Puerto Rico: Day 3

Today, we began the morning with some eggs and a service! During the homily, Father Jon spoke about his experience exploring new religions and his decision to return back to Christianity. To explain this, he used Matthew 25:31-41 to argue the depth of this main claim of our faith: there is infinite value in every human being.

With that message carried in our minds, the group split into two different missions; one helping fix up an old woman’s house and the other cleaning out an old community center.

I was sent into the first group where we were instructed by Danny, the liaison for the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico in the South and West regions to help scrape and repaint some of the fences and walls in Carmen’s front yard.

It was transformative to see our work having a real impact on Carmen. I was working on painting a primer on the front wall of her house where the old, yellow paint clearly had been chipped and faded. She shared with us that her house hadn’t been painted in 25+ years and she could never find anyone to help her. She told me that she imagined a new color for her house — “peachy orange”. Tomorrow, we will continue to finish the work outside her house and move onto projects in the interior.

As we concluded our compline service for the night, with Denis’s lead we all were instructed to share a favorite song and explain its importance, carrying on a long campfire tradition for Holy Comforter youth. It was a vulnerable, yet powerful moment for the group. I remembered this ritual from the 2019 beach trip and I will surely carry the memories from this trip.

-Mark Strand