic necessities.
This is our short list! Members of our team are already planning ways to spread the word to colleagues at work and to friends on Facebook. Some are already planning a return trip. It is amazing what changes a few days can bring to our hearts and minds. I think it is safe to say that we have all been changed in ways that we do not yet understand.
We could not have made this trip and shared our resources without the generosity of Covenant and the Presbytery of San Jose. Thank you for your support! We are looking forward to sharing our stories with you.