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Loving Your Neighbor

Jeremy Rosario Maldonado’s heart ached as he watched news coverage of the devastation from Hurricane Maria. Originally from Puerto Rico, the victims of the storm were his family members, friends, and former neighbors. He knew he had to do something to help.

As soon as he heard the devastating report about Hurricane Maria, Jeremy sprung to action, sending boxes of relief items to people’s homes. He gathered addresses of family and friends, collected medical items and non-perishable food, and then sent off box after box through the US Postal Service. When he ran out of funds, he used his talents as an artist to create an exhibit called “Heart of the Storm” to raise money to send more boxes.

The packages Jeremy sent held more than just cans of food and supplies; they were direct answers to prayer for many of the recipients and tangible reminders of God’s love. For many months there was no power, so people could not keep perishable food in their homes. Gasoline was in short supply and traffic signals were out, so the trip to the grocery store was both slow and expensive. People who made it to the store were only allowed in ten at a time, and once they made it through the two-hour line to get in, many shelves were empty.

IMPACT 05One day Jeremy’s sister journeyed to the grocery store in hopes of finding canned pineapple and peaches as a treat for her children. Alas, after all the expense and time of getting into the store, they were out of these items. She and her children returned home discouraged, but when they got home there was a box from Jeremy on their doorstep. Inside the box? Canned pineapple and peaches! God still cared for them.

After sending care packages for several months, Jeremy knew it was time to do more. He contacted Barb Wooler at Encompass World Partners’ Crisis Response Network, and with her help he gathered a team of people from Grace Church in Powell, Ohio, and Grace Community Church in Seal Beach, California. They made plans, raised funds, gathered supplies, and prepared to help a woman whose house had been destroyed in the storm.

Meanwhile, another woman named Sonia was praying for God to send help to repair her roof. Every day it would rain, and the rain would leak through to her lower level. On the rare days when there was power, she was afraid to turn it on because of the water leaking down. She and her children became more and more desperate as the months wore on. One day Sonia sensed that God was going to answer her many prayers, and the next day 12 people—Jeremy and his team of volunteers—showed up at her door and offered to repair her home. A strange set of circumstances had caused their original plans fall through, but here they were at just the place God had planned for them. A week later, her house was transformed, but more importantly, Sonia was transformed. For the first time since the storm, she smiled. God had heard her prayers and sent help.

IMPACT 03God continued to answer the team’s prayers throughout the week. Though it was now eight months out from the storm, the city had still not sent a crew to clean up the neighborhood. As a result, the police stopped patrolling and drug dealers moved in. The team prayed for this need, and the next morning both the police and the cleanup crew had begun work.

This thought is expressed by the apostle James: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15–17).

Jeremy hopes that the team’s work showed residents that “devastation is not the end, it is just the beginning.” Through their practical help—faith expressing itself in good deeds—an entire neighborhood was touched with the love of Jesus Christ.

To learn more about Encompass’ Crisis Response Network and how you can be involved, visit EncompassCrisisResponse.org.