Today, we broke our project routine to take a day into Bayamon and Old San Juan. We originally thought that Saturday, our last day on the island, would be our day to adventure. It turns out that March 22 is a National Holiday in Puerto Rico – Emancipation Day – the celebration of the abolishment of slavery of native Puerto Ricans under Spanish Imperial Rule on March 22, 1973. So, because businesses, restaurants, and other places would be closed on Friday today became our day to explore.
We started our morning at the Iglesia Christiana Discipulos de Cristo en Puerto Rico Cristiana Centro (the Christian Center) which is the equivalent to our home office for CC(DOC) in United States and Canada located in Indianapolis, Indiana. There we met Julissa, the coordinator for Children’s Ministry, Church Growth and Graphic Design. She gave us a wonderful tour and history of the ICDCPR and the effect of Hurricane Maria on local churches and neighborhoods.
We watched a couple videos about the devastation of Hurricane Maria on the island, with many pastors and local leaders speaking about the tragedy of disaster and the amazing ways in which neighborhoods came together to help each other at their deepest needs.
What we heard the most through the testimony and words of Julissa is that presence of neighbors from the United States are a great sign of hope, a sign of God’s care through community, and the desire to have their story heard and for hearts and feet to respond. There is great desperation in Puerto Rico and there is an amazing sense of perseverance and looking forward to the future. We were so gracious for the hospitality that the ICDC PR Center showed us today and the ways we can be a part of their story.
The rest of our day was spent walking around the streets of Old San Juan admiring the culture, history, local cuisines, and of course a bit of shopping. We were treated to an amazing local Puerto Rican diner at a local restaurant called Zayas Pizza & Restaurant. One of the local dishes here is called “Mofongo” which is fried plantains, butter, sugar, and more all complied into what looks like a rice patty and tastes “muy Bueno!” You can say we were definitely full in our hearts and souls after spending a dinner out with one of our community workers Alex.