Did you know that the ELCA extends to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands? Indeed, the oldest Lutheran congregation in North America is on the island of St. Thomas. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands make up the ELCA’s Caribbean Synod, one of 65 in our church. On the island of Puerto Rico, there are nearly 30 ELCA congregations, man of which sustained at least some degree of damage from the hurricanes.
Last hurricane season, Puerto Rico was particularly hard hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It is the fifth strongest storm ever to hit the United States (and, yes, Puerto Rico has been part of the United States since 1917.) One meteorologist said: “It was as if a 50- 60 mile wide tornado raged across Puerto Rico like a buzz saw.” You heard about the devastation, and about the continued power outages, food shortages, and medical crises. Now, eight months later, Puerto Rico is still in need of assistance. The news cycle moves on, but the need remains.
There are numerous agencies providing relief in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, including Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry of the ELCA. LDR is working with the local LDR to build capacity, and to institute a multi-year volunteer rebuild/repair program. The needs are great.
The Montana Synod Council has designated the Caribbean Synod as the recipient of this year’s Synod Assembly offering. We have learned that congregations of the Synod have lost windows and sustained roof damage. It is our hope that we will be able to collect enough funds to replace the windows, and to buy some generators, as well.
Pr. David Guadalupe, from LSS-Puerto Rico, will be in Montana visiting St. John’s Lutheran Ministries later in June. (18-22) If you are interested in learning more about his visit, contact David Trost, CEO of St. John’s, or Pastor Peggy Paugh Leuzinger, Director for Evangelical Mission.
Our Synod Assembly theme this year is “Strengthening Congregations,” based on our benchmark. I encourage you and your congregation to give generously to support the congregations of the Caribbean Synod recovering from hurricane devastation.
Jessica Crist, Bishop