When earthquakes rocked Puerto Rico in January of 2020, Harold Espinosa says he felt a calling to go there and help.

Five minutes after he decided to go, the money came in from a generous supporter to allow the trip to happen, and Espinosa took a small team of people in early 2020 to the Caribbean Island to help rebuild and support people who had lost so much.

Soon after the team returned home, the world changed and the COVID-19 pandemic shut down travel and life as we knew it in many parts of the world. Espinosa, who is Ministry Director at The Bunker in Winkler, Man. and President of Sixteen 13 Ministries, still had a desire to return to Puerto Rico knowing the further devastation of people losing connection with their churches and pastors would have a deep impact.

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"When I arrived, I would say, people were discouraged. People were looking for hope, and a lot of churches have shut down in Puerto Rico. So, where do the people go for that relationship in a safe environment? Where they know that we're going to talk about who God is and what Jesus can do, and his awesome hope and grace that He gives. But once we were done, I think in my heart, and same with the pastor, he said, 'You start a fire,' and that's what just took place."

Following COVID safety protocols of wearing masks and social distancing, the team took time to encourage the missionary, Betsy Hoke, who works with the deaf and hard of hearing, to feed the poor and to love the community by giving toys and chocolate bars to the children through The Bunker in Puerto Rico, called El Fortaleza.

"We brought the 275 candy bars but we bought (the presents) in the store because we wanted to pour into the economy," explained Espinosa. "We went to Bargain City, it was called. In Bargain City, we had like maybe seven carts full of presents, and these weren't your tiny little presents either, they were boxes. They looked at us and we looked at them, and when we told them what we were doing, they were just saying, 'Praise the Lord.' They were excited. You could see them overflowing with excitement, and the experience was like we were walking in the clouds."

People unload a van packed with supplies and toys for kids

They set up a speaker system in the town and invited people to the church, and to bring their children to receive the presents donated by Sixteen 13 Ministries supporters. About 100 people came that day.

"Wow, we had one kid who ran all over the place saying, 'Look, look I got a present!', and we had other kids that when they received them, their eyes grew big and they were just hugging the presents, and we saw smiles and it was just phenomenal seeing the kids and hearing their voices, their laughter. When they brought in the big pig, kids were just excited."

A pig was roasted over an open fire to feed the people who came to the church that day, and the group shared the love of Jesus with them.

Espinosa noted they know they've made a difference that will carry on even after they have left.

"Because Pastor Rosendo said they've been 'dead in water.' They've done videos, they had church service but they didn't know what else to do. So, this was her first time in a long time doing a community wide thing and they realized we need to do more and that sparked something. So, that's what they're doing. So, the best we can, in the needs that are around, were showing the love of Jesus and helping people where they're at, pointing them to what God can do."

Espinosa and the team have left to continue their ministry in Mexico.


Written by Robyn Wiebe