The following is a reflection from Taylor Binnix, one of the volunteers working in Puerto Rico this week to aid in recovery from Hurricane Maria. Over this week and the next, more than 40 volunteers will work alongside Lutheran Disaster Response as a part of the Building Puentes initiative with the Caribbean Synod, the Metro D.C. Synod, and our Delaware-Maryland Synod. A few of them will be reflecting on their experiences, and we will share them here on our blog. You can find all of the Building Puentes posts here.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. -1 John 4:7

I came to Puerto Rico seeking community with friends and neighbors from the Baltimore area.

For the next six days, these 20+ people are my family. We will live, work, and play together. We will succeed together; we will fail together. We will laugh together; we will cry together. We will annoy each other; we will enjoy each other. It’s the end of day one, and I can already see how each of us is falling into our familial roles. We didn’t know each other until 48 hours ago, but already, I am closer to these folks than to most of the people I encounter on a regular basis. Here are some of the highlights from our travel day, and day one of living, working, and playing together, succeeding, failing, laughing, crying, annoying, and enjoying each other as family:

T is the talented brother who can identify the type of a specific screw simply based on its height and sheen. He is a strategist, a maker, and a workman. He is a loving supporter of others, and an eager doer.

K is the sweet sister who loves making other people laugh. She loves deeply, gives selflessly, and is ready for anything.

P is the silly uncle who is always cracking jokes. He likes sleeping on firm pillows at night and drinking cold mountain dew in the mornings. He is thoughtful towards others, and a strong-willed contributor.

S is the aunt who is always telling great stories. With her own life experience as the best teacher, she knows her strengths and she is able to bring out the best in others.

M is the quiet cousin. She is observant and intelligent, an endless fount of knowledge. Helpful on the job site and attentive in conversation, she is sharp, quick, and kind.

G is the cousin who is compassionate towards all and relates well to everyone she encounters. She jumps in wherever she is needed to offer strength, encouragement, and support.

R is the steadfast father. He leads by example; whether delivering countless wheelbarrow loads or drying the kitchen dishes, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and yet, he is wise beyond his years.

D is the mother who makes sure that everyone’s needs are attended. She offers a listening ear, sage advice, and a willing ride to run errands and keep everyone safe.

1 John 4:7-21 reminds us how to emulate the love that God has for us in our love for our own families. With service as our focus, connection as our priority, and an amalgamation of skillsets, these folks have shown me how to love one another as God loved us. Even in this short time, we have loved each other and continue to love each other without fear, reprehension, or judgment for our differences, and with kindness, openness, and willing hearts to learn and grow in our similarities.

I came to Puerto Rico seeking community, and I found a family.