I watch all news of nature’s disasters with both an amazement of the immense power of our natural world and a sense of dread for the people and places in the direct path of such fury. Tornadoes. Floods. Forest Fires. Hurricanes. The “natural disaster” events out of our control that forever change lives. The destruction and loss and also the resilience and determination of peoples and places.
Partly born from my growing up in the midst of tornado events; partly my own experiences of early-years’ volunteering in disaster areas - through these eyes I watched Hurricane Maria bear down on tiny Puerto Rico. Yes, the hurricane was also hitting many other islands and potentially headed towards our mainland where other hurricanes had already destroyed so much. But tiny Puerto Rico, an island where the ability to move quickly or to leave is so limited for so many, holds particular personal connections for me from over the decades.
It’s the mid-40’s and my parents have recently married and then, as travel allows, first my mother and later my father join other Mennonite volunteers in the central highlands area of Puerto Rico to provide health care services, youth educational and recreational programs and sustainable agricultural projects. Aibonito and La Plata and the lush, tropical areas where natural beauty abounds but health care and development are desperately needed. A small hospital and clinics are established which later grow into a network of hospitals that continue to serve in PR. The call to serve others was strong and they responded.