Prioritizing People Over Projects in Puerto Rico

By Send Relief Staff

With travel restrictions and COVID-19 safety measures in place, many churches have had to indefinitely delay or cancel most mission trips and compassion projects.

But Gospel City Church found a way to still bring hope and help to the people of Puerto Rico.

After discovering they needed a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their departure from Indiana, the men’s ministry team quickly got to work establishing their own makeshift drive-through lab. A congregant in the medical field offered to conduct the testing, and one of the volunteers paid the lab fees for the whole team to ensure they could all travel safely.

Upon arrival, the team was shown to their socially distanced, dorm-style quarters and were asked to wear masks both inside and outside as they worked on construction sites, rebuilding homes decimated in Hurricane Maria and subsequent earthquakes.

Send Relief’s ministry coordinator in Puerto Rico, Itamar Elizalde, was incredibly impressed with the team’s willingness to take whatever measures necessary in order to serve.

“One of the reasons we love working with Gospel City is they’re intentional about focusing on the people they’re serving, not just the projects,” she said. “We saw them gracefully abide by our rules and ‘become all things to all men’ in their adjustments to COVID guidelines in Puerto Rico. I can’t imagine it was easy working on roofs in the hot Caribbean sun while wearing masks, but they did what they had to do in order to respect the homeowners.”

One of the women whose roof was being repaired shared that she was surprised and comforted by the fact that this group of strangers were willing to respect her enough to be consistently uncomfortable in the name of love. Similarly, the accompanying construction crew said that working with the volunteers was a joy because there was such obvious fellowship and comradery among the men that it made them look forward to doing projects with them, and the local pastor partnering with Gospel City is already looking forward to planning their next trip.

“We teach our volunteers that flexibility is key and paramount to missions work,” said missions pastor Tyler Holder. “We had already prepared our team ahead of time in saying that we weren’t going to do anything to risk our relationship with the people we’re serving. We want to be good neighbors and honor the families we’ve committed to help. At the end of the day, it’s not about repairing the roof so much as it’s about caring for the people who will live under it.”

Though this was Gospel City’s third trip helping rebuild homes in Puerto Rico, it was the first trip conducted with our local partners since the pandemic. In remaining communicative and patient, volunteers were able to construct a Sunday school classroom, repair the church’s sound system and build two homes for disaster survivors who had lost everything.

“With 2020 being the year it has, it can be tempting to take a backseat in ministry and just try to get through the year unscathed,” said Holder. “But the gospel still needs to be proclaimed amid COVID-19. The beauty of being a follower of Christ is that we get to be a part of reconciling the anxieties of the world by respectfully and responsibly still helping the vulnerable people around us. There is a way to be good, safe citizens while also seeing the kingdom of God established and the Good News shared.”

If you would like to explore missional opportunities like this, browse Send Relief’s available mission trips at home and abroad here. As one Gospel City volunteer endorsed, “I always feel closer to God after spending a week with Send Relief!”

Published February 11, 2021

Send Relief Staff