During our recent Spring Break, a team of 14 Grace Bible College students and staff traveled to Puerto Rico to serve at Camp Caribe and Club Maravilla, an after-school program in the nearby barrio of Pastillo. Camp Caribe continues to recover from Hurricane Maria and has started to open its facilities for rental groups again, but it still completely depends upon generators to provide electricity while waiting for power to be restored. While our group was there, a private company came to repair power lines at camp, so when power is restored by the utility company the camp will be ready to go. Several buildings sustained damage in the storm and continue to need their roofs replaced.
Our group served the camp by painting a few rooms after renovations, including an on-campus apartment and the camp’s office. We also painted the outside of the office and painted and installed metal bars for security over the office windows. One group scraped away old roof sealant from the camp’s dining area then power-washed it to prepare it for a new layer of sealant. Another project included the construction of a carpetball table for the camp’s game area. Some of our students also cleaned up and hauled away remaining junk and debris. A few of our students worked at the home of Matt and April Sykes, who run Club Maravilla on their property, making improvements on their church building and their home.
On a few afternoons, our students joined April Sykes to help run Club Maravilla. This after-school program provides a safe place to play and have fun for kids in the barrio. The need for a program like this is very real; this neighborhood is home to a number of drug dealers and is only a few blocks away from a place where drugs are brought onto the island. When there are no groups visiting, as many as fifty kids have come, sometimes with April as the only staff member.
Our group also had the opportunity to take in a few cultural sites, including a coffee plantation that is recovering after Hurricane Maria. Having only harvested a little bit prior to the hurricane, they lost 100% of their remaining crop after the storm. Another evening, we had the chance to visit a dance center in Ponce where our group got a lesson in salsa dancing.
We also joined Iglesia Biblica de Juana Diaz for Sunday morning worship and some of our students led bilingual worship at youth group on Friday night. They were kind enough to translate their lessons for our students while we were there.
It was a great time of ministry and service for our students and staff!