Seminaries working together

April 10, 2018 by Lee Hinson-Hasty

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12         

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.

Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, I’ve kept in touch with colleagues and friends at Seminario Evangélio de Puerto Rico. Classes were canceled for about a month of the fall semester, with classes meeting at a nearby university. The seminary is still reeling, repairing and the local community is dealing with a lack of water and electricity and attempting to care for family members who are elderly or ill already before the hurricane hit.

My own spirits were lifted when I saw that nine members of the Princeton Theological Seminary community traveled to Puerto Rico in late January to help restore and repair the campus. A team of carpenters, electricians, and other helpers volunteered for the week, with the target being getting the campus ready for its first classes.

Victor Aloyo, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Community Engagement at Princeton, served as one of the leaders on the trip and spoke of the team’s motivation to serve. “We have been challenged by the gospel to suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice,” he said.

He provided a summary of the genesis of the trip and future plans.

“Princeton Theological Seminary took action in responding to the catastrophic events that wreaked havoc on the island of Puerto Rico. Following an assessment trip to Puerto Rico by several PTS administrators, President Barnes consented the use of the proceeds of the annual book drive to be used to support a team of skilled PTS workers led by Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo and German Martinez, to help renovate and restore some of the buildings at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico from January 27-February 3, 2018.  The goal was to prepare the Seminary for the first day of classes that began on Monday, February 5, 2018, and together with the resilient staff and students of the Evangelical Seminary, we achieved said goals. Our next projected trip will be in mid-October 2018 after the Annual Book Sale that will be held from October 9 – 13, 2018 at Princeton Seminary. If anyone wishes to support the relief efforts, you may do so by donating online to the Annual Fund. (Click on “Other” in the fund field and enter “SERVICE” in the Other Fund Name field so that your entire gift goes toward this project.)”

The efforts of the volunteers from Princeton, along with those from local workers, helped prepare classrooms and facilities for the start of spring term.

The group together in Puerto Rico

I talked to Rev. Dr. Doris J. García Rivera, president of the seminary recently, and she gave me an update of the status of the seminary. She first expressed deep gratitude for the workers from Princeton. Not only did they send volunteers, they were skilled in just the right ways. Princeton sent skilled workers from their maintenance staff including their chief plus those with experience as roofers, electricians, landscaping, and more. “They were not only skilled, but extremely hardworking and caring,” Doris told me. The work crew arrived on a Saturday, and although they were not scheduled to start until Monday, they started on Sunday and worked up until the last possible moment before their scheduled flight home.

Doris went on to say how they were accommodating and willing to accompany her, her staff and team. She told me, “They identified with us on a personal level and entered into relationship.”

Doris sent them home with a memento plaque to take home made from a slice of one of the trees that fell on the seminary property that included appreciation and the logo of the seminario.

What an amazing relationship – and what a gift for the seminario!

Doris tells us that electricity was finally restored just a few weeks ago, which is indeed a blessing, but blackouts and brownouts continue, due to the economic struggles as well as a lack of access to fuel. Overall, Doris indicated things are moving but moving slowly. She gave thanks for being able to “stand today and move forward one step at a time.”

In 2019, the seminario will celebrate its centennial. Our hope and prayer is that the campus and all those it serves will be restored to full capacity, able to serve Christ in ministry fully again.

I am so grateful, personally, for this cooperative effort, and so very excited to hear that more teams will be going in the future to continue this effort. We do have a fund here at the Presbyterian Foundation that is accepting gifts for the seminario. If you’d like to contribute, you can do so here.

Thanks be to God!