Vencuss At Work on Sandy Recovery Ministry

Vencuss At Work on Sandy Recovery Ministry


Disaster Recovery Ministries Team

10/7/2013

 

September 1, 2013

Dear Friends,                                                                                         

It is with a profound sense of gratitude and privilege that I find myself back in the New York Conference after nearly three years in Haiti, serving now as the coordinator of disaster recovery ministries. Wendy and I (and our Haitian dog, Blackie) returned at the end of July and I formally assumed work on August 12. We have taken up residence in the Bellmore, N.Y., parsonage on Long Island, at the gracious invitation of the congregation here, and are adjusting to life back in the states.  We are both grateful for the many welcomes we have received.

Disaster response and recovery presents the church with many unique challenges and opportunities. There is the challenge of responding to peoples’ needs in incredibly difficult and chaotic circumstances, and the challenge of finding the church’s place and role in short and long-term relief and recovery efforts. But more importantly, the opportunity to be The Church – to be the hands, the heart, the spirit of God in Christ in hands-on ways.

I have begun my work by visiting some of the established recovery sites in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Long Island. I’ll be heading to Connecticut within a week or so. I’ve been meeting some of the key persons who have been carrying on the recovery efforts, visiting homes of those who have received help, and generally listening to people’s stories. They are amazing.  

Let me first offer a word of thanks to those within the New York Conference and beyond who responded in the immediate aftermath of Sandy; those who were on the front lines of response and recovery; and those who continued to offer their time, efforts and gifts in the months following. They built a solid foundation upon which we can continue our work.

As I travel around, people remind me that, “looks can be deceiving.” That, just because a neighborhood looks okay, it doesn’t mean that extreme needs don’t still exist.  Just this weekend I visited a home in Freeport that still needs to be gutted, cleaned and then repaired. 

To coin a phrase, I would like to say that the New York Conference is “open for business” – the “business” of being the church in disaster recovery.  We will be consolidating our administrative work through the Community UMC office in Massapequa, which has served as a key recovery site since the beginning of the storm. We will be receiving team registrations for any of our locations, and other scheduling inquiries, through that site. We will be open to receive groups or teams for one day, a weekend, or an extended period of time.  Interested groups or persons can contact Peggy Racine at UMDisasterRelief@cumcmassapequa.org.  If you have other questions, you can contact me at tvencuss@nyac.com.

A key dimension of our work is to respond to “unmet needs, ” with a priority given to the most vulnerable.  If you know of families or individuals who are in need of assistance please forward that information as well and we’ll get it to the appropriate persons.

This is an exciting time and ministry in the life of our conference, but not without its challenges. As we organize our efforts and move along I ask your continued patience with the process. More importantly, I ask your continued support, through prayer and action, as we seek to serve the people of God, everywhere.

With thanks, in faith,

Tom

This new position, funded by a $3 million grant from UMCOR for Hurricane Sandy recovery, will continue for at least the next three years.

A member of the New York Conference since 1978, Vencuss has pastored churches in Pleasant Valley and Newburgh, N.Y., as well as Wethersfield, Conn.

He most recently served as program coordinator of the Haiti Response Plan (UMCOR) in Port-au-Prince since 2010. While there, he also coordinated “Mountains of Hope,” formerly the NYAC Haiti Task Force. He is an UMCOR certified early response team trainer and has led more than 20 VIM teams to Haiti since 2002.