Chattanooga church members in Puerto Rico help with hurricane recovery
Parts of Puerto Rico remain devastated more than a year after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
Nearly 3,000 people died from the storm that caused about $90 billion in damages to the U.S. territory.
First Baptist Church Chattanooga takes regular mission trips to Puerto Rico. They're partners with Iglesia Bautista de Metropolis.
When church members saw the devastation Hurricane Maria left, they knew they had to help.
A home in a suburb called Carolina outside of San Juan is a reminder of how powerful Hurricane Maria was more than a year ago.
The storm ripped the roof off and it's never been fully repaired until now.
"They look at us with tears in their eyes and just say 'the fact that you are here is overwhelming and is a gift enough,’” Pastor Thomas Quisenberry from First Baptist Church Chattanooga said.
Pastor Quisenberry is one of a handful from the Scenic City helping. He's working with others from across the state of Tennessee to bring Puerto Rico back to what it used to look like.
"I do still see traffic lights that are out and there's still some debris by sides of the roads or in large piles, but I'd say for the most part, it's a little more together than I envisioned it being,” Pastor Quisenberry said.
Pastor Quisenberry contacted the pastor of a sister church in Puerto Rico, Iglesia Bautista de Metropolis, soon after Hurricane Maria hit.
This week was about painting the inside of those damaged churches. The group of more than 30 people touched up the walls, offices, sanctuaries, and ceilings.
Almost 14 months have gone by and the work is far from over.
"What it tells me is there's no quick easy fix to these things and often because there's more that comes along, our minds take us to a new disaster, a new location, a new thought, and what it reminds me is that I need to remember these people. I need to remember that their struggle is daily,” Pastor Quisenberry said.
Church members tried to help a farmer on Wednesday, but couldn't accomplish much because of the rain. That was still enough to give him some hope.
"The graciousness, the warmth, the love of these people is absolutely amazing and I'm glad to have been a part of it and hope in some small way our group has been able to help,” Pastor Quisenberry said.
Church members are wrapping up their last day in Puerto Rico. They'll be returning to Chattanooga on Friday.