Garth McGrail had been on several mission trips while it was the first time for Cody Cox, who had been overseas partially due to his service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We love to help people,” said Marlane Cox, who has been a foster parent for five years. “We had been struggling to find a church, (one) that was mission-based.”
Reflecting on the mission trip, Cox said she was struck by how community-oriented the people of Ponce, Puerto Rico are. She also fondly recalled how a mother of three took it upon herself to guide the mission team through the neighborhood to make sure her neighbors also received assistance — and her children were right there with her.
“I loved painting the houses,” Cox said, referring to one of the activities the mission team did.
In addition to relief work from Hurricane Maria, the church members performed prayer walks, distributed hygiene products and toys to residents and oversaw a vacation Bible school. The group also handed out crosses to about 30 people.
Some of the local men even mixed ministry with pick-up games of basketball. McGrail said he encountered one of his former students from when he taught physical education for one year at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland. The young man’s father lives in Cleveland while his mother and grandparents are in Puerto Rico, so he has been splitting his time between the two.
“We got a chance to pray with the guys,” Pastor Jeff Watson said.
The Foundation Church partnered with Praying Pelican Mission while they were in Ponce. During the seven-day trip (June 16 through 22), they often prayed with and conversed with “squatters,” homeless people who living on the land.
Church members also saw that families had abandoned their houses after Hurricane Maria, considered the worst natural disaster to hit Dominica and Puerto Rico.
Watson said he believes strongly that it’s important for the church to step after such devastation. However, the pastor added often it’s better to do so six to nine months afterward because by then, “it’s out of the news” and the residents who are “still hurting” may have been forgotten, so those relief efforts can mean so much more.
“We (the church) wanted to be one of the first responders,” Watson said. “We started looking right away.”
Despite the severe poverty in Puerto Rico, McGrail said he was amazed and impressed by how hospitable and giving the residents were.
“They didn’t have a lot, but what they had they were willing to share,” he added.