Within Dark Devastation, Sparks of Hope
Entire coastal towns underwater. Millions without power. A paralyzed New York City. Damage that can't even be tallied until the water recedes. Yet within the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, The United Methodist Church is offering sparks of hope.
Joseph Ewoodzie, disaster response coordinator for the New York Conference, was, by the hour, naming more and more communities with what he calls "major hits" by Hurricane Sandy. "Long Island has been devastated," he said. "In Connecticut, Fairfield and Bridgeport were hit really hard. People are rowing boats down the streets."
But as Ewoodzie received calls reporting new damage, he also received news that churches were opening their doors to evacuees, checking on communities, and praying for people who will go home only to find they've lost everything.
In Shelton, CT, where power outages were spotty, the Shelton First United Methodist Church was open for people without power to charge their cell phones and simply touch base, as severe pockets of damage were revealed, said the Rev. Heather McClendon Sinclair, pastor.
"We are using Facebook as a tool for communication, and it has done quite well for us," she said. "Aside from opening up the church, our response at the moment is to use a call list we put together before the hurricane to make sure everyone is okay. After tonight into tomorrow, when the waters recede, we will be stepping up the cleanup response."
As requests streamed in for UMCOR's cleaning buckets and health kits, Ewoodzie wished to remind people that recovery in his state will be going on long after Hurricane Sandy leaves the headlines.
"The real ministry awaits us in the months, and even years, to come," he said. "Let us stay with the affected people until they recover. Let them feel confident that we will stay with them until they make a healthy, holistic recovery."
In New Jersey, many evacuees were still out of their homes, said Carol Brozosky, an Early Response Team leader. "The barrier islands are just completely destroyed," she said, "and across the state, the damage is so severe and so spread out that it's difficult at this point to name the worst-hit communities. But clearly the coastal towns really bore the brunt."
UMCOR has issued $10,000 emergency grants to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, Greater New Jersey Conference, New York Conference, New York Disaster Interfaith Services, and the North Carolina Conference.
Even as the US. reeled from the storm, Haiti and other Caribbean countries in the storm's path were also struggling to recover. The United Methodist Church was helping to meet the needs of storm survivors in Haiti, where Hurricane Sandy killed 51 people.
Because of UMCOR's support and emphasis on disaster preparedness, response in Haiti was strengthened, reported Elizabeth Petheo, head of UMCOR Haiti. "I think organizations based in heavily affected areas were able to respond with what they had on hand—which is good news that preparedness planning is helping to mitigate some of the storm effects," she said.
But needs in Haiti—as well as in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Jamaica—are serious and ongoing. As communications increase, UMCOR continues to support its local Caribbean partners as they meet the needs of hurricane survivors.
Help bring hope to those in Hurricane Sandy's path. Please donate to UMCOR US Disaster Response, Hurricanes 2012, Advance #3021787 . You can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and regular contributor to www.umcor.org.