Mission Trip - March 19-26, 2016 New York
Dear friends, March 26, 2016
We arrived on Monday – four and a half years after Super Storm Sandy barreled onto the Eastern Seaboard, its brutal winds devastating over 820 miles of coastline – to help rebuild a house for a family that still has not moved back into their home. We learned that there are nearly 14,000 people in Ocean County alone whose homes are still uninhabitable.
When Sandy first hit in October 2012, it captivated our nation with photos of surreal and unimaginable damage: the twisted steel of seaside roller coasters, houses cleaved in half, homes on fire in the middle of flooded streets, and of darkened cities during blackouts that lasted months. The world responded and New Jersey, New York and Connecticut were inundated with volunteers and relief agencies, as well as millions of dollars in aid. Four years later, other disasters and subjects have garnered the media’s attention. But Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Disaster Response Ministries hasn’t given up on this part of the nation.
One thing you learn about disasters is that loss is usually not a singular event. Loss follows loss. Michelle is a woman who knows – her husband lost his battle with cancer shortly before Sandy hit, followed by the death of her brother and father. Her dad had just finished remodeling their home when Sandy hit. The winds ripped up the coastline and tore the roof off the house. But the real damage came that night when the waters rose higher than neck level in just 50 minutes. Family, friends and neighbors held hands and half-walked and half-swam through the frigid waters to higher ground. The only sound was the popping of transformers and the flash of blue lights as power lines went dead. Cars and phone service were ruined by the salt water; people were soaking wet and cold; skies were pitch black with no power for miles; tangled electrical wires, twisted branches, and flooding blocked the streets to emergency vehicles.
Federal aid, insurance monies, and grants cannot begin to cover the cost of construction supplies and labor to rebuild the destroyed houses and businesses. Even today, so many of the houses are empty – construction at a standstill – because families can no longer afford to fix them. Our task was to support Michelle –give her hope. We took-on insulating her half-built home. We worked in teams –all looking like Martians with our masks and goggles: Paloma and Chase measuring the insulation; Mattie, Kat and Hunter cutting them to size; John, Rocco and Tyler securing them in place with staple guns; and Lilly and Rev. Susan working solo, moving at a break-neck pace. Barry, our local contractor, said we were one of the best volunteer teams he has ever worked with. A youth from the local church joined us every day, so we adopted him and presented him with a hard-earned PDA shirt.
On Wednesday, Michelle and her daughter Summer joined us for the day. Kat, Chase and Mattie took Summer to her bedroom – newly insulated in pink – and listened to her dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Our girls were so gracious that Summer has decided to join us on our Alaska mission trip this summer.
Last night was Maundy Thursday and our team gathered around a table to celebrate the last supper of Jesus – 16 of us from 6 Presbyterian Churches from Northern California working together as the Body Of Christ – making a difference across the country in New Jersey. We thank you for the privilege of serving; thank you for your prayers and financial support; and thank you for the honor of representing the Greater Sacramento Area!
The Rev. Jeanie Shaw
Youth Mission Team -- New York
Youth Mission Team -- Philadelphia
Super Storm Sandy victim Michelle and Pastor Jeanie
Youth wearing protective clothing!