Editor’s note:Missioner Stephanie Ashley Caban shares her perspective as a Puerto Rican concerned about the island after the devastation from Hurricane Maria.
“Hey mom, I’m at a baseball game right now with the Casa, can I call you ba-”
“Hola mami, soy yo, tu abuela! Te amo mucho!”
“Abuela!!! Como está usted?! Te extraño!”
A weekend or two ago, one of our FMS board members got the whole Casa free tickets to a baseball game! It was the Nationals vs. the Dodgers and while I don’t follow sports, I’m a professional bystander and love being involved in the energy of the game. Before it started, I saw that I was getting a call from my mother. I picked up the phone to hear not her voice, but my grandmother’s, and it was honestly the best surprise I could have ever received. You see, my grandmother, my abuela, lives in Puerto Rico, which received a heavy blow from Hurricane Maria . I’m very happy to know she’s alive and safe. Unfortunately, this is just for now.
The struggle of being a Boricua (Puerto Rican) living away from family has been difficult. My mother was able to go to the island where she was born and raised around two weeks ago. We did not have contact with most of my family after the strm and my mother was worried, so she immediately bought a plane ticket to see her mother, my abuela, for herself. She has no electricity, she has no water, but she was safe. That’s all that mattered.
I live in DC for another two months and I am sincerely struggling living here, knowing that I can’t physically do anything at all to help.
Being a Latina in a community where there are none has been wonderfully challenging. I’ve been able to have open conversations about privilege and racism, what it means to identify with my culture, and talk about growing up in my household and my pride in being a Latina. The presenters here have been so kind and open, knowing that my experience being who I am can be quite different from my community mates. But as a lay missioner, I am called to another several weeks of training, which means that my conversations back home are like this:
“Hey mom, how are you?”
“I’m worried, but I’m okay.”
Have you ever felt helpless? Have you ever felt like prayers weren’t good enough? Do you know what it feels like to not being able to help your people?
My brother was aiming to head to PR as well, accompanied with his tools, to help with the relief efforts. He recently found out that almost all outbound flights have been cancelled, leaving the remaining flights much more expensive than we can afford.
And so, we wait.
We wait to hear communication from our relatives. We wait to see when the airplane prices go down. We share information and resources on Facebook. We pray for the safety of all Puerto Ricans every night. We wait to see when our current administration will provide better relief efforts to help these American citizens who are already in a terrible debt crisis.
We pray. We inform. We wait. We repeat.
In living out the Franciscan charisms, I’ve learned how important ministry of presence is and even though my physical being can’t be back home in New York to support my family, or even on a beautiful island to support my family there, I can voice my anger. I can share the most accurate news sources about Puerto Rico’s current state. I can practice my Spanish with a renewed vigor. I can share with others that Puerto Ricans are born from strength.
Reflection question: What can you do to reach out to families affected by one of the recent hurricanes?
Mercy Corps, a Catholic global humanitarian aid agency, has deployed an emergency response team to Puerto Rico targeting access to cash, clean water and other supplies for hurricane victims.