Hurricane Sandy Response
Hurricane changes view of N.Y. community toward faith
NEW YORK (BP) -- Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy in the Northeast, but God used the life-altering superstorm to change the hearts of people in Rockaway Beach, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, from totally disinterested in the Gospel to yearning for spiritual guidance.
A couple of years ago, Larry Holcomb, director of Urban Impact, a ministry connected with a Southern Baptist congregation in New York, arranged for the purchase of a large old house in a rough part of Rockaway Beach, not fathoming what God would do next.
After renovating the beach house, Holcomb moved in bunk beds to house short-term mission teams coming to New York to help Urban Impact reach immigrants in the city through language and job training classes.
With a goal of launching Beach Church in the summer of 2013, Holcomb and others this past summer handed out about 5,000 invitations to Bible studies in Rockaway Beach.
"We went door-to-door, handing them out to people," Holcomb, a former North American Mission Board church planter, told Baptist Press. "We got less than a dozen responses. Through that, from the surrounding community, maybe five people had come to Bible study. So that was a ratio of 5 to 5,000. We knew it was a hard neighborhood. People don't have the time or the interest in spiritual things.
"But after the tragedy, we've handed out thousands of tracts and Bibles, and people eagerly say, 'Can I have this?' 'Can you please give me this? I need this guidance.' They're asking us for prayer and saying, 'Can you please come to my house?'
"It has really turned around the spiritual openness of the neighborhood, and where before we were slaving away to find someone who had any interest, now the problem is, How can we possibly have time to address these hundreds and hundreds who are asking us to help them understand the Bible and get closer to God?" Holcomb said.
Thanksgiving after the storm: Reflections on life & faith
NEW YORK CITY (BP) -- Thanksgiving in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has prompted new reflections on life and faith among those who were impacted and those who came to their aid.
The writer of Proverbs 27 warns that a man does not know what a day may bring. Few expected that a hurricane would cause as much devastation in the New York and New Jersey areas and other parts of the East as residents there are coping with now.
In this article, pastors and disaster relief workers share their thoughts on Thanksgiving in light of Sandy.
-- Fritz Wilson, the North American Mission Board's executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, noted to Baptist Press, "As a kid I always looked forward to Thanksgiving Day. Not just because it meant Christmas was a month away, but also because we got to watch the giant balloons in the New York Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, eats lots of food and watch football.
"On Thanksgiving Day 2012, most people across the country will only think about the parades, food and football in the New York area," Wilson wrote. "But for me, I will be thankful for something much more important, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who continually respond en masse to New York and New Jersey. Their mission is to simply bring help, healing and hope to people and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy almost one month ago.
"Since Sandy's landfall more than 2,500 SBDR volunteers have responded to the people affected by the storm's fury," Wilson wrote. "Leaving home, family and friends, they have driven thousands of miles from across the country to serve people in the name of Jesus.
"While most folks are celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends at home, hundreds of SBDR volunteers will be preparing thousands of meals, helping homeowners clean up their homes and providing a hug to hurting families simply because they care and want to show Christ's love in a practical and selfless way," Wilson wrote.
"So when you join with your family to give thanks, stop and say a prayer of thanks for the SBDR volunteers who are giving of themselves in the New York and New Jersey areas, and for the people who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy."
-- Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York, wrote, "There comes a time in the lives of people that we need to put aside the idea that if a disaster is not in our area that it does not affect us.
"In this global economy we have become interdependent and we are responsible because of our commission to share the Word. Many times when we are out in the area where the disaster has taken place, people spontaneously say 'thank you' to us," Flannery wrote.
Graffiti shines 'light' in Sandy's aftermath
NEW YORK CITY (BP) -- East 7th Baptist Church has prayed for the toughest assignments in serving the neediest people. In God's care, the church has ministered through 9/11 and now is a healing balm to survivors of Hurricane Sandy.
Sandy meal count tops 1.2M; next: church partnerships
EDISON, N.J. (BP) -- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers deployed after Hurricane Sandy had prepared more than 1.2 million meals as of Monday (Nov. 19) in New York, New Jersey and, earlier, in West Virginia.
As more power is restored to homes in the hardest-hit areas, SBDR leaders said the need will diminish for meal preparation by SBDR units deployed from numerous states.
Volunteers also have reported 56 individuals who have made professions of faith in Christ as a result of SBDR ministry.
On the horizon: The North American Mission Board will coordinate both church-to-church partnerships in the region and the mobilization of student volunteers for long-term ministry and service in the Northeast.
"The church-to-church initiative in response to Sandy will be different in nature than that of the response to Hurricane Katrina," said Jerry Daniel, team leader for the North American Mission Board's LoveLoud emphasis.
While the church partnerships fostered in the wake of Katrina focused in large part on the physical rebuild and repair of church infrastructure, the aftermath of Sandy will see a different ministry emphasis, Daniel said.
"There was not a lot of damage to church facilities, so the church-to-church aspect of Sandy will focus on churches partnering with churches in the affected area to do work in the community," Daniel said. "This will provide the local churches a platform with their neighbors. The assistance given by partnering churches will allow for an increased bandwidth of ministry by local churches in the Northeast."
Planning and logistics also continue for mobilizing college students to assist with cleanup operations over the winter break. Details for the volunteer opportunity for students and the church-to-church initiative will be available soon, Daniel said.
Mold, flood damage: SBDR training available
NEW YORK CITY (BP) -- New York and New Jersey homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy are finding help in protecting their homes from ongoing mold and flood damage through training provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
'Body of Christ in action' amid Hoboken's woes from Sandy
HOBOKEN, N.J. (BP) -- Two weeks after superstorm Sandy tore through New Jersey, thousands of people still lack food, clothing and water. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, nearly half of Hoboken's population of 50,000 was trapped in their homes by floodwaters.
It's in this setting that the members of Hoboken Grace Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation, have been ministering tirelessly since the morning after the storm hit.
"We began by moving crews of volunteers to pump out basements," the church's pastor, Chris High, told Baptist Press. "As the water began to subside, we transitioned our teams to move from apartment to apartment assisting our neighbors and local charity organizations in cleaning out their destroyed apartments, offices and buildings."
Hoboken is a 2-square-mile city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and it is home to many middle- and upper-class people under the age of 35, according to The Star-Ledger in Newark. As many as 90 percent of the residents were without power after the storm, and National Guard trucks were brought in to rescue people who could not escape their flooded homes.
The city's sidewalks have been completely covered with trash, High said. Garbage trucks in the city typically collect 62 tons of trash per day, The Star-Ledger said, but since the hurricane that number has increased to 309 tons as people lost many of their possessions to the floodwaters.
Hoboken Grace assisted a local food pantry that had been flooded. Members helped salvage what they could and then helped establish a new location from which the pantry could operate, High said.
"We also began collecting supplies ourselves and delivering them to the local housing authority," the pastor said.
In the immediate aftermath, Hoboken Grace set up three grill stations in local housing projects to provide warm meals for people who were without electricity.
"Throughout all of this it has been phenomenal to watch people give and to watch those with power and heat take in those without," High said. "This not only provided for those in need but also enabled us to come out day after day ready to assist those around us in any way possible."
Hoboken Grace lost its offices to the flood, and High and his wife were out of their apartment while post-flooding repairs were being made.
"We've got a long road ahead," he said, "... but we're seeing what the body of Christ looks like in action."
Baptists to expand Sandy DR into December
EDISON, N.J. (BP) -- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders are preparing to continue superstorm Sandy feeding efforts into December, and have opened a new avenue of service with long-term national implications.
"Although we've been told by New York officials that some of our kitchen operations may consolidate in the state, they told us to expect to continue providing meals into December," said Fritz Wilson, North American Mission Board disaster relief executive director.
FEMA chief praises Baptist DR; chaplains becoming a key need
EDISON, N.J. (BP) -- On the 11th day after landfall of Hurricane Sandy, more than 750 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were continuing to aid survivors in hard-hit communities. Their work has not gone unnoticed.
Craig Fugate, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, voiced appreciation to SBDR leaders in a conference call Nov. 7 for their response to Sandy.
"Thanks to everyone," said Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator. "It has been a busy time. The president and the rest of the team appreciate Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. This will not be a short response. We still have a lot to do. Until people are back in their homes, Southern Baptist [volunteers] will be needed. Thank you for all that Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has done."
Coordinating logistics with FEMA, the American Red Cross (ARC), The Salvation Army, state and local governments is a daily task for SBDR leaders. The North American Mission Board routinely maintains representation at the FEMA and ARC national headquarters for the duration of large-scale disaster responses such as Sandy.
The recognition of that service came quickly from another government leader in the hard-hit community of Middletown, N.J., this week, Gov. Chris Christie.
"Ah, my friends with disaster relief," the New Jersey governor said when he met SBDR volunteers from Oklahoma serving in Middletown Nov. 5. Christie thanked the volunteers for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the people of his state.
SBDR volunteers who were among the first responders to Sandy will begin heading home soon. Replacement teams will begin arriving this weekend and into next week. One of those units is a Tennessee recovery team, which completed its 18th job Friday in the Norwalk, Ct., area.
Maryland-Delaware incident commander Carl Brill reported an interesting occurrence in Crisfield, Md., where local leaders developed a system to collect needs and communicate them to volunteers.
"They are using white towels to identify homes where help is needed," Brill said. ...
Staten Island church takes long-term aim
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (BP) -- Back in the winter when New York City tried to push churches out of public schools, Crossroads Church on Staten Island didn't know God was moving them to a new location that later would be right up the block from some of the most severe devastation left by Hurricane Sandy.
Nor'easter sends tree into leader's house
NEW YORK CITY (BP) -- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units escaped significant damage from the nor'easter that dumped up to a foot of snow in various areas of the Northeast.
Chainsaw crew sees fruit of the Gospel during Sandy cleanup
TUCKERTON, N.J. (BP) -- The 16-member chainsaw crew had stopped for supper at a restaurant just outside Tuckerton, N.J., having driven all day from Cross Central Church in Lexington, S.C., to help survivors of Hurricane Sandy.
Team leader Alan Giddens offered to help a certain storm survivor at the restaurant who said he was fine, directing the team to those in more need, Giddens said.
"The next morning we're in this neighborhood working and I look up and he's standing behind me. And you can just look at him and see, he's just, he's out of energy. And I turned around and spoke to him," Giddens said. "He said, 'I told you last night I didn't need any help.' But he said, 'My body's broken.' He said, 'I can't go anymore. I need your help.' He said, 'I'm a very proud man, but ... I need you.'"
Giddens said the man, 51 and strong, cried as he related his plight, expressing surprise and wonder that the crew was there to help.
In what Giddens described as a providential meeting, the New Jersey man told the crew he had lost everything. His New Jersey coastal community home that had housed four generations of his family suffered four feet of saltwater as Sandy churned Tuckerton Bay ashore. He had no hurricane insurance.
The crew encouraged the man to go home and rest, Giddens said, and made arrangements to include his home in the day's recovery work. As is the group's custom, they offered to pray with the man before beginning to work on his home that evening.
"We prayed with [him] and [he] broke down and he said, 'I want what you guys have,' and we shared the Gospel with him," Giddens said. "And he said, 'I can't do that. I've been bad in my life. I can't. There's no way I can go to heaven.'
"Of course we shared with him we've all been bad. We've all sinned. We sin every day. But Jesus died on that cross for our sins and that He forgives us," Giddens said. The man accepted Jesus.
"This guy was so excited that he was screaming out, 'I love you, Jesus,'" Giddens said. "He even called his friend on the phone and he said, 'I just had to call and tell you I just accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior,' and he said, 'And you need to too.'"
The Cross Central Church recovery team arrived in New Jersey on Halloween and began work the next day, clearing debris, damaged furniture and fallen trees from homes and streets in Tuckerton, Little Egg Harbor Township and Absecon. Like the man they encountered at the restaurant, the people generally were slow to accept help, Giddens said.
"The first day we got a lot of, 'No, we're OK. We don't need help,' ... because that part of the country is not used to seeing yellow shirts," Giddens said, referring to the common uniform on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and recovery volunteers. "By about the second day ... people started coming up and thanking us for being there, just going out of their way to thank us."
The team helped 29 families.
|"This guy was so excited that he was screaming out, 'I love you, Jesus.’" |
N.J. governor thanks volunteers as Baptist response continues
MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (BP) -- Election Day dawned with Hurricane Sandy storm survivors voting in tents -- along with a reminder of the preparation of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers. Prior to Sandy's landfall, SBDR area commander Mark Gauthier reminded state DR leaders to make sure deploying volunteers voted absentee before they traveled to begin ministry.
The day also brought continued meal preparation at more than 16 locations and increased mud-out jobs, with more requests mounting. The previous day, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie commended yellow-shirted Baptist volunteers in Middletown, N.J.
North American Mission Board DR executive director Fritz Wilson, meanwhile, said the Sandy response will continue well into the new year.
Middletown has become one of the hubs of SBDR ministry where volunteers, primarily from Oklahoma thus far, are being hosted by New Monmouth Baptist Church and pastor Mike Miller.
"This is an unusual operation," said Dave Karr, on-site coordinator for the Middletown response. "Things have not progressed the way they normally do in a disaster setting. Local people are finding their way to shelters and the church members here are finding out what they need. The local shelters have told us how many meals they need and the church members are delivering the meals to the shelters."
Karr, a six-year DR veteran, is accompanied by some 90 Oklahoma SBDR volunteers to operate a three-station kitchen capable of preparing 35,000 meals a day, a shower unit, a laundry unit, three chain saw units and a mud-out unit. Karr, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., said nothing has been typical about this response.
Karr and his team received word Monday that Gov. Christie would be visiting a nearby firehouse. "We decided we'd take a look," Karr said.
700 Baptist volunteers at work, sent by 25 state conventions
EDISON, N.J. (BP) -- "We've faced some tremendous challenges, but we are still serving people despite it all," said Karen Smith, a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leader serving with her Kentucky feeding kitchen at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, N.Y.
"This has been an awesome experience," said Smith, whose team was among the first SBDR units deployed in response to Hurricane Sandy. "We've faced obstacles, but we are here serving people in need."
Smith and her crew of 37 fellow Kentuckians have been preparing meals for nearly a week. They supplied 15,000 meals on Sunday, Nov. 4, to be delivered by American Red Cross volunteers into the surrounding community. Smith expected the total to be much higher Monday. Kentucky Kitchen 01 is capable of producing 50,000 meals per day.
Four professions of faith in Christ were reported by volunteers -- two armed services members at a military base and a couple in coastal New Jersey. Members of a Tennessee SBDR team were distributing meals at the base when they were able to share the Gospel with the servicemen.
In Little Egg Harbor, N.J., a South Carolina recovery crisis intervention team was canvassing a neighborhood, South Carolina disaster relief director Cliff Satterwhite recounted. Two male members of the team led the husband to faith in Christ at the front door of the home while two female members shared the Gospel with the wife in the backyard.
As more SBDR volunteers arrived in the affected areas over the weekend, plans were developing for the transition to recovery work, primarily chain saw, mud-out and clean-up. And with a predicted nor'easter on its way to the region, a tremendous amount of work is yet to be done, according to SBDR leaders. Forecasts called for freeze advisories Monday night and warned of winds from 20-30 mph and up to three inches of rain when the storm was expected to come through Wednesday.
SBDR leaders cautioned against sending donations of supplies or collected items to the affected areas. ...
Churches, volunteers join to ease suffering
LUMBERTON, N.J. (BP) -- Serving as a command center for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers has offered Southside Baptist Church in Lumberton, N.J., rich opportunities for fellowship with other believers, said Fernando Downs, pastor of the 150-member congregation.
'Incredible amount of ministry' under way in superstorm's wake
HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) -- Hundreds of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers continued to provide ministry in the wake of Hurricane Sandy Friday, Nov. 1. More than 450 volunteers with some 45 units from nine Baptist state conventions were working in at least six states affected by the storm.
SBDR volunteers from Kentucky, New York and Virginia were working at feeding kitchens in New York. In New Jersey, volunteers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and South Carolina were feeding storm victims. Virginia volunteers continued to serve alongside West Virginia volunteers in the Mountaineer state. Assessment teams were working in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. Chain saw and recovery teams were also at work across the region.
"There is an incredible amount of ministry taking place," SBDR area response commander Mark Gauthier said. "We have four kitchens feeding in New York, four in New Jersey and one in West Virginia. There are another half dozen en route to New York now," said Gauthier, who serves as mobilization director for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention.
Three Kentucky Baptist kitchens were serving at Aqueduct Racetrack, on Staten Island and at Deer Park on Long Island, all in New York. A Baptist General Association of Virginia kitchen was feeding at Rockaway, N.Y.
Volunteers from Pennsylvania-South Jersey were serving in Hammonton, N.J., where they were joined by a kitchen and team from South Carolina. Georgia volunteers also were serving with their kitchen at Waretown, N.J. Two North Carolina kitchens and their volunteer teams were serving in New Brunswick and Tom's River, N.J.
The mobilization of another half dozen kitchens and 250 volunteers was in full swing Friday with teams from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Southern Baptist of Texas, Texas Baptist Men and Tennessee on their way to New York.
Fritz Wilson, executive director for disaster relief for the North American Mission Board, said he expects most of the teams to be serving in the New York City area by Monday, with a capacity to produce 450,000 hot meals each day. Potential requests for additional meal-per-day capacity could take the number well above 450,000 meals per day provided by SBDR volunteers.
Video of a North Carolina feeding unit at Rutgers University is available for download at namb.net/sandy_rutgers_video. NAMB President Kevin Ezell released a video on the SBDR response to Sandy this week. The video may be downloaded at namb.net/sandy_video.
From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, Ga., NAMB coordinates Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.
SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or go to NAMB's disaster relief fund site ...