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What started in 2011 as people asking “Wouldn’t it be great if … ” has become a large, multi-generational group of Saint John’s members who have participated in a wide variety of mission work projects. In 2012 a group of twenty went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to help with the earthquake relief there. Since them, Saint John’s “Heseders” have ventured to New Orleans (Louisiana), Estes Park, the Wind River Reservation (Wyoming), Nueva Palestina (Peru) and, through the LCMS’ Mercy Medical Mission Teams, many towns in several countries in east Africa. The whole congregation of Saint John's has been involved in supporting these mission efforts and funding the work of full-time missionaries in Haiti, Peru and Africa.

The Heseders are on the move again, and would like your help either as a member of the mission team or as a valued supporter here in Fort Collins. From June 16 to 23, we will join a group in Puerto Rico working with Group International (an organization that has coordinated our prior international mission work) doing hurricane relief.

September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria, a category four storm, plowed through the island, forcing residents to either flee to the mainland or stay and struggle to survive. Power, water and communication were all but non-existent. Roads disappeared, businesses closed, food and fuel were in short supply, but the people’s hope and faith kept them going. Now, five months later, 30% of the residents are still without power. In some places there is no running water. Many families are surviving on one meal a day as they send their money on generator fuel.

Our team will serve in the central mountain communities of Cayey (ka-YAI), Cidra (SEE-drah) and Caguas (KAH-qwahs). We will spend four days serving residents in these communities through various home repair and cleanup projects, such as repairing or replacing damaged tin roofs, repairing damaged walls, removing damaged and ruined belongings from damaged homes, cleaning homes, scraping and repainting and removing debris. There may also be opportunities to distribute food, water and tarps in more remote areas. Even the few days we spend assisting these communities can make a huge difference in the everyday lives of these families. Beyond the work, we will have the opportunity to meet and worship with the people whom we are serving. In particular, on the Sunday before work begins will attend church and spend time learning about the area. Mid-week we will have a free day to explore the area; we will have a vehicle rented so can visit the coast or tour Old San Juan.

Accommodations are arranged by Group International. It looks like we will be staying in the Las Cruces Retreat Center in Caguas, assuming it is repaired in time. If it is not, Group International has other options, including a baseball stadium!

We have ten spaces reserved for this life-changing experience, and can add more if needed. We would like a commitment by Sunday, March 4, from those who would be interested in joining the team. The cost will be $700 per person for food and lodging plus airfare. A majority, if not all, of the $700 base cost will be covered through Heseder fundraising, leaving just airfare and spending money to the participants. Call Tom at the church office (482-5316) to be added to the list or for more information.

Those of you not able to come to Puerto Rico can still serve an important role in the group's hurricane relief. We will be looking for volunteers to serve at our upcoming fundraisers, including the summer Yard Sale and the November Bazaar. We will also be raising money to use to purchase supplies for hurricane victims. Group International encourages teams to bring cash to use to purchase these supplies in Puerto Rico, that we may support the local economy and because our transportation options in Puerto Rico limit the number of large bags we can pack.

Also, we know that Puerto Rico was not the only part of the United State to sustain hurricane damage in 2017. Hurricane Harvey brought flood waters surging into Houston, and there are still areas there that need restoration. We have started the planning process to send a team to the Houston area this fall. Further information will be available soon! Please also prayerfully consider becoming involved in this Texas team.

Please pray for our teams and for all those still struggling because of the 2017 hurricanes. We thank you for your continued support in sharing God’s hesed, or loving kindness!

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself,” active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?