By Bishop John Schol, Special Contributor…
The wind blows where it chooses, you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” –Jesus (John 3:8)
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Jesus encountered the forces of nature. He calmed storms on the sea, faced parched lands in the desert, and braved the heat of the sun in the wilderness. While he experienced nature’s wrath, Jesus also saw the movement of the Spirit. People born of the Spirit move to the places where God needs them.
For the four months following Superstorm Sandy, we have witnessed the Spirit’s winds of hope, healing and relief blow in our midst. People from Greater New Jersey and across the Nation have been Holy Spirit winds for those impacted by the storm.
Together, we have responded by:
- Providing more than 50,000 meals
- Providing day and night shelter for more than 5,000 people
- Distributing more than 11,000 cleaning buckets (flood buckets), more than 3,000 health kits, tons of clothing and other material supplies such as non-perishable food, heaters, and blankets
- Assessing community needs and “mucking” out nearly 2,000 homes
The Greater New Jersey Disaster Relief Team and congregations throughout the conference have done an outstanding ministry. The Middletown congregation, under Pastor Derrick Doherty’s leadership, has been active in areas like Union Beach assisting people with food, cleaning out their homes and providing home assessments. The Atlantic Highlands & Navesink congregations, under the leadership of Pastor Jill Hubbard-Smith, drove through communities immediately following the storm providing coffee and meals to impacted residents and volunteers.
Pastor Jevon Caldwell-Gross of Hamilton Memorial UMC in Atlantic City has volunteered to be the secretary of the Atlantic City long term recovery group that will assess needs and channel resources to repair hundreds of homes. Lacey UMC in Forked River provided meals, material distribution and housing for those without homes and still continues to provide housing for three families.
These are only a few of the many Spirit winds that have been blowing throughout Greater New Jersey. I give thanks to God for each of you as you volunteer, donate money and pray for the long term recovery of those impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
Today we begin to move from relief ministry to long term recovery ministry. Our recovery ministry will have three aspects:
- Repair – repair 300-500 homes of low income, elderly and disabled individuals. A significant part of the repair ministry is recruiting and housing as many as 15,000 volunteers.
- Rebuild – using the Communities of Shalom strategy, we will identify at least three communities where we will work with residents, businesses and elected officials to develop sustainable communities. Our rebuild ministry also includes repairs to church property. We had 113 church properties impacted by the storm. Most of these are covered by insurance but 12 properties will need our assistance.
- Renew – providing case management, spiritual renewal and counseling for the most hard hit families and individuals.
To support this ministry we are establishing host sites to house volunteers. These sites include three large capacity host sites; Highlands Church, First UMC of Belmar, and Pinelands Center, as well as several other local churches who can host anywhere from 15 to 30 people. Through these host sites we will house up to 200 volunteers a week which will allow us to support the work of repairing as many as 20 homes at a time.
Some have been asking why we have not moved to the repair phase more quickly. There are several reasons:
- Homes must be mold free before we begin repairs.
- Homeowners must have their resources secured (FEMA and insurance companies have a tremendous back log of cases).
- We have to wait for towns to identify repair and rebuilding plans (this has been slowed because of issues of elevating homes and waiting until environmental work is completed because some communities are prone to re-flooding).
- Developing our capacity to host volunteers, provide case management for homeowners, and manage worksites.
We will begin our first four homes in April. We will use these first four homes to test our volunteer enrollment, host sites, material acquisition and delivery, construction management, orientation and safety procedures, and logistics.
Here are ways you and your congregation can help:
- Volunteer to be a part of a work week or weekend work team. The online registration will be open March 15 and will be made available at www.afuturewithhope.org.
- Volunteer to staff and support a host site. This includes welcoming guest volunteers, cleaning, providing a meal, and supporting volunteer needs. The online registration will be open March 15 and will be made available at www.afuturewithhope.org.
- Provide names of families that need our assistance to repair their homes or need counseling support. This information can be emailed to SandyRecovery@afuturewithhope.org.
- Contribute money to our ministry. The GNJ Sandy Relief Fund has raised more than $1.5 million. We are also requesting grants from UMCOR, the Red Cross, the Robin Hood Foundation, Governor Christie Fund, the State, and a variety of other sources. We have set a budget of $23 million dollars. You can contribute online at www.gnjumc.org or by sending a check to:
GNJ Sandy Relief Fund
1001 Wickapecko Drive
Ocean, NJ 07712
We have been receiving important questions about GNJ relief and recovery ministry. Below are responses to frequently asked questions. Please feel free to send your questions and we will add to them.
God’s wind blows where it chooses. There are fresh Spirit winds blowing the church into a ministry of relief, repair, rebuild and renew throughout GNJ. Thank you for choosing to be a Spirit movement.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference
You are welcome to share this letter and FAQ with others.
Why haven’t we started repairing homes?
Very few homes are presently being repaired along the coast. Not being able to move forward with repairs has been devastating to homeowners, particularly low income, elderly and the disabled people. Our ministry will focus with this population. There are three primary reasons why most homes damaged by flooding have not begun with repairs: 1) homes need to be mold free, 2) homeowners must have their FEMA and insurance money awarded, and 3) homeowners must resolve whether or not their home needs to be elevated. These are very serious concerns and moving forward without addressing these issues will only make matters worse for people. We will start our first four homes in April to test our systems.
Why aren’t we working with UMCOR?
We are working with UMCOR. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is one of the best relief agencies in the world. In actuality you and the Greater New Jersey Conference is UMCOR and you are one of the best relief agencies in the world. UMCOR employs only a few people year round to handle disasters around the world. You can imagine the money that would be wasted if UMCOR hired the staff needed to respond to a disaster and have them waiting for the next disaster. UMCOR has a few staff and when a disaster occurs, they work with annual conferences so that the annual conference develops a plan for its relief and recovery ministry. In collaboration with UMCOR, we developed our case statement which provides the blue print for our long term recovery ministry. It can be found at www.gnjumc.org by clicking our Sandy Relief Ministry tab.
Who is A Future with Hope, Inc?
A Future with Hope is a nonprofit organization started within the Greater New Jersey Conference to lead our relief and recovery efforts. There has been a history of starting nonprofits for unique ministries in GNJ (United Methodist Homes, CUMAC, Neighborhood House, Respond, Inc.), so A Future with Hope was organized. A Future with Hope is based on Jeremiah 29:11 and will assist our relief and recovery ministries.
A Future with Hope allows us to raise funds from foundations and other sources for this important ministry. Recently we submitted proposals to the Red Cross, the Robin Hood Foundation and the State of New Jersey to assist with our $23 million vision for the our long term recovery ministry. Through this ministry we will repair 300-500 homes, provide case management to 500 families, provide counseling to more than 100 families and recruit, house and deploy up to 15,000 volunteers.
How can I volunteer or make a donation to this important ministry?
Our volunteer ministry web site opens March 15. It can be found at AFuturewithHope.org. On this site you will find many different opportunities as a group or individual to assist in the long term recovery ministry. You can donate to the ministry by going to www.gnjumc.org.
There is someone in my community who needs help because of Superstorm Sandy. How can I get the help?
We use a case management system to identify needs and resources to assist people with their long term recovery needs. Liz McDevitt oversees our case management ministry and may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or called at 732-359-1034.