Building Puentes with Caribbean islands

Group 236

San Pedro church members and friends out delivering supplies in Toa Baja.

Recovery on islands of the Caribbean after havoc wrought in September 2017 by Hurricane Maria is pressing and challenging. “The brightest star on its horizon is the presence and the promise of the Church,” recounts Melissa Marcia,* chair of Building Puentes, a partnership between Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg, Md. and Iglesia Evangélica Luterana San Pedro in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico initiated in 2015.

“The devastation is great. As a synod, let us join Building Puentes and help in relief efforts that not only rebuild concrete structures, but can also rebuild the spirit of our neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens of the Caribbean,” proposes the Rev. Leila Ortiz, Assistant to the Bishop in the ELCA Metro D.C. Synod.

Building Puentes means building bridges. It is a joint ministry that transverses the “chasm that often divides fellow Lutherans on the mainland and on the islands,” describes Pr. Ortiz.

The smiling selfie-taker (photo left) is an integral member of San Pedro church who has coordinated many young-adult-led community service events in the aftermath of the hurricane tells Melissa Marcia of Good Shepherd Lutheran.

The Synod Council took action at its November 18, 2017 meeting to encourage congregational engagement. There are two ways to get involved right now.

  • Consider becoming a Building Puentes Coordinating Team Member. The Team (lay people and rostered ministers both) will coordinate efforts between the ELCA Caribbean Synod, congregations, and the ELCA Metro D.C. Synod, including distribution of funds and coordination of mission trips – “when we can go and not be in the way,” practically notes Pr. Ortiz. Please contact her before Dec. 11 to join the Team at or call 202-417-3678, ext. 3681.
  • Participate in the synod-wide Building Puentes Offering on Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 7th.

During Hurricane Maria, the river La Plata overflowed and flooded every home and church in Toa Baja. Iglesia Evangélica Luterana San Pedro lost hymnals, pew Bibles, musical instruments, their sound system, liturgical vestments and stoles. The congregation is reaching out to children in the area who are now in need of backpacks, school supplies, educational games, recreational games and reading materials. “In this time of struggle, San Pedro’s congregants are committed, perhaps more than ever, to rolling up their sleeves and filling the growing needs of their community,” says Pr. Ortiz.

Funds raised through the Building Puentes Offering will used for provision of needs like these identified in territory of the ELCA Caribbean Synod. Confidently she adds, “This we can do together.”

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* Marcia relayed this perspective from a Building Puentes team member in a Hurricane Recovery Update (10/25/17) sent to the congregation.