MDS Blog

God with skin on

June 11, 2018

March 10, 2018


Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), Puerto Rico, receives many volunteers and visitors wanting to serve after the devastation of Hurricane Maria on the island September 20, 2017. All were welcomed and extended the Puerto Rican Caribbean hospitality from the coast to the hill sides.  

Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Misión del Caribe, Hatillo

One of the wonderful visitors was Dr. Carolyn Heggen, a Mennonite retired therapist who specializes in trauma. For Carolyn her visits to the island felt like coming back home to her childhood time of living in Aibonito and studying in Academia Betania. Her visit was sponsored by Mennonite Health Services and MDS, and was her second trip to the island after the hurricane hit the whole island.

Carolyn gave a total of 4 major presentations and met with many church members feeling traumatized after the effects of the hurricane. She traveled for the first time to the Northwest to: Hatillo, Arecibo and Utuado speaking to church leaders and pastors educating them on “compassion fatigue” and self-care. Using the Bible as her tool and her professional experience she talked with the pastors and utilized her heartfelt therapeutically technical skills to speak to the souls of these leaders. Her presence was welcomed as a ‘balm of Gilead’ for healing.  Carolyn taught in Spanish in a pastoral demeanor, doing ministry of presence toward the fatigued souls of our leaders. She shared her growing up experience in Aibonito as a child when she experienced a hurricane too.

Among the many experiences she shared, referring to her international trips accompanying health care providers responding to populations that have gone through traumatic experience like a tsunami and earthquakes, the most powerful for me was the narrative on “God with skin on”. Carolyn Heggen and Rhoda Keener had used these stories in their teachings on Sister CareInternational around the world. Hearing her over and over again in Puerto Rico shocked me, and I was able to understand that story this time from my own skin, in my own country.

Our churches leaders were able to understand the call at this time of our Puerto Rican history “to be God with skin”. The church is responding to the many needs still present today, to the population experiencing abandonment by the government not providing electricity, mostly in the center of the island. Pastors are advocating for more roof repairs before the next hurricane season starts in the Caribbean (July). Leaders want the cement houses and church buildings to be started ‘now’. To wait becomes an offense. MDS Puerto Rico is giving out church grants to accelerate and empower the Mennonite churches to respond faster to those needs already identified.

MDS Puerto Rico wants to be present with all the needs we know exist. To empower the churches to be present with the many needs of their members and be hope in the midst of despair. MDS PR is part of the churches and we work through the body of Christ-church to be “God with skin on.”

Picture Carolyn used during her teachings