Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reports from Churches in the Path of Hurricane Sandy

The seminary has received a number of reports from churches with which we have some connection concerning their circumstances resulting from Hurricane Sandy in the New York, Long Island and New Jersey areas.

First, there is this report from William Shishko, adjunct lecturer at GPTS and pastor of Franklin Square Orthodox Presbyterian Church on Long Island:

Dear brothers and sisters,
First, thank you for your prayers for those of us in the Northeast who recently endured the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. One feels his or her own helplessness before 70- and 80-m.p.h. gusts of wind that threaten to (and in many cases actually did) topple huge trees before your very eyes. I apologize for the delay in sending out this report and update, but we just got power back to our home in Malverne at about 9:30 this morning [Tues, Nov. 6]. It was so good to feel heat after 7½ days without power. Our experiences over years of camping as a family came in very handy as we went through days without light and heat and with increasing cold!
* * * * *
One family in Reformation Presbyterian Church (Queens) had major damage to their home in the Rockaways (which was particularly ravaged by waves, wind, and fires). Two families in the OPC in Bohemia experienced major damage to their homes. Here in Franklin Square, we have five families that have sustained moderate to severe damage to their homes. One of those families lost virtually everything in their condominium in Freeport. We have been unable to contact one of our families in a particularly hard hit area near the Rockaways (which is near JFK Airport).

I praise the Lord for the quick action by both David Haney and David Nakhla of the OPC Disaster Response Team. On Friday of last week, after experiencing a couple of days in which it was almost impossible to make contact with people even by cell phones, I received a distress call from one of our widows whose basement was completely flooded. She needed a generator. By that time generators were unavailable at the stores. Literally, about one hour after praying (with a great sense of helplessness), these brothers showed up with a truck that included generators and much needed gasoline. (Gasoline lines on Long Island have been nightmares. People have been waiting in line for sometimes up to 3 hours to get gasoline). We were able to get to the widow (after taking many back streets because the major roads to her home were blocked) and provide her with a generator, gas, and some cash to help her. (Most banks were unable to open or function with the power outages). We were then able to help another elderly OPC Franklin Square couple whose basement had flooded. The sea waters had also destroyed their van and the generator they owned. We were also able to help another widow who needed gas to power her generator. It was both sobering and wonderful to see her family members and a couple from the church (that drove out from Queens) helping her with the sad task of ripping out the walls of her ruined basement.

The next day (Saturday), David Haney and Richard Dugan of the OPC Disaster Response team came with a huge truck of generators, gas, heaters, fire logs, cleaning supplies, and ice (which was in short supply, too). We spent most of Saturday getting the generators and other items to as many families as we could. What a joy it was to help one of our Long Beach families (who had to evacuate their apartment in Long Beach) who had moved in with the wife's parents here in Malverne. Both of her octogenarian parents have serious health issues, and they were without power. We were able to install a large generator with power enough to provide heating and lights for them. In all cases, we tried to give priority to the elderly, the widows, and those without power who had no other place to go to live. It was a day of experiencing the truth that it is "more blessed to give than to receive."

Praise the Lord that the power at the church building finally came on on Saturday. We were able to have worship and a combined Bible School class on Sunday. OPC Disaster Response Coordinator David Nakhla was with us and told us how to organize and work with him to provide the assistance that we need. Christopher Shishko, who is a lawyer here on Long Island, then provided very helpful information regarding how to work with insurance companies in making claims. Throughout we emphasized that disasters like this are God's scaffolding (as all of world history is) behind which the Lord is building His church. We were all challenged to show Christlike love in giving ourselves for the good of others and letting our lights so shine before others that people may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

Yesterday our disaster relief site coordinator Al Zarek and I began to lay out our long term plans. We are in regular contact with David Nakhla, who has already arranged for an electrician who is an expert in heating systems to fly up here from Orlando, Fla. to be with us for about 10 days to help get the heating systems of our church families and others operable. We will also need teams to help with clean-up projects. Pray for our witness to others through his labors and the teams that will soon be working on the massive clean-up projects. Last night a half a dozen of our church ladies spent three hours getting clothing together to give to needy families. (I have heard the figure of 500,000 winter coats being needed. It's beginning to get cold up here!) Pray that these will be distributed faithfully.

I appreciate the many who have asked about diaconal offerings to help us. There is no doubt that we will need much financial assistance to supplement FEMA and insurance help. Please send these gifts to the OPC Diaconal Committee, designating them for Hurricane Sandy Relief. This may well be the greatest challenge to your Diaconal Committee, given the nearness of this disaster, and the number of OPC congregations involved. Also, please pray:
  1. That those still without power can get it soon; and that sanitation problems can be corrected without serious health consequences.
  2. That much needed gasoline will be provided to New Jersey, Long Island, and metropolitan NYC.
  3. That the Lord will restrain those who would use this time as an opportunity to vandalize others.…
  4. We also need an extended period of dry weather so that previously flooded basements can dry out. We cannot do rebuilding work in basements without that. 
  5. That the church families (and others) who have lost their homes would be able to have their homes restored.
  6. Above all, that the Kingdom of God will be furthered in this area through the testimony of Christians, especially our corporate OPC testimony as we work together to show the love of Christ to others.  Pray that many in this area will learn the all-important truth that a person's life most definitely does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. 

In times like this, how I ESPECIALLY rejoice that we are blessedly NOT "independent," and that we have the rich textured fellowship of individuals, families, congregations, the OPC as a whole, and other Reformed and Presbyterian churches with whom we have the ties of fellowship, love, and sacrificial commitment. Pray that this Psalm 133 testimony will, according to God's explicit promise, bring salvation to many.

Yours in the service of the Lord of the winds and the waves,
Bill Shishko, pastor, OPC, Franklin Square, N.Y.
After this report was received, the area was again hit by a severe "Nor'easter" storm which produced high winds, more flooding, and heavy snow, with more power outages and hardship.

The following report was relayed to GPTS by student Lowell Ivey, who interned last summer in New Jersey. This report concerns the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, N.J.
Dear friends,
Thank you for your prayers. God in his providence chose to spare the three Wildwood properties of any major damage. Although the main threat to the Chapel was the wind, the roof was found to be secure. There were some missing shingles but that is a common occurrence when brisk winter winds sweep across the 17 year old roof. Ocean waves had minimal impact due to the annual increasing width of the beach between rising tides and the Chapel. Additionally, the Chapel is partially shielded by a sand dune
built to protect the nearby Wildwood Convention Center. The power of the storm surge was apparent in the drastic sand patterns around some of the 36 cinder block pillars holding up the Chapel. However, each pillar is secured to a concrete slab atop a 20-30 foot long piling driven into the ground (“... a wise man ... built his house on the rock.” – Matt. 7:24). A walkthrough of the Chapel interior revealed no damage other than two mattresses ruined by water leaking from a nearby window.

During the summer, the Chapel staff resides in the Dunn House dorm, lovingly named after the
late Rev. Leslie Dunn who helped the Presbytery of New Jersey start the work in 1945. It was secure in every way during the storm with no apparent leaks or broken windows. It sits in the middle of the Island between the ocean and the back bay and is not affected by storm tossed waves from the east side or high tide flooding from the west. However, water damage is a problem due to the age of the three bathrooms slated for much needed renovations. Once a volunteer team is secured and material procured the work can begin in March 2013.

The director’s residence, the Kay House, was donated to the Chapel by a Miss Mary Kay in the ‘50’s. It stood firm against Sandy’s gusty bravado — only small roof leakages in two spots. But it could not prevent the salt water intrusion from a full-moon, back-bay high tide. The 15 inches of water surrounding the house forced a rupture in the basement stairwell allowing water to flow freely into the basement beyond the capacity of a very efficient sump pump. The water heater, gas furnace, washer, and dryer were all impacted. The Chapel’s very efficient plumber promised that the heater and furnace would be up and running within 48 hours, and so they were. The 10-year-old appliances will probably be taken to the curb.
Any of a number of variations to the storm’s path could have altered this report significantly. But thanks and praise be to our God who ordains all that comes to pass. (“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:41)
In Christ, Jon W. Steveson, Director
The following report was relayed to us by student Mike Myers from Pastor James Zozzaro of Calvary OPC in Wildwood:
Please continue to pray for Redeemer OPC in Seaside. ... Seaside was hammered hard by the storm, and I fear it did a lot of damage to my mother's/sister's home as well as effecting many in the church family. Hopefully, I can get to Seaside soon. Thank you all for your prayers. Thus far the mercy of the Lord has been abundantly displayed in sparing the Calvary OPC church family. Peace to you all.