The Principe de Paz Lutheran Church in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Christina Walther)

Through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Short-Term Mission program, a volunteer team from St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Esko, Minn., served in Puerto Rico in November 2019.

A volunteer recounts one day with the team in Puerto Rico.

By Drew Prachar

6:30 a.m. — Breakfast

As the morning sun rises into Puerto Rico’s vast blue sky, a multitude of roosters begin to crow, signaling to us that the time has come to wake up.

One by one, the team heads to the kitchen to grab something to eat. We sit outside on the porch, conversing among ourselves about what the day will bring.

Our team will be departing to Ponce to teach English very soon, but a small group of people will stay back to put a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the church.

Our group travels to Ponce. (Photo by Christina Walther)

8 a.m. — The drive

To beat the morning traffic, we leave by 8 a.m. to arrive in Ponce before class begins. The hour-long journey between Mayagüez and Ponce takes us through many different regions of Puerto Rico.

With every new day, there is always something new and unfamiliar to see. Our team of 10 people travels together in two separate vehicles up and over Puerto Rico’s mountainous terrain.

As the city of Ponce draws nearer, our thoughts begin to focus on the work we are about to do.

The Rev. James Neuendorf, LCMS missionary to Puerto Rico, talks with guests of an English camp and members of the short-term mission team from St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Esko, Minn., at Fuente de Vida (Fountain of Life Lutheran Church) in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

10 a.m – English class starts

Pastor James Neuendorf starts class out by welcoming everyone and thanking everyone for attending. He then leads us in an opening prayer and a short devotion.

After he finishes, Pastor James cues my fellow band members and me to lead the group in song. Together, we proudly sing “This is the Day.”

Following the singing, we split off into an advanced and a beginner’s class. We teach a variety of topics including the alphabet, numbers, and family. The students’ faces gleam with delight as they learn to count and spell their names in a new language.

Of all the topics, the most important one we teach is about God and the love he has for all of us. Although there is a language barrier between us and our students, we are still able to convey the ever so important message of God’s love, and that’s what matters.

Every person has their own, unique reason to learn English. Some want to be able to communicate with family who live on the mainland. Others want to help their children with their schoolwork.

No matter what their reason is, our team helps them grow in their speaking and reading abilities. All of the students show a tremendous amount of effort when it comes to learning English.

A traditional Puerto Rican lunch: rice, beans, chicken, and a salad. (Photo by Drew Prachar)

12:30 p.m. — Lunch

After all the students have left for the day, it is time for lunch. A few of us walk over to a local restaurant that is only a few blocks away. They serve us the Plato del Día (Dish of the Day). A Puerto Rican lunch typically consists of arroz (rice), habichuelas (beans), and pollo (chicken).

We carry the food back for the rest of the group. Upon our arrival, the team is ready to eat. We sit together as a group inside the church. As we eat, we share our experiences from the class we previously taught.

Once the team has finished eating, it is back to the vehicles to start our journey home to Mayagüez.

Drew Prachar, a short-term mission team member from St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Esko, Minn., works with a young guitar student during a music program at Iglesia Luterana Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace Lutheran Church) in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford)

5:30 p.m. — Music class

While the rest of the group teaches English in Mayagüez, a few of us are chosen to teach music class to students eager to learn more about music.

Many of the students have only just begun learning their instrument. We start class by reviewing the basics.

Although we are complete strangers to them, the students quickly want to become our friends; and they do!

We play our instruments along with them, making up silly songs as we go. In the little time we spend with them, we can make an incredible impact on their lives. We encourage them to keep up the hard work and stay committed to playing their instrument.

The team eats a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas meal cooked by Principe de Paz’s Evangelist, William Torres, and his wife. (Photo by Christina Walther)

6:45 p.m. — Dinner

After all the day’s projects have come to an end, it is time to sit back and enjoy a home-cooked meal. The host missionaries take turns hosting our team and provide us with a dinner that they have cooked themselves.

During this time, we learn more about the Puerto Rican culture as we indulge ourselves into mouthwatering Puerto Rican cuisine.

The group gathers for a team meeting in Ponce. (Photo by Deaconess Christel Neuendorf)

8 p.m. — Team meeting and devotions

When dinner is over, our team gathers for the team meeting and devotion. As a team we dive into God’s Word seeking for truth and inspiration while serving the Lord during our mission in Puerto Rico.

After devotion, we sit and reflect on the day sharing our high points and any difficulties we may have endured. This is a time full of joy and laughter as everyone gets to know each other better.

Later, we all head off to bed to get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow is another full day of work.

Drew Prachar is a proud member of St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Minnesota. He plays both the piano and guitar in the church’s praise bands. Drew is very active in the youth programs at his church. Drew has served on mission teams both locally and in Texas and Puerto Rico. Whenever Drew isn’t doing something at church, he loves spending time with his friends and family or being outdoors. Drew plans to go on many more mission trips around the world.