Jon and Cristina Ocasio, along with several other couples, founded Mar Azul (translated Blue Ocean), in Puerto Rico in 2010. Their vision was to bring a church to Puerto Rico that welcomed the lost and that reached people who may not have come from a church background. They began, in those early days, in an open-air barn on a piece of farmland. Mar Azul was growing and thriving when disaster struck.
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria barreled toward Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 hurricane. As it made landfall and moved across the country, some areas of the island experienced 30 inches of rainfall in one day, resulting in widespread flooding. The extreme tornado like winds ripped apart buildings, homes, and businesses. The damage was extensive and far-reaching. No part of the island was spared the devastation of the storm.
The entire country was plunged into darkness. Power grids, water supplies, roadways, and communications were destroyed in a matter of hours.
Jonathan and Cristina mobilized their church leadership. They began asking, "what is going to be our response to this disaster?" God rapidly and providentially provided the answer as Mar Azul found themselves immersed in disaster relief. With a small amount of funds, they were able to rent a van, buy limited supplies, and begin distributing much needed aid to the villages and areas of Puerto Rico that were cut off from help. "We wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ at this time," said Jonathan. "We wanted to use this for the purpose of furthering the gospel to the people of Puerto Rico."
While the Mar Azul congregation focused on providing relief and aid, people at Blue Ridge Community Church were asking the same question Jonathan and Cristina had asked, "what is going to be our response to this disaster?" And so, the leadership began to pray.
In October, while attending the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, Nan Torrence was introduced to Jonathan and Cristina and immediately felt God was bringing Blue Ridge together with Mar Azul for the purpose of assisting the people of the storm-ravaged island. That chance encounter led to meetings and collaboration. Ultimately, a partnership was formed and BRCC provided funds that helped Mar Azul further their mission of responding, rehabilitating, and rebuilding in Puerto Rico.
Today, the work continues in Mar Azul. The first phase of relief efforts resulted in 526,000 meals being provided, 1.1 million pounds of food and water distributed, and the opening of a distribution warehouse and many "help centers" located in particularly hard-hit areas.
The next phase will involve rehabilitation and rebuilding. Pray and ask God what part He would have you play in assisting Mar Azul and the people of Puerto Rico. Through prayer, giving, or taking part in a short-term trip to Puerto Rico, we can stay connected to the powerful work God is doing there through Mar Azul.
What are steps you can take to be a part of God's powerful movement in Puerto Rico?
Give. By giving to Be Rich, we can serve as the hands, feet, and heart of Christ. Be Rich gives us an opportunity to be one body — serving and making an impact by giving to others.
Go. Short term mission trips are a tangible way to help others, learn more about global needs, and gain a new perspective on your personal spiritual journey. For a listing of upcoming mission trips, visit the Mission Trip Opportunities page.
Get Informed. Follow BRCCMissions on Instagram and join BR Missions on Facebook to stay up to date on the latest mission efforts and learn more about how God is working locally and abroad through the people of Blue Ridge Community Church.