MDS Blog

Surprise in a box

June 11, 2018

January 26, 2018


On November 16, 2017, 2000 food boxes were ready to be shipped from the U.S. to Puerto Rico for the benefit of 21 Anabaptist Churches across the island.

The boxes arrived on the island in a 40-foot container and were kept in the town of La Plata, Aibonito, located near the center of the island. By then it had been nearly two months since Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 hurricane that devastated the island.

The food boxes were prepared and funded through the combined effort of Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Atlantic Coast Conference of the Mennonite Church USA. Volunteers packed the boxes in early November.

Slowly the food parcels were claimed by each church, 95 boxes for each church. The Northwest churches, La Misióndel Caribe Menonita, had to coordinate pickup in a large truck. Once all the boxes were in their final destinations, in the hands of Puerto Rican families in need, city and rural homes, the people were all blessed alike.

I witnessed members of the Hatillo church coming to their regular Tuesday evening prayer meeting and leaving with the family food parcel. They came with their prayers, concerns and thanksgiving, and unexpectedly returned home with food for their families to eat that week.

As we prayed together that night a person was asked to pray for the churches in the U.S. who sent the boxes. I listened to a heart-felt prayer of thanksgiving, articulated in a vivid Pentecostal spirit-lead style.

They prayed for those who bought the food items, those who packed the boxes and for the safe delivery.  Pastor Hector Lugo told them that these boxes are an indicator that “we are not alone, people care and pray for us here in Puerto Rico.”  

Not alone in their struggle to wait for water and electricity to returned to their homes after the hurricane and not alone in their hopes that the roof of their church will soon be repaired.

This past Christmas we all knew all households would be lacking for green plantains and regular green and yellow bananas. Fruits like papaya, aguacate, limons among many more would not be available as a natural produce of the delightful island’s soil.

The strong winds of Maria (over 155 mph) destroyed most of the agriculture and green life on the island. And during December, as a domino effect the people of Puerto Rico learned to live without our typical Puertorican Christmas food “pasteles”.

Yes, we could find yellow bananas, but shipped from Costa Rica, three times more expensive and green banana for the pasteles, $40 a box.

The food box was a surprise for the people who received them. There were elderly people, all part of the neighborhood of the church, that were blessed by this kindness. Families as well, with children both from the church and outside the church.

Summit Hills Mennonite Church, based in San Juan, on Sunday January 8 after their churches service and after their regular Sunday fasting, together with Pastor Rolando Flores went to distribute the MDS/MCC food boxes.

They decided to visit barrio Vietnam (a marginalize costal neighborhood located a 15-minute drive away) and with the MDS pickup truck stopped in the streets and gave away these food boxes. “Planting seeds of hope” was the main reason behind this friendly distribution in connection with the leaders of the local neighborhood association.

I visited a family in Honduras, Cidra whose house was destroyed by the Hurricane. They still managed to rebuild a hut out of the remaining wood and continued to live without electricity. Despite this they shared a big smile expressing how grateful they felt for the food box.

“The people that packed the boxes were so thoughtful, that they even place a can opener for us,” one of the ladies said out loud. Yes, the can opener was the unexpected surprise in the box.

The food boxes contained cans of tomato sauce and beans, salt, corn oil, Culantro cooking base, rice, seasoning packets, MCC canned turkey and a can opener.