MDS Blog

When Hammers Sing

June 11, 2018

January 2018


On January 31, 2018, Glen Weiler’s group of volunteers begun to clean-up the debris left behind by the strong destructive winds of Hurricane Maria, at the Mennonite Church in La Plata. The church building had sustained the winds, but the small Children’s Church, a one room old wooden house, did not. The task that morning was to finish tearing down the remains of what was once the well-known community Children’s Church ministry.

From our first visit to Puerto Rico, two weeks after the Hurricane devastated the infrastructure of electricity and water to this small Caribbean island, MDS was committed to assist in rebuilding. The emerging vision was not only to bring in North American MDS volunteers, but together to join the Puerto Ricans in rebuilding their homes and churches. Four key principles guide the Mission of MDS in Puerto Rico:  1) Work with the churches and pastors; 2) attend to the needs of the surrounding communities of the churches; 3) assist institutions like schools, hospitals and churches, and 4) utilize local labor in combination with MDS working teams.

The fourth principle has the intention to incorporate and empower local workers. It is easy to write on paper, yet a challenge to implement in reality. On Wednesday, January 31, that dream came true. The MDS Regional I coordinator of Aibonito, Eileen Rolon, had communicated to the church’s leadership when the MDS volunteers would be working at the site.  That morning the cooks showed up to prepare a Puerto Rican lunch for the crew and church members showed up to work together with the MDS volunteers. On that day the music of the hammers began to sing, as the hard work of tearing-down began juntos/together. It was a beautiful scene to behold. There were as many Puerto Rican workers as there were North American MDS volunteers, and even local community people helped too.

La Plata Mennonite church members were present in solidarity. We rejoice together because we now hold the hope that on that same spot a new Children’s Church will be lifted in the name of Christ and from the hands of us all. “Puerto Rico se levanta con Dios/ Puerto Rico will be lifted-up with God” is the phase you see on the street and billboards, on TV ads, on the speech of preachers and even politicians. It is the hope of the islanders facing together the devastation that Hurricane Maria left behind. I hope to see and hear many more times the great sound of the music of the MDS hammers around the island of Puerto Rico, assisting not only the church, but all those in need for a safer and stronger home in which to live.