We Still Need You! Thoughts About Superstorm Sandy From the Inside
BEFORE THE STORM: Two Sundays ago I had the opportunity to guest speak at a local church. I had wrestled and prayed about what to share. Hurricane Sandy was looming off our coast. The projected path was literally set for over my house on the Jersey Shore. For days, news and weather channels were raising panic within all of us calling this, “Frankenstorm.” Tense laughter filled aisles of supermarkets as water, batteries, and candles was eerily missing from shelves. So as the Lord spoke to my heart, asking me to talk on Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8, you can imagine my reaction. I wouldn’t talk on “that,” I couldn’t imagine it not sounding corny. Although he tugged at my soul harder, I made a different set of notes…
As I sat in the pew awaiting my name to be called, I heard Christ once again ask if I might talk about this story. The church was only half full as I stood before the congregation. Many were already home making preparations for the impending doom. Exchanging notes, I set out to tell of 12 disciples scared for their lives in the midst of what I believe could have been a hurricane. All the while their Messiah was asleep. What stuck out to me from this passage was a phenomenal idea. Yes, we all know that Jesus calmed the storm. This is important. But I don’t really think that was the point. You see, when the winds have been subdued, Christ rebukes his friends for their lack of faith. Why? They should have understood that no matter what, HE WAS THERE TO PROTECT THEM. As we left that day, I knew the sermon was for my own heart. As this colossal threat stood at my door what would be my own reaction? Would I know that no matter what happened, Jesus was close at hand, caring and loving all of us?
AFTER THE STORM: Now I sit on the other side of this monster storm. We are almost two weeks in. Jesus did not push back this mammoth into the sea. Its power did not dissipate. Instead it plowed through the homes and neighborhoods around us. The pictures many are witnessing on CNN are literally blocks away from me. Personally, I'm thankful for friends who took us in to evacuate the coast. Our house is still standing, with some shingles off the roof. While the house right next to us is missing part of its roof and siding. We were and are safe. However, the house on the other side of us is standing with a tree on the roof. There isn't a friend I have who hasn't been affected by this storm. Many have lost everything; houses literally stand flat in the sea. Others' homes flooded to various degrees, losing basements, furnaces, garages, and even up to the first floor. The house next to where we evacuated to had a tree through its roof. Beyond the shoreline the natural surroundings of the NE wasn't ready to handle a storm like this. One hundred-year-old oak trees look like a child picked a wildflower out by the roots and threw it aside. They are split in two. Many still can't go home for lack of power. They are just clearing roadways to get through everywhere here. It is slow work, because there is so much to be done. You may be watching it on a screen; I am looking into the eyes of those I know. Important places in the life of our family are literally washed out to sea. The question I keep hearing is, "Was it really that bad?" This story has gotten hidden as "life goes on" and a Presidential election took over. All I can say is "Yes."
I don't really know how to best paint the picture. "Normal" I don't think will be restored for awhile. A local YP friend and I were chatting yesterday and he can't even find where all of his kids are right now. Some have lost homes, and others are at families homes, but people are not always answering their phones. You are creating new ways to get around because lights are still out and roads are either blocked or flooded, and you are detoured. We were just able to return to our home last night. Power was just restored. For many it's getting colder and power is still gone.
WHERE WAS GOD IN ALL OF THIS?
Luke 8 is the beginning. Christ is not asleep. He is here to take care of us. He is needed in this area more than ever. As we are moving from "shock and awe" into restoration, I was struck with at thought. All of our “stuff” may be in jeopardy at any moment, still we are standing together. Thankfully, my family and friends continue to have each other.
THE REALITY IS HITTING: It's funny, I've been very convicted through this at the amount of times I personally have watched things on TV like this and moved on very quickly. I had no understanding of the ripple effects something like this has. Even if you didn't lose "everything," you still are under stress. For us at our ministry we work with mostly lower-middle-class and families below the poverty line. On a practical note this means jobs are closed—some forever. At the very least it was two weeks without pay. It was a refrigerator full of food that can't be replaced. All of my neighbors are sick. I talked to a Mom yesterday who made the statement, "I don't know how I'm ever going to catch up. I guess there will be no Christmas this year."
Staten Island and Long Island are devastated. I think one other thing that is hard to explain is that the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore is who we are in NY/NJ. You go to the "shore" for the weekend. Many of them are gone (yes the roller coaster really is in the ocean). It wasn't just that one, but Asbury Park—where we live—that one is ripped up. Long Branch—another town where we serve—that boardwalk is 90% gone. The list can go on... Routine is still missing. School is still out. Some are wondering with no home at all, what will be next. Curfews to get off the streets at 7 PM remain. We are all just pulling together and figuring out the best way to stand together.
We are only beginning to assess the needs in our own community. Visiting the homes of those in our community we are trying to see if they need blankets, food, water, or simply a person who understands.
It's a time that we are learning once again what is most important. It is about family. It is about pulling together. It is about remembering who Christ is. It is about not giving up hope even though it feels like it might be “gone.” He is still here.
On a practical note what can you do?
Pray. We need to know we are supported and loved. I have been thankful for friends, acquaintances, and family that have checked in on us.
Keep checking in. We have only begun to connect once again with the outside world. We feel guilty if we care about anything other than helping those around us. Tell us this "too will pass."
Know there are levels of need. Some have lost everything. Others have lost some. On a practical note those who live paycheck to paycheck can’t get to work. Everything remains closed. While the emergency agencies are handing out food and water, everyone will take a while to get back together.
Give locally—instead of “nationally.” Do you know a church in NY/NJ that you can send money to? They are on the ground and able to truly able give out to individual needs. We at our ministry, at Aslan Youth Ministries, have families in three of the areas that are hurting desperately. If you would like to help you can donate at www.aslanyouth.org. Please make the gifts to general funding. This gives ministries the opportunity to meet the greatest points of need.
Think of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many are going to be starting from scratch. Let families know they are loved.
Plan a Spring break trip or Summer trip to help people in the area. This clean-up is going to take A LONG TIME. Along with that we have winter nipping at our heels it may take some time. Take the time now to pull a time together to come our way and serve. Even if you help run a day camp for local children it is a practical way of helping.
Again know that we are more than surviving here. More than that we are amazed at all those that are working to serve in every way. There is no way to small to help…