When Tax Assistant, Joanne Spencer, is not working or studying for her Master’s in Divinity at Drew University, she finds time to volunteer. She recently had an opportunity to take a long weekend to help with Hurrican relief in Puerto Rico.
Joanne sought out this opportunity after taking a course in Educational Ministry for her Master’s, in which she chose to focus on Puerto Rican history and culture. With the knowledge from that class and the recent events of Hurricane Maria, she felt it was the perfect chance for her to give back. Joanne and her daughter joined with a group from the American Baptist Home Mission Society to volunteer at a church called Primera Iglesia Bautista de Puerta de Tierra in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
When they arrived, they could not believe the immense damage that had been done by the storm. The church windows were still blown out and the third floor was uninhabitable. The damage done to the third floor was especially heart breaking because it was previously used to house women coming out of abusive relationships. After the hurricane, the women had to be relocated to another facility.
Despite all of the pain and devastation that the people have endured, Joanne said that the church members were friendly and welcoming. The women of the church showed much hospitality and appreciation toward everyone who came to help, providing home cooked meals and fellowhsip while the volunteers worked.
Although Joanne was there for a short period of time, she was able to help complete much needed tasks such as painting and cleaning the church. Not only did the work positively impact the Puerto Rican residents it also had a positive impact on her as well. She described the experience as rewarding and transformative. A mission trip may not be considered a conventional vacation, but Joanne believes that any time off from everyday life should offer a recharging and rejuvenating experience. This trip did just that for her. She gained new perspective and insight from a new culture, and brought back a little bit of Puerto Rico with her.
Joanne started getting involved in her church and volunteering in her early 20s. Since then she has cultivated an impressive resume of volunteer work, as well as, a position on the Ministerial Team at Union Baptist Church in Montclair, where she focuses on teaching, evangelism and community outreach. She knows that everyday life is hectic, making it difficult to find time for volunteer work. With that being said, she is able to set aside small windows of time in her busy schedule to give back and she encourages others to do the same. No matter how small the task, every bit of service is important and impactful.
JOANNE'S RAPID FIRE SUMMER SELECTIONS: