I am writing by candlelight and the illumination of my LCD laptop screen. Hopefully I will finish this post before my battery dies. My family is going on day nine without power. We are one of the lucky ones, our home was spared the storm surge waters by a couple hundred feet. My neighbors were not so lucky.
Life on Long Island since hurricane Sandy has been trying for a pampered American such as myself. Only the fortunate (or the well prepared) landed a generator after two million people suddenly found themselves off grid. The unfortunate ones were left to fight over a dwindling supply of flashlights, batteries, dry wood, and propane heaters. With temperatures dropping into the low thirties the inconvenience of no power became a crisis of keeping the little ones warm at night. Even the generator fed homes soon succumbed to darkness and the cold as gasoline supply dried up. But as frigid and dark as our usual snug homes were, at least we had homes.
Our friend Suzy does not have to worry about heating her home, or when the lights will
come back on. Hurricane Sandy took all those concerns away when its waters took out the entire first floor of her home. Instead Suzy, her husband, and two kids (one with life threatening food allergies) have spent their post hurricane days bouncing around from hotel to hotel. The process is fun. She refreshes Expedia.com every five seconds waiting for any hotel on the island to show a vacancy. It worked for a few days, but then her luck ran out. Suzy and her family are now spending their nights in Connecticut and ferrying over each day for work and school. Suzy has met with her FEMA assessor, help will come, but it is slow.
Tonight a nor’easter is assaulting the island. The timing of this second powerful storm could not be worse. There is danger of more coastal flooding, especially with the breeches Sandy already caused to the barrier islands. Many who regained power are once again in danger of losing it. Many who finally rid their home of water are once again facing the possibility of flooding.
As minister for the West Islip Church of Christ (with a church building that sits just south of the Montauk highway on the edge of the disaster) I desperately want our church to be a help to its neighboring community. We are a small church, and our resources are limited. In the face of so much destruction and suffering, we feel overwhelmed. Thankfully we are not alone.
When Ralph Coles called from Church of Christ Disaster Relief it all seemed too easy. “You are going to send a 48 foot semi-truck full of disaster relief supplies for the church in West Islip to distribute to our neighbors in need in the name of Christ, and all I have to do is sign an invoice?”
It was that easy. Thanks to countless volunteers and millions in donations Church of Christ Disaster Relief is able to respond quickly to domestic needs caused by natural disaster. Their trucks of blessing come chalk full of non perishable food, water, clothing, blankets, sheets, pillows, cleaning supplies, mops, brooms, rakes, shovels, etc. It was just the things our community needed.
Of course it wasn’t quite that easy. We had to have a place to store the goods while we came up with a plan for distribution. Our building was not large enough. Three times I secured a reservation for a 24 foot moving truck, hoping to store part of the supplies in the truck and use the truck for distribution. Three times I used precious gas reserves and drove to rental dealerships only to be turned away. No one post Sandy was bringing trucks back. The trucks left in the lot were all out of gas.
That is when Eric from Bruce Electric in Lindenhurst came to our rescue. Eric had a 2500
square foot warehouse sitting vacant. He said the church could use it free of charge while we planned for the distribution of the disaster relief supplies. He then sweetened the deal by providing us a forklift and a driver, and on top of it all on the day of the delivery he bought pizza for all the volunteers unloading the truck. He did it because he loves his community, and he was in the right place at the right time to lend a hand. God has a way of arranging these things.
Jerry drove long hours on his way to Long Island. He shouldnt have to, he’s retired from the trucking business. He explained his act of service to me. “In 2010 my home in Nashville was flooded when the Cumberland River flooded its banks after a record rainfall of 17 inches. I lost everything. A kind friend in the church helped my wife and I to rebuild. So I decided when I retired that I was going to give back. I’ve been through what many of your families are going through. So I am happy to do it.”
The candles are getting low now. My battery is going to die any minute. I need to get
some rest, the West Islip Church of Christ has its work cut out for us. I still don’t have power, and the nor’easter rages around me, but I feel warm and full of energy. We have something to offer our neighbors in the name of Christ thanks to the preparations and kindness of others. Thanks to COCDR, and Jerry, and Eric and the good folks at Bruce Electric.
Goodnight from a candlelit Wednesday. To God be the glory.