The following is a reflection from Sani Rulis de Barr, one of the volunteers working in Puerto Rico this week to aid in recovery from Hurricane Maria. From last week through the end of this week, 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.What does devotion mean to me … interesting question because this mission trip is right in the middle of the Jewish High Holy days – the ten days beginning with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and ending with the Day of Atonement ( Yom Kippur) – and I am celebrating in the form of community service on my favorite island, Puerto Rico, with an amazing group of mostly Lutherans.

But why? Why here?

My mom died on August 2, 2017 and my dad this year on February 20. My parents wishes were to donate their bodies to science, no ashes to be returned, no funeral, nada! I struggled with this wish, as traditionally we bury and have a funeral or a memorial service.

So how do I find closure? Interesting question. I have struggled with this because there were too many times I got angry at my folks for their wishes, thinking, “How selfish!” But then again, it is their choice, the living will have their memories.

A little over a week ago on the Facebook group for the Highlandtown neighborhood, Pastor Mark posted about a mission trip to Puerto Rico for the synod, help was needed help from the devastation last year by Hurricane Maria. I had just early retired (9/6/18) and this post pulled at my heart. I immediately said I wanted to help and how? I called my husband who said, “Go,” and to please come back in one piece.

After Hurricane Katrina, I went down to New Orleans and Saint Bernard Parrish to help rebuild houses, listen to people’s stories and witness the destruction.

So I end this with one of my favorite Jewish prayers, Oseh Shalom:

Oseh shalom bimromav
Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
V’al kol Yisrael
V’imru Amen.
(from the Hebrew liturgy)

He who makes peace in high places
He will make peace for us
And for all Israel
And let us say, Amen.