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Utuado, Puerto Rico – Charlotte Dillard was part of our MDS work group in mid-June.  She didn’t speak any Spanish but had a relational manner that transcended the language barrier. Her smiles, hugs, and caring nature reached the hearts of all those with whom she interacted.

On the day the painting was scheduled to start on a new church addition we had been working on, I pulled in before breakfast and found Charlotte, brush in hand, painting this quote on the outside wall.  “Loving Creator, please bless all that enter this church with…”  Charlotte’s voice cracked with emotion as she explained to me her intentions and the symbolism of the quote. She asked if we would translate it to Pastor Debora, Rafael, and everyone else who visited the jobsite that day.

Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers are working in Puerto Rico assisting the local churches in home repair, building new homes and churches following Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in September 2017.

Charlotte’s vision was that, throughout the day everyone would paint a word of blessing onto the church wall completing the prayer. At the end of the day the wall and the blessings would then be painted over. She wanted to make sure that in the translation they understood that the “painting over” was not erasing the blessings, but more sealing them in and ensuring their eternal presence in the life of the church.

Many people came by the jobsite that day and the prayer grew. The wall became a beautiful mosaic of Spanish and English blessings.  At one point in the day a young boy named Eric was there playing and stopped to ask Charlotte about the wall.  Eric spoke English and she explained to him what it was and asked him if he wanted to add a blessing.  Eric told Charlotte that he would think about it and come back later.

After lunch Eric came walking back by the jobsite and lingered around sheepishly, obviously unsure about what he should be doing.  Charlotte noticed him and asked him if he wanted to paint something now.  Eric nodded but said that he didn’t know how to spell it and didn’t want to ruin the beautiful painting with his unsure words.

As Charlotte shared this story later she became emotional and described how she explained to Eric that the beauty isn’t in how things are spelled, or in what language it’s in, or how eloquent our words are. What makes the prayer beautiful is its communal composition and the unspoken sincerity and understanding of each one’s blessings.

At the end of the day, as a drizzling rain began to fall over the small jobsite in the rural mountains of Puerto Rico, a group gathered and watched as a 9-inch roller was dipped into the lively blue paint of the Puerto Rican Holy Spirit and eternally sealed the following blessings into the walls of the Iglesia Mennonita Camino de Vida .

“Loving Creator, please bless all that enter this church with… Hope, paz, laughter, fe, patience, amor, opportunity, gozo, creativity, Espiritu Santo, Cristo es la respuesta, fortaleza, shelter from life’s storms, unidad y esperanza, mercy, glorioso, blessings from God,  and viva nueva en Cristo.”


By Jon Shellenberger

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