In the mountains of Puerto Rico, there is a church. Its the only church on the mountain, and it happens to be a Presbyterian Church. Everyone on the mountain knows the church. Most of the people on the mountain attend it. Even if they don’t attend it, they know the pastor and they consider him to be theirs. His father was the pastor of the church before him. He doesn’t have a secretary, or a church administrator. All he has is cell phone, and he is on it all of the time. It is constantly ringing with people needing something, reporting in on something, or giving something.
Not only is he a pastor, but he’s also a first-responder. When the hurricane came, he pulled children and elderly from under collapsed homes. He is constantly assisting and resourcing people. He carries a large voice and a hearty laugh. He also happens to be in a wheel chair due to accident that occurred in his early adulthood. His wheelchair doesn’t stop him from being the biggest presence in the room.
The church is beautiful and pristine. It is well cared for by the people in the community. There is church bell on top of the building, and every Sunday morning it rings and rings, calling people to church. The hurricane took out some lights, a portion of a fence, the church sign and damaged the roof a bit. They are still waiting to hear what the insurance company will give them.
While we were there, it seems like the whole mountain came to visit. Children came, elderly came, kids on bikes road by, all stopping to visit and help. All the while, the pastor laughed and listened.
When he isn’t tending his congregation, he is tending orchids. He had over 400 orchids in his backyard before the hurricane. After the hurricane he had over 240. Every morning he gets up and he goes out and tends to his orchids. Before the hurricane he was preparing to participate in a national competition in the United States. Now, he is starting over.
He doesn’t speak English very well, and I don’t speak Spanish at all, so we really didn’t have lengthy conversations. But there is one story he told me that I understood.
He said that every morning he wakes up before dawn and he goes outside and he tends to his orchids, and while he is there, he prays and he thinks about the loss on the island, the burdens of the people, the challenges that people are facing and it is there, with God and his orchids that he weeps. His tears water the orchids and they flourish. Then, when he is done with tending to the orchids, he moves on and tends to his church and the people on the mountain, and his heart is open and laughter pours out.
I am writing these words in the dark. Spring has arrived at last and the windows can finally be opened. A cool breeze touches my shoulders. Birds are waking up the day and the sky is a periwinkle blue. I think about Eber and his church and his community on the mountain. I wonder if he is already awake too, and if he is outside, tending to each orchid, seeing the beauty in every flower. Praying for every, single one.
Life is beautiful that way.