Our last two days in Puerto Rico have been filled with working on painting, power washing and mudding houses that are in need of repair from Hurricane Maria. There is definitely a profound sense of the bigger picture among the group after spending our day in Bayamon at the Christian Center and in Old San Juan. After our dinner on Friday we had a wonderful full-group debrief about our surprises, experiences, questions, and thoughts that have been brewing through-out the week. We’ve enjoyed so much conversation within our group at evening times and even more so with our drivers, workers, neighbors and leaders that we have been able to interact with. I can tell you, the group is excited to share their stories and experiences when we return the States and see our friends, family and Church.

There is much to say about Puerto Rico when it comes to the level of poverty, the feelings of being “second-class citizens” of the United States, representation in our government, the wonderful character of the church, and the resilient and prideful attitude of so many of the Puerto Ricans that we have developed relationships with. I have a deep feeling that this will not be our last trip to help our brothers and sisters, and much will come out of the following years of disaster relief and development on the Island from churches across the United States and the world.

As I have been reflecting and writing this week two words stay in my mind: “maybe” and “roosters”. Not the words you were expecting, I imagine. On the first day of working at our sites, we heard a repetitive word from Alec, a project leader and driver I spent my week with personally. Each time we would ask typical questions like “Will we be back at this house tomorrow?” his answer was always the same: “Maybe.” After a couple days of hearing this response to virtually every question, it taught me something valuable about Puerto Rican culture and reminded me something about mission-trip-culture. We always talk about flexibility when on trips like this, and that’s the case when you’re helping a community rebuild. You never quite know what the next project is, what tomorrow will bring, and the key is to remain in the moment, letting whatever and whoever is around you set the agenda for that minute.

The second word, “roosters,” is a now running joke between everyone on the trip. From the moment we arrived at Camp Morton, about 12:00 a.m. on Monday, we heard roosters non-stop. It was odd, because we think of roosters as those noise makers to wake us up at the crack of dawn in the morning. But, in Puerto Rico there was a “song of the roosters” every day, all day. That first night was sleepless to some – as we heard the “cock-a-doodle-do” of our new neighbors. They greeted us every morning, and said hello every night. On the job site we heard them around every house. And I think we’re still figuring out what roll they played in our week, beyond laughter. We’ll get back to you.

We look forward to sharing more of our stories with you, because Puerto Rico needs to be heard, seen, and cared for.