I have been on the island of Puerto Rico for two and half weeks. It is now almost 50 days after hurricane Maria. I am with a team of people distributing water filters from the resulting collaboration of two organizations: Happy Sonship and Impact Nations. During my time here I have witnessed the tears of men and women on several different occasions. Let me tell you about a few of them here.
The first incident of overwhelming expression was at a house our team could not fathom people living there but indeed the owners of this destroyed home were staying just next door. When we first saw this house it was obvious the roof had been removed because the sunlight shown clearly into the rooms that could be seen through the windows. You could also clearly see the clothes still hung in the closet from the street.
The multi-generational family had gathered and was sitting on the roofless front porch together. The matriarch of the family sat centered amongst them and I watched the scene unfold as I was seated in the back of our rented van. It was someone else’s turn this stop to explain in Spanish how the filter worked and leave it as a gift to the family and if they didn’t mind, to pray for them.
My team did what we had done so often and in addition got a tour of the remains of the home. After everything was completed one of our staff felt led to donate some additional funds as a gift to this family. The matriarch was seated again at this time with her family around her and our work was done and our van slowly began to pull away in to the narrow street and as we did, the seated woman lost her composure and broke down into sobs covering her face as her grandchildren all leapt up with arms of comfort around her as she freely cried.
This was my first encounter with tears here.
The second was my own. We were in an area where the water had flooded a valley and entire homes with all their content had been destroyed. No one could be residing here and indeed they weren’t but we found them with family a little further up the road. A young woman painted the insides of a vacant immaculate home leaving us curious. We stopped.
Two families were within, the family purchasing the home who did not have theirs destroyed and their siblings family and their kids who did have their home destroyed but were helping their siblings prepare to move into their new house.
I had a conversation standing directly across from a woman who looks very similar to me in age and composure. She was looking the direction of her old home downhill on the road and she said with a look of remaining disbelief, “I lost everything, my clothes, my bed, my kitchen, my pictures, my car,… everything.” I found a lump in my throat as I beheld her face reliving the reality of her current situation.
We proceeded to give both family’s filters and I was the one who felt led to give a little something extra to both these family’s thanks to the happy sonship’s generosity. I explained to the sister who was painting that she was our first sign of hope we had seen. Someone preparing a home, making things new, moving forward. And to the other who had lost everything, I couldn’t make it through my sentence. That a little money could never replace what she had lost but that my heartfelt for what she was going through. At least that’s what I meant to say. My tears were contagious and we quickly transitioned into praying for the family before making our departure.
That was the second of four.
The last two experiences of tears I will share with you here were both from men. My husband and I were invited to share a bit of our story of how we met and being missionaries to a gathering of young students at a private Christian school on the island. Their entire building had been destroyed and a church had let them take over their entire facility to ensure the education year was not lost.
My husband and I were taking turns back and forth sharing our sides of our story leading up to when we would meet each other in Mexico. As my husband relived the experience of taking the risk of pursuing me and what God had told him during that time and how faithful God had been in this area of his life he could not contain it anymore and to the sighs of every teenage girl in the audience his tears fell as his words were hindered. A second attempt was made to continue. No success. More audience sighs and a united silence as my husband stood before these people basking in the goodness of God and not contain his emotions. We cried with him. And the storytelling continued.
Lastly, we visited a man who had lost nothing during hurricane Maria. He and his wife are in their seventies and have been pastoring faithfully in a little community for over thirty years. In this remote corner of the island in this large busy world, this man plays guitar and sings before the lord. He writes his own songs and they often have to do with Jesus. He was sharing some of these songs for us and playing them on his guitar.
His second song was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane willingly choosing to suffer upon the cross for our sakes when the notes coming off of the guitar strings continued to float into the air but the words could not make it out of his mouth. “Pardon me, pardon me,” his voice cracked out in Spanish while he closed his eyes trying to contain the emotion within. His precious song resumed again and there we were with him, his heart laid bare before us.
There have been many more tears I have witnessed since being here on this island but here I have shared with you just four. May all of us find the courage to live with our hearts laid bare and care enough about those around us to find others where their words get choked up and share with them in the silence that follows.
We are not all so different from one another. Let us live with the awareness to still care. To love others sometimes involves pain, but do not be afraid to open up again rather than shut down to avoid it. We sometimes try to offer people answers and fix their problems but sometimes there aren’t answers or solutions to be offered and our presence is all we have to give; to sit with them in their pain or loss and offer our love.
Before Joel and I left to come to Puerto Rico on this trip I wrote that our hearts would be broken. When our hearts get broken, it simply makes room for them to grow bigger. Do not fear heartbreak. Do not live life numb. Don’t give up hope for tomorrow. God is worthy of our trust in today.
Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that has made our trip to Puerto Rico possible. We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, felt the overwhelming compassion of the Father towards this island, and felt the nearness of Jesus to the people who are suffering here. We continue to look to Him for our direction and leading. Thank you and God Bless.