Arrival Day: Sunday July 21, 2019
Travel days can often be stressful. For my part, I packed from 8-11pm Saturday night, slept until 2:45am, then got up and ambled to the car, excited and sleep-deprived. Neal, my husband, kindly drove me to the airport. My flights from Durham, then Orlando were uneventful. The San Juan airport and my old phone could not coordinate my attempts to communicate with family and friends (especially the rest of the morning arrival delegates) so I was glad I had printed the pictures to help me locate Rebecca and Emily Wilkes at baggage claim. By 1:30 we were met by Aida, and transported by Michelle in a van to a meal at the Metropol restaurant for lunch at 2pm. We were the first members of our delegation to arrive at the Casona de Monteflores, our home away from home.
The Casona has five bedrooms, two living rooms and kitchens, and a top floor area where the breeze is lovely. Bunkbeds allow for 16 to sleep here, making the space ideal for our delegation of 14. We are indebted to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) program for having restored this older house for use with mission groups who arrive… and to Michelle Muñiz of PDA for coordinating our delegation’s schedule.
A few delegates had arrived in Puerto Rico earlier, for an 8-day mission trip with their congregation, a few days of relaxing time with friends, or a family vacation during a sabbatical. For them the newness of Puerto Rico was shared with other people in other parts of the island. As we arrived, we compared this island’s uniqueness to previous experiences away from the contiguous 48 states of the US. For all of us there was a need to make new friends with each other.
Some questions recurred:
Where are you from?
How did you connect with this delegation?
Are you clergy?
Do you have children?
Have you been to Puerto Rico before?
Learning each other’s names and faces took all evening as more people arrived.
A church member brought us supper: beans, rice, grilled chicken, lettuce, and a mixture of cucumbers and avocado with dressing. We prayed over it, ate, and welcomed Jose Gonzalez-Colon afterward. A former Moderator of New York City Presbytery, and Moderator of the Presbytery of San Juan, he is now the Moderator of the Synod of San Juan. He briefed us on various issues facing Puerto Rico, and elaborated on the most recent protests. After the chats between people in power, including the Governor of Puerto Rico, were made public, many people demanded that the Governor resign, and the Oversight Board be abolished. Within a couple of days of the press sharing some details of the chats, 500,000 people came to San Juan to demand the resignation of the Governor. This is a large number, Jose said, given that among the several islands which comprise what we call Puerto Rico, there are only 3.5 million inhabitants.
We closed the day with a brief prayer service, and went to bed. The final delegate arrived, his luggage delayed behind him. Thus ended our arrival day: 14 delegated safely here. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good!
Submitted by Emily Wilkins of Durham, NC, New Hope Presbytery, July 22, 2019.
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