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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Commentary: Lessons from Puerto Rico

    June 10, 2024 / By Noah Stierheim / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    The following commentary was written by Noah Stierheim about his recent Mission of Peace trip. Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Puerto Rico in February 2024.

    The Mission of Peace (MOP) trip to Puerto Rico was a wonderful experience. I recommend that any youth in high school apply for this opportunity. There are numerous ways to get involved, but the way I did was pretty simple. Initially, I was highly interested in attending the trip to China back in 2020; however, I think we all know how that turned out. I decided to wait a little while and then I finally heard that MOP was taking a trip to Puerto Rico.

    There was a lot of anticipation for the trip. When I was in second grade, I went on a trip to Nicaragua, and I thought I had a general idea of what Puerto Rico was going to be like. We had the wonderful opportunity to stay in a church parsonage in what was probably considered a typical neighborhood in San Juan. Surprisingly, it was almost silent, despite being just off a major road, and it seemed very natural. Many people had beautiful gardens and flowers and lots of dogs. However, behind the beauty of the neighborhood, you could tell that hurricanes had come through and decimated the area. There were several homes without roofs or even the occasional pile of rubble. In one area we visited, Ponce, we were walking on a sidewalk looking at all the beautiful murals the community painted. I looked to my right and my left and realized that I was walking in between two ruined houses, the only thing remaining was a quarter of a wall. 

    There was a huge expectation that I was going to witness the ruins of hurricane Maria. Unfortunately, I was right, in fact, it was worse than I imagined. The other expectation I had on this trip was perception. As people from the mainland, I thought we wouldn’t be perceived well. Especially when you see resorts on beaches and tourists really having no regard for the local people. I was wrong. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet joyful, hospitable people that were enthusiastic and excited to see us. 

    I met people my age who aspire to be music artists, chefs, and chemists. Yet they aren’t sitting around waiting for the opportunity. They took action. They all are in/have been accepted into a college and they all are actively doing what they want to do; however, without that type of energy and enthusiasm, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

    Puerto Rico is a special place full of very, very special people. It is amazing to me, that even through the hardships of earthquakes, hurricanes, and a deadly pandemic, these people never seem to run out of energy. I hope that maybe I could harness some of that energy and bring it back with me to my friends and family at home. Because, at least it appears to me, as people that live on the mainland, I feel like we give up too quickly. Maybe, we just need to be a little more like the people of Puerto Rico so that we can have a community that is strong and unified.  

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."