Wednesday, January 30, 2013

People of God Step Up in New Jersey

Volunteers sort donations at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Bay Head, New Jersey. Bay Head was one of the New Jersey towns severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Photo Credit: Scott Bostwick
By Christy Smith*

January 30, 2013—On my trip last week to New Jersey on behalf of UMCOR, most of my work involved teaching others (some United Methodists, but other faith partners as well) best practices in providing help to those who will not be able to recover from Superstorm Sandy without additional help. The Greater New Jersey Conference is hard at work determining how the conference can best provide support in coordination with other non-profit and faith responders. Only a working "village" will be able to accomplish this enormous task.

During my visit, I accompanied a United Methodist pastor on his visits to places where teams are working or have been working. At one home, Pastor Mark blew out the water lines in the gutted home so that the homeowner wouldn't have the additional grief of burst pipes. (It was REALLY cold in New Jersey!) At another stop, I encountered United Methodist Early Response Teams (wearing their highly visible emergency green shirts) from Ohio. They were cleaning out a flooded home. The United Methodist church across the street suffered flooding in the building that houses offices, Sunday school, kitchen, and fellowship. In the parsonage, which had not flooded, several families had been sheltering since the October storm.

Most encouraging was the work of a United Methodist congregation in another flooded town. The church was on high ground and unaffected; since the storm the congregation had been feeding survivors and responders, as well as distributing help. I met a young woman (a third grade teacher) who was not Methodist, but she had driven an hour into the storm's devastated area and had found the church at work. Since arriving in October, she had been commuting (after teaching!) to continue to partner with the recovery efforts there. The United Methodist way of responding had impressed her to the point of re-considering her church membership.

Truly, the people of God step up to respond when there is trouble. It works better when the local church, the district, and the conference have disaster plans. I believe the Greater New Jersey Conference would agree with that.

I hope our church family will continue to hold the conference and the survivors in their prayers. All designated funds received by UMCOR (100%), through Hurricanes 2012, Advance #3021787, will go to bring aid to survivors. The United Methodist connection works. Thanks be to God.

*Christy Smith is a disaster response consultant with UMCOR.