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Central American migrants start as early as 4 a.m. on their trek northward. Many begin with prayer, asking God to keep them safe and provide them peace and comfort in this frightening journey. Mothers and fathers carry sleeping children on their backs or in strollers, hoping to cover as much distance as they can in a day. If they are lucky, they may catch a ride in a passing truck or receive something to eat from good Samaritans in a local village.
If Luis Ramos Salgado had tried to ride the storm out in his home, he wouldn’t be able to walk down his street on this sunny morning.
“I’d be dead,” he says through a translator, standing in the kitchen of the only home he’s ever known in San Juan’s Caño Martín Peña area.
It’s a pretty port of call.
Mere blocks from where cruise ships pull into San Juan terminal, visitors can find enticing Old San Juan, with its mix of history, shops and restaurants, all open for business, even on a warm but quiet Tuesday night. Veering right, visitors can find conveniences such as bike rentals and a CVS pharmacy, all up and running.
“People go to hotels, Old San Juan and they see the stores open, lights … and they say, ‘Oh, everything is back to normal,’” the Rev. Edwin A. González-Castillo says.
Except it’s not.
For 25 years, Christians have gathered at both sides of the United States and Mexico border at San Diego and Tijuana to re-enact Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus Christ in a service called La Posada Sin Fronteras.
It’s been 15 months, but the mere mention of the devastation causes Lourdes Perez’s chin to tremble. Tears fill her eyes.
The scene was not unfamiliar to Greg Smith, a member of the National Response team for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, as he assessed damage in Taylorville, Ill. early in December.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance uses terms like “unprecedented” and “all-encompassing” when referring to the destructive fires still burning both in Northern and Southern California – especially the Camp Fire that destroyed much of Paradise, Calif., a fire that had claimed at least 79 lives as of Tuesday and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, was elected to the ACT Alliance (ACT) Governing Board recently.
Despite the heat and humidity, as many as 7,000 Central American migrants are still making their way slowly northward from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador into Mexico. The latest reports estimate they are still more than 1,100 miles from the U.S. border.
Two Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) National Response Teams (NRT) returned from deployment recently in southern Georgia and northwest Florida. They were there to assist in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Michael swiftly blew through the Florida panhandle and southern Georgia as a strong Category 4 storm earlier this month. The teams deployed into Flint River Presbytery and the Presbytery of Florida, where they made damage assessments in coordination with presbytery executives, worshipped with church members, assisted with short-term disaster response plans and identified opportunities for volunteers to help clean up the mess left behind.