Hurricane Aid

“I just stepped back and watched God perform through every last one of us.”

By Renée Olson | Photography by Peter Murphy

After hurricanes Irma and Maria shut down Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico (SEPR, or Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico) last fall, Princeton Theological Seminary dispatched a nine-member mission team to help that San Juan campus heal. From January 27 through February 3, the men, with help from SEPR staffers, enabled our sister seminary to begin courses on February 5. These are moments from their mission:

hurricane aid team
The mission team, front row: Luis Orellana, Oscar Soto, Darryl Rawls, and John McAloon. Back row: Franco DiDonato, Peter Allain, Victor Aloyo Jr., and German Martinez. Not pictured: Patrick Schretlen.

On what was lost

Fierce winds shattered the chapel’s plexiglass dome and flung its metal door to the center of campus, where it lay intact. Salt water and debris destroyed classrooms and more than 20 mature palms crashed to the ground. There was no power, no generator—and, for two weeks, no water. It would take until February for power to return. “It was very taxing on the body, mind, and spirit,” says SEPR President Doris Garcia-Rivera.

… and felt

Fatigue, disappointment, sorrow, helplessness. And hope.

the chapel revived
The chapel, revived  
The healing process

Under a relentless sun, the men repaired roofing, classrooms, the domeless chapel.

A seminarian on the loss of both parents

“You don’t understand the significance of your presence here. There was no one else who responded.”

The importance of listening

“The team wanted to do a lot more. They came with the expertise, but they also came with the heart,” says Garcia-Rivera. “They asked, ‘What do you need?’”

gifts to hurricane team
In appreciation: PTS Facilities team members received rich coffee and a plaque on wood salvaged from a damaged building.  
In the words of teammate Darryl Rawls

“Nine men that God put together, you can overcome a tragedy. It all goes to the glory of God. I just stepped back and watched God perform through every last one of us.”

RENÉE OLSON is consulting digital editor for the inaugural issue of GATHER.

Sincere thanks to VICTOR ALOYO JR., MDiv ’89, associate dean for institutional diversity and community engagement, for having led the mission team. His Facebook posts and his mission debriefing—during a Princeton Nor’easter—greatly informed this account.