First Baptist Concord recently sent a team to Puerto Rico, hit by September’s Hurricane Maria. Now Allen Krueger, FBC’s director of service outreach, is there to minister.
He left Monday, Nov. 6, for a month-long stay.
Krueger is one of six disaster relief experts from around the country who have been asked by the North American Mission Board to serve in Puerto Rico. The team will lead recovery efforts for NAMB, overseeing the distribution of supplies — mainly food and water.
Just three days before he left, CNN reported the death toll may be as high as 500 — about 10 times as high as the official death count of 55. According to CNN, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the death toll actually is hundreds higher than official government counts. Many hurricane victims haven’t been included in that number because their cause of death has not been properly recorded, Cruz said.
“One of the biggest needs is safe drinking water and for electricity to come back on,” Krueger said.
He and four other members representing First Baptist Concord — Dr. Jim Kimball, Angelia Blalock, Stella Davis and her daughter, Kristy Davis, and Daniel Clarke, a volunteer from a Concord church plant in New York — spent a week in Puerto Rico in October.
“There are so many businesses that can’t open because they have
no electricity and the rest can’t open because they don’t have safe drinking water,” Kruger said. “The very basics are not there yet and we’re 40-some days out from the hurricane. The devastation is mind-blowing. It’s a lot more than Texas or Florida. As you travel through the streets, there are still power poles that are just shoved off to the side. There are power lines down everywhere or they’re just barely hanging. In places, they drag the roof as you drive down the road. Whenever you drive through San Juan at night, there are just a few lights on in buildings because of generators. Entire buildings will be dark. It’s kind of eerie.”
Some houses are damaged because of wind, rain and mudslides, he added.
“People are staying with relatives or might still be staying in their apartments or condos or houses, even though they’re damaged.”
“It was my first time there,” Blalock said, “but I will be going back sometime next year. I really felt like it’s a place that God is leading me to. Even though we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them, the Puerto Rican people were very friendly, very nice. My ministry was not so much to the Puerto Rican people, but to governmental and disaster relief people serving there – military, Federal Emergency Medical Administration and nurses and doctors from hospitals. I led a Bible study there for women three mornings at 6:30. Yes, we got to work in the warehouse, but my main ministry was to those ladies, who I’m still in contact with.”
Krueger said he was surprised by the mood on the island.
“That’s one thing that surprised me,” he said. “The people were very happy and were like ‘Here we are. We’re in this situation.’ They were very pleasant. I was expecting high stress. We just didn’t get it from the people there.
“We worked in a warehouse and put together about 42 pastor kits,” Krueger added.
The kits were purchased by NAMB and included lights, a gas tank, a chainsaw, extension cords and a water purification system — worth about $1,800. The team helped assemble some of the purification systems. Once the kits were complete, some pastors came to pick them up and some were delivered by the team.
During their week, they slept on cots, showered in temporary conditions and typically ate very basic meals.
In the next few months, Krueger said he expects the rebuilding to start.
“We will be continuing to send teams as long as they’re needed,” Krueger said.