By Brandon Elrod
GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico—On Monday, August 19, Send Relief celebrated the start of construction of a new ministry center in Puerto Rico with a ceremonial groundbreaking. As the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Send Relief expects the new facility will be a major boon to outreach efforts on the island.
“It’s not so much about the building, but it is about our testimony here on the island as to why we’re here,” said Send Relief president David Melber. “We’re here because God commands us and gives us the privilege to be here to be able to meet needs, to see lives change, to be able to share the hope of the gospel and see a movement all across this island.
Once construction of the Ministry Center in Puerto Rico is complete, Send Relief will have the capacity to house more than 100 short-term missionary teams at any given time as well as space for missions leaders as well. There will be a dining hall with a full, commercial kitchen as well as an event space that will seat between 100-120 people. Architect’s rendering.
In the aftermath of the historic impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Send Relief prioritized a response to the crisis and has continued sending volunteers to help homeowners rebuild. The new ministry center will expand the ministry’s ability to serve and equip mission teams who come to the island to meet needs and change lives through the power of serving communities.
“This gives hope to our people,” said Angel Perez, mayor of the municipality of Guaynabo, where the center is located. “In this moment, after two years and still having hundreds of families with blue tarps, with other needs, establishing this organization permanently here in Guaynabo gives hope for our families and through the whole island.”
Government and Send Relief leaders prepare to break ground on the new ministry center. From left to right: Carlos Ferrer, North American Mission Board (NAMB) executive vice president; Hector Albertorio, Faith Based Partnership Liaison for Puerto Rico’s governor; Angel Perez, Guaynabo mayor; David Melber, Send Relief president; Juan Oscar Morales, representative for Puerto Rico’s speaker of the house; and Jonathan Santiago, Send Relief’s Ministry Center director. NAMB photo.
Send Relief has established excellent relationships with local government officials in Puerto Rico through their persistent presence, serving people affected by the massive storm. Volunteers have invested 12,278 days’ worth of service, engaged in 1,510 gospel conversations and seen 107 professions of faith.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, Send Relief helped distribute more than 760,000 meals, provided 1,134 water filtration kit and assisted in the clean-up or repair of 400 properties.
Guaynabo’s Mayor, Angel Perez, and other government officials joined Send Relief for the groundbreaking of a new ministry center in Puerto Rico. Perez said that the new Send Relief ministry center gives hope to families in Puerto Rico, who are still struggling two years after the hurricane, by showing that the help will continue. NAMB photo.
Ricardo Agudelo-Doval, a representative with the US Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), called the ministry center something Puerto Rico needs and has not had for a long time.
“This is not a recovery that’s going to be over in the next few years,” said Agudelo-Doval. “This is something that’s going to take a long time to finish, and having an organization as established, as important, with the background that Send Relief has, is an amazing opportunity for Puerto Rico.”
Once construction is complete, Send Relief will have the capacity to house more than 100 mission volunteers at any given time as well as space for missions leaders as well. There will be a dining hall with a full, commercial kitchen as well as an event space that will seat between 100-120 people
“The facility creates a permanent presence in Puerto Rico,” said Jonathan Santiago, Send Relief’s ministry center director in Puerto Rico. “It’s not just for relief efforts but for community engagement on behalf of Southern Baptists. We will run logistics from a centralized location, which will help facilitate ministry on the island.”
During a groundbreaking ceremony for a new ministry center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico on Monday, Aug. 19, Send Relief president David Melber shared with government officials, local ministry and community leaders that Send Relief and NAMB are dedicated to helping people in need in Puerto Rico long-term. Send Relief has been working in Puerto Rico to help hurricane victims by sending volunteers and supplies. The new ministry center will store supplies and house mission teams and serve as a central operations center for programs ranging from disaster relief to foster care and adoption to church planting. NAMB photo.
Melber said the permanent ministry center communicates a level of commitment to the residents of Puerto Rico.
“The fact that we’re still here, that Southern Baptists are still here, two years later and committing for the long-term speaks volumes to the fact that we’re going to be here,” said Melber. “We want to embed ourselves in Puerto Rico, to know the culture and see these communities transformed.”
NAMB president Kevin Ezell said the work in Puerto Rico revolves around starting new evangelistic churches and strengthening existing churches.
“We intentionally involve local pastors in the work the volunteers are doing” Ezell said. “Meeting the physical needs is an urgent priority right now, but we know the larger, long term need is spiritual, as it is everywhere. NAMB’s work will be all about the gospel as we share Jesus in Puerto Rico.”
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.