A mobile kitchen team and additional support units were headed to Rutgers, N.J., today to help with relief efforts related to Hurricane Sandy, which caused at least 50 U.S. deaths, record flooding, massive power outages and extensive devastation as it roared ashore Monday night (Oct. 29) near New York City.
About 75 North Carolina Baptist Men volunteers will be on site to assist with response efforts. A Facebook post indicated that recovery efforts will not be required for the Outer Banks for now. Assessment is still being done across a wide region to find out where Baptist volunteers can best be used.
About 200 Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from the Carolinas and Georgia were expected to respond initially to a recovery effort in New Jersey that may last weeks, said North Carolina disaster relief director Gaylon Moss, who is coordinating recovery efforts for New Jersey while also responding to North Carolina.
“This is certainly a large disaster zone that will require a lot of assistance,” Moss told Baptist Press Tuesday. “We hope to send some kitchens up tomorrow.”
The two units each are capable of preparing 30,000 meals a day. The Georgia and South Carolina Baptist conventions also were expected to send feeding units and assist with debris removal and chaplaincy, Moss said.
New York City
In New York, where N.C. Baptists are part of a Great Commission Partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, pastors were trying to reach their members.
“Pray that our churches come together to use this time to be the church to the people in our communities that are in need,” Freeman Field of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association told Baptist Press.
More than 7.5 million customers were without electricity in 15 states and the District of Columbia Oct. 30, neighborhood streets looked like rivers and homes washed off their foundations and onto a New Jersey highway, CNN.com reported.
In New York, floodwater inundated the city’s subway tunnels, causing the most devastation in the subway system’s 108-year history. More than 80 homes in Queens were destroyed by a fire that was battled by 200 firefighters, CNN said, and at a New York University hospital, 260 patients – including newborns in intensive care – were evacuated after a power outage.
“We’re talking months to recover from this,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
Strong winds from the superstorm blew from Georgia to Canada and as far west as Lake Michigan Tuesday, CNN said, and heavy rains covered New England and parts of the Midwest. In West Virginia, the storm dumped three feet of wet snow.
Graffiti Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was the only Southern Baptist church in New York City to receive damage from the storm as of Tuesday afternoon.
Field, whose father Taylor Field is Graffiti’s pastor, said the church lost power, “sustained minimal flooding” and was assessing damage to its facilities.
“Our association building on 72nd Street and Broadway did not sustain any damage, and the people and teams that were staying here are all safe and sound,” Freeman Field reported.
“… We are still hearing from our pastors about needs…. We know of two families specifically who had their apartments flooded out – one in Brooklyn from Park Slope Community Church, the other in Jersey City from Gallery Church,” Field wrote to Baptist Press in an email.
He asked for prayer for those who are stranded by the shutdown of the metropolitan area’s three main airports and by the problems plaguing the transit system.
“New York is an amazing opportunity to share the gospel with others in this time of need, so please pray that God is glorified through churches serving each other and serving their neighbors,” Field wrote.
George Russ, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, was in Florida visiting his mother and was scheduled to return to New York around the time the storm hit. He couldn’t change his flight, so he remained in Florida Tuesday, hoping to return today if the airports opened.
Russ, who lives on Long Island, reported that his family was safe and that they communicated via text messages during the storm. He texted all of the pastors whose cell phone numbers he had and heard back from a lot of them, he said. Russ marveled at the devastation in the city he serves.
“It’s remarkable to see cars underwater in southern Manhattan,” he said, adding a request for prayer.
“Pray for our pastors as they try to get in touch with all of their people. Not everybody has cell phones or email, so it’s a little more of a challenge for them to stay in touch with everyone,” Russ said.
“We’re grateful for all the prayers. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has called already. We’re thankful for all the concern that people have shown.”
Freddy T. Wyatt, pastor of Gallery Church in Manhattan, kept friends updated on Facebook as the storm passed over the city. His family sought shelter in a hallway on the 14th floor of their apartment building.
“The flooding has already begun and seems significant,” Wyatt wrote Monday night. “Dozens of cars on our street are completely under water.”
An hour later Wyatt lost power, but the family made it through the night safely.
Nathan Tubbs, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Brooklyn, told Baptist Press Tuesday morning the devastation is an opportunity for Southern Baptists throughout the country to refocus their attention on New York.
“This is a really important city in terms of our country and in terms of the world, and there’s a great gospel void that exists here in New York City,” Tubbs said. “Those of us in ministry know that times of transition or times of great danger are good opportunities for people to consider the gospel. Maybe churches down south would say, ‘We’ve been thinking about New York for a long time and it’s time for us to get involved.’”
The Kentucky Baptist Convention was expected to send to Orange County, N.Y., a feeding unit capable of preparing 30,000 meals a day to assist New York’s 10,000-meal-a-day unit, said Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York.
“Feeding should start Thursday or Friday,” said Flannery, who was still assessing damage and recruiting volunteers from area churches. “They’re excited to help. They’re ready to go and their spirits are real high,” he said of volunteers.
The Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey reported most of its damage in South Jersey, while Pennsylvania was enduring power outages and regional flooding.
“When we look into the South Jersey area of our convention, that seems to be along the East Coast … the hardest-hit area,” Penn/Jersey disaster relief director Karlene Campbell said. “As far as Pennsylvania, it looks like, for the most part, we’ve weathered this storm well, from what I understand. And it’s still early. We probably won’t be doing feeding operations here within state.”
American Red Cross shelters in Pennsylvania had few people, eliminating any need for Southern Baptist feeding units, Campbell said. The Red Cross was expected to move people from New Jersey to shelters in eastern Pennsylvania, she added.
The Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) Tuesday was assessing the aftermath and coordinating with disaster relief partners.
“It looks like the major damage is in flooding in Connecticut and Rhode Island,” said Bruce James, the BCNE’s team leader for evangelism, disaster relief and men’s ministry. “We’ve got some tree damage up in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”
Power was been knocked out at the Incident Command Center, which was running on backup generators. Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from Tennessee were on standby, he said, ready to send chainsaw and mud-out teams.
“Other than that, we’re just trying to get everything in order so we can get these jobs going,” James said.
International Mission Board offices
International Mission Board (IMB) offices in Richmond, Va., escaped damage as the storm passed over the region. Mike Giannotti, IMB’s director of facilities and operations at the main office, said damage was limited to “a few small leaks” that trouble the building during any hard rain.
IMB’s missionary training facility in Rockville, Va., also reported no significant damage other than a few downed limbs and other debris from trees.
“Richmond was spared from the major destruction we’ve seen during previous storms, but Southern Baptists should remain in prayer for those in New Jersey, New York and other areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy,” IMB President Tom Elliff said.
“While we are thankful our city was spared the brunt of the storm, we grieve with so many others who were not as fortunate. May God give them hope, encouragement and endurance as they begin to clean up and rebuild their lives,” Elliff said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press, John Evans in Houston and Sheryl Hash of the International Mission Board. Biblical Recorder Assistant Managing Editor Dianna L. Cagle contributed to this report.)