The following is a reflection from Shelby Dannenfeldt, a member of Grace Lutheran Church, Westminster (Maryland), another 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, volunteers will serve and support 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.

I’ve now had the amazing opportunity to go on this trip, not once, but twice for two weeks. The first trip was last September and now again in July and August. I have learned and grown so much but the one thing I continually struggle with is letting others take care of me.

Mission work is my passion. It fills me with more happiness than you can imagine. I love taking care of others and advocating for them. That being said, I’ve never been one to let others take care of me. From a very young age, I have been on my own. I don’t ask for help and if I need it, I’ll figure out a way to do it on my own. It’s a struggle sometimes, but it’s all I’ve ever know.

The first week, on the first day, within the first few hours, I was with a group that was carrying sheet metal and plywood up the side of a mountain. There was a neighbor there helping us maneuver a piece of sheet metal onto the porch. Well, one wrong move later and I’m coming down approximately two feet on my ankle on the concrete floor. It turned out to be fine but in the moment, it hurt. I immediately take off my shoe and sock to see if it’s black and blue (clearly not a nursing major ????‍♀️). Everyone stops, someone goes to get ice, and the neighbor, who doesn’t speak any English, takes it, kneels down and gently takes my sweaty, stinky foot into his hands. He traces a cross with his finger across my ankle and then ever so gently caresses and moves my foot around gently rubbing ice on it.

I find it so moving and beautiful that a stranger I met only a few hours before, who doesn’t speak the same language as me, is so quick to take my bare foot into his hands and care for me with such gentleness and love.

In that moment, I realized that regardless of who you are or what language you speak or even if you don’t know each other, everyone needs help from time to time and it’s okay to open up and let people help you.

We really are Building Puentes (Bridges).
We really are Mejor (Better) Together.