My Beloved Sisters and Brothers,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
Bishop Middleton hard at work in Brooklyn.
Hurricane Sandy struck the New York area on October 29, 2012, and three years later the need for assistance to handle the destruction left in the wake of the superstorm is still being addressed.
A team of cabinet members of the New York Annual Conference and I just spent five days working on two houses in Brooklyn, and a morning painting inside a house in Milford, Connecticut. Rev. Tom Vencuss, Disaster Recovery Ministries Coordinator for the conference organized and directed these five days of demolition, insulating, sheetrocking and painting. Although we returned from this mission trip tired and sore, we are grateful for Tom’s leadership and for knowing that we made a positive difference in the lives of the families we helped.
We are also grateful for the team of support persons, both employed and volunteers, who continue to work tirelessly to assist volunteers like us. Our Sandy recovery work is being funded by a $3 million UMCOR grant which the NYAC received at the beginning of 2013. This three-year grant will run out at the end of 2016 which means we have a year and a half of funding left for Sandy recovery work.
Many agencies and programs are ending their assistance at the end of this year. However, UMCOR and The United Methodist Church are not ready to leave! Thankfully, often in crisis situations we are the last agency standing.
Collectively, Sandy damaged or destroyed 500,000 homes in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Because of a lack of funds and volunteers, thousands of houses are still in desperate need of repair. We were joined by a team from Western Pennsylvania and the work we did on one of the houses has been continued by a team from Eastern Pennsylvania. But, the need for volunteers is still urgent!
The stories are heartbreaking. One of the families whose house we worked on has been living with relatives for this entire time. Many other families are still living in horrendous conditions. The most alarming reality is that they are often living with unabated mold which is a dangerous health threat.
What we learned has shaken all of us. But what more can we do to help people heal from this tragedy which occurred in our own conference? Following Hurricane Katrina the New York Annual Conference sent over 100 teams to the Gulf Coast to assist in that recovery. Many of you have responded to Hurricane Sandy but we can do more. We must do more.
I am appealing to you, sisters and brothers, to respond to the urgent call for volunteers to help our neighbors rebuild and recover from this disaster. Within the next several weeks every district will organize a renewed volunteer mission response to Sandy recovery. Some will be weeklong events, some will be “Done in a Day” events. However, you don’t need to wait for your district to respond, you can volunteer individually to be on a team immediately. It is simple to give your time to help. Just click on the following link that will take you to the “Sandy Recovery” web page where you will find information on how to volunteer: http://www.nyac.com/recovery.
While it may be exciting to go to distant places to do mission work, there is a vast, needy mission field within the boundaries of New York Annual Conference! Sandy is a disaster in our own backyard and thousands of God’s children are waiting for our help. Will you prayerfully consider saying "yes" to the call? Please say, “Here I am. Send me!”
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Jane Allen Middleton