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Puerto Rico Assemblies of God Superintendent Iván De La Torre quickly saw the necessity of helping Puerto Rican families that resorted to using tarps for shelter and privacy. De La Torre recognized the value of providing tents as alternative housing for those whose residences had been damaged by the natural disaster, as well as those who left their homes out of fear. Many locals opted to live on beaches.
However, when De La Torre sought to purchase tents, he couldn’t find any available in the U.S. territory.
Consequently, De La Torre contacted his 13 fellow Hispanic district superintendents on the U.S. mainland to seek help in securing tents that sleep up to eight people.
“They had already been asking how to help,” De La Torre says. “Because Convoy of Hope was meeting the necessities of food and water, I told them about the need for alternative housing.”
The Puerto Rico Assemblies of God District has received 95 tents, and more are on the way, thanks to the generosity of AG organizations including the Central District, Florida Multicultural District, Southern Latin District, Spanish Eastern District, Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge, and Royal Rangers.
De La Torre gives the tents to local churches in communities that have been impacted.
“It is the best way to make sure they get to the people who have needs,” he says. “Using churches has proven to be the most effective way to identify and meet needs.” It’s the same strategy the district implemented following the aftermath of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.
All the tents, which cost between $200 and $350 apiece, dispatched from the U.S. mainland have been distributed. The need continues, as some residents are wary of returning to their damaged homes, while others would rather stay in the outdoor tent than endure continuing aftershocks that reach 4.0 magnitude or above.
“Some people have cried, and others have just received the tents with a lot of joy,” De La Torre says. He estimates that thousands have accepted God into their lives in refugee camps established since the temblor struck. Members of AG churches continue to go to the affected areas every week to help with counseling.
U.S. Assemblies of God General Treasurer Wilfredo “Choco” De Jesús and Manny Cordero, senior director for Chaplaincy Ministries, both visited Puerto Rico to encourage local pastors. In April, Convoy of Hope representatives will be on the island to provide training on how to respond to emergencies like this one.
Nancy Zayas, a contract liaison for the national BGMC office to the 14 Hispanic districts in the U.S., coordinated with National BGMC Director David Boyd in an effort to send tents and funds that provided De La Torre’s team the capacity to conduct outreaches for children.