God greatly blessed our 2019 Mission Trip to Puerto Rico. My two brothers, Keith Elbourne and David Elbourne accompanied me on this trip. What a joy it was to spend time with them and accomplish this good work for the glory of Christ. Our main mission was to bring a particular blessing to my good friend Pastor Jose Ponce. He knew we were coming for a visit, but did not know of our secret mission.
I met Jose on my first trip to Puerto Rico and God immediately established a close friendship. His love for the Lord, love for sound doctrine, and love for people is contagious. Jose planted Iglesia Bautista Resurrección in Isabela, Puerto Rico, about 3 years ago and is doing a faithful work for the Lord. He has a beautiful family, who could use our prayers, especially his lovely wife, Omayra, who is fighting cancer.
When we were praying for particular struggles, he mentioned his dilapidated aging car as a source of difficulty. Not having a car makes it hard to make ministry visits. The unreliability of the vehicle also made it difficult to connect with the other church planters in the network, who mostly live on the other side of the island. The car left them stranded on the side of the road while bringing his wife to Chemotherapy treatments. Something had to be done.
Mateo Melendez and I prayed about it and decided we would reach out to some folks who know Pastor Jose, and others and see if we could remedy his vehicle situation. God is good and we raised $5,200 to go toward a better vehicle. I can’t tell you how surprised and grateful Pastor Jose was when we were able to lay the funds on his office desk. He said, “you have no idea how much this changes things.” This is how God answers prayer. Pastor Jose is now sporting around the island in a 2008 Mitsubishi Endeavor. To God be the glory!
On the trip, we also caught up with my good friend Fredy “Wilson” Toledo, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Fundamento. Wilson launched the new church , one week prior to Huricane Maria. He, and his lovely wife Roasa, are doing a great work in Cataño, Puerto Rico. On my first trip to the island, despite our language barrier, we quickly found a strong theological kinship. It was a blessing to spend the day with him again and catch up, face to face, with all that God is doing.
Wilson has a heart to reach out to the community through music classes. He plays piano, bass guitar, and clarinet. Please pray that these connections will advance the cause of Christ in the area.
The church currently meets in a rented storefront. Following the storm, over 600,000, of around 3 million residence, have relocated to the states. As a result of the population strain, many school districts have combined. The church has an eye on a nearby empty school building (pictured above), with a good possibility of leasing it for their growing ministry. Please pray for this new door of opportunity.
On the Lord’s Day, we had the privilege of worshiping with Iglesia Bíblica Metro, pastored by my good friend Andrés Laracuente. On my first trip we spent some time scouting out potential buildings for this new church plant in Carolina, Puerto Rico with him and praying about the possibilities. What a joy it was to worship in their beautiful new facility.
When we arrived, the place was teaming with families and children excited about what the Lord was doing in their midts. I should also add that they win the prize for the best church coffee anywhere. Its hard to find in the states, but Puerto Rico produces very fine coffee. To have it with steamed milk before worship was a treat indeed.
The highlight of the day, of course, was the preaching of Pastor Andrés. One of the dear ladies in the church served as translator for me, my two brothers, and a couple visiting from Ohio. Andrés preached from Psalm 19. Dispite the language difference, it was evident that Pastor Andrés is an excellent communicator and gifted expositor.
If you, or anyone you know, read Spanish, let me recommend Andrés Laracuente’s book, “De Vuelta al Libro” – available at Amazon.
In addition to these ministry contacts, my brothers and I also enjoyed some great food. There is nothing like fresh grouper ceviche.
If you would like to make a mission trip to Puerto Rico, you can contact the North American Mission Board (Send Puerto Rico). They have a housing facility for your team to stay and will set up your projects. If you go, request to work with Jose Ponce, Fredy Toledo, or Andrease Laquenta. You will be blessed.