MDS’ First House in Puerto Rico
October 5, 2018
Green is the color of hope
This week Puerto Rican media is focusing on remembering the devastation Hurricane Maria left behind a year ago on Sept 20, 2017. Meanwhile, Nilda Cedeño and her family are celebrating the completion of their new home together with MDS. Green was the color they selected for their new house because, as we sing in Puerto Rico, “Green is the color of hope”. Some new houses are being built in cement and others in wood all over the island. These are symbols of hope.
Nilda Cedeño waited patiently for almost 11 months to enjoy her new house in Ponce, PR built by MDS volunteers and local Puerto Rican church volunteers. In May 2018, MDS started preparing the land where her destroyed house once laid, and the new home was finished at the end of August 2018 when she received the house keys. Her two adult daughters, Nichole and Norleene, helped her move the few furniture items they still had into her house. In the last two weeks they have experienced much grace from extended family members who gave them a used sofa set and a dining set.
In June 2018 when I came to visit the work site and saw the cement blocks up, Nilda and I celebrated. She proudly gave me a house tour, holding my hand and showing me each room. She commented “Now I have a house.” Seeing the walls that shaped this simple house brought happiness to Nilda.
On Thursday September 14, 2018 I traveled to Ponce to meet Nilda and Norleene in their new home. I wanted to gift her with a MDS housewarming “quilt wall hanging”. Typical of Puerto Rican hospitality I was offered “café con leche” [coffee & milk]. Nilda, Norleene and I had a thanksgiving prayer. I celebrated the big smile Nilda has now; having overcome the depression she once suffered because of her loss.
Nilda had faithfully committed to prepare lunch with her sister Carmen (where she was temporarily living) for our MDS volunteers. MDS had John Murch as the Project Director just for this house project. Thanks to the support of his home church, Community Mennonite in Harrisonburg VA, Jon and his precious family lived in Ponce PR for 5 months just to help lead this project. An average of 5 volunteers arrived to Ponce every week from mid-May to August to help built this home for Nilda’s family. In addition, members of the Ponce Mennonite Church showed up to volunteer almost every day, making approximately 10 people at the site at once, including happy help from the Murch kids. It really was a team job that made Nilda’s new home materialize. Overcoming obstacles such as a lack of building materials, delayed deliveries, etc., were part of the learning journey for many.
The MDS Ponce work site was made possible because of the motivation that Pastor Flores demonstrated to church members and the community alike. His sons, MDS Coordinator, Pastor Rolando Flores Rentas and Demetrio Flores Rentas, along with Chiro’s connections throughout the city of Ponce were all part of the driving force behind the MDS build in Ponce. Yes it takes a community to work together.
Gracias Senor/Lord y Gracias MDS was Nilda’s message to all.