Hurricane Sandy: The OPC Response Effort

by David Nakhla, OPC Disaster Response Coordinator (November 2012)

 

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

Monday evening, October 29th, 2012, consistent with the predictions of many weather forecasters, Hurricane Sandy took her left turn and headed west directly for the Jersey Shore.  The OPC is still recovering from the effects of that blow.  I say "the OPC" because as one body, "If one member suffers, all suffer together" (I Cor 12:26a).

We have several families in our church who really are suffering.  As reported earlier, we were thankful to find that the two Wildwood churches were spared as well as the Boardwalk Chapel structures.  But 80 miles up the Jersey Shore in the Tom's River area, the Lord chose to allow the fury of the storm to beat a little bit harder.  The extra high tide that resulted from the combined natural high tide plus storm surge pushed water into areas of the neighborhoods to levels that have never been seen by folks who have lived there fifty years or more.  We confirmed that at least 5 OPC homes suffered the affect of sea water flooding throughout their homes.

Long Island suffered quite a blow as well.  At least 4 homes suffered flooding, and those who weren't flooded were out of contact due to power outages.  Making matters more difficult were the fuel shortages that resulted from damage to refineries, docks and pipelines.  The Lord has provided this rare opportunity to minister to one another.  May He grant us the zeal to serve and share our love for the church in this tangible way.  I was blessed to worship with the saints in Franklin Square on their first Lord's Day back together after the storm.  Following are just a few passages that Pastor Shishko aptly brought to mind:

  • Psalm 46:10 - "Be still and know that I am God."
  • Luke 12:15b - "One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • Phil 4:12b-13 - "In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
  • Phil 4:14 - "Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble."
  • Phil 4:19 - "My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Thank you for your patience on the OPC Disaster Response Team as we have performed our assessment and drawn up a plan for response.  We know it is not easy to wait, particularly when these disasters are such big news and we feel compelled to help.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR:

Assessments

  • Thursday, November 1 - David Haney and I visited Wildwood and met with Pastor Jim Zozzaro and Elder Jon Stevenson.  We were relieved to see that this area had only been briefly affected by the storm.
  • Friday, November 2 -  The two of us, with two generators and fuel, visited Pastor Bill Shishko in Franklin Square.  He was able to take us to several homes that were trying to recover from the storm.
  • Saturday, November 3 - David Haney and Deacon Rich Duggan returned to Long Island to deliver many generators, gallons of fuel, cleaning supplies, heaters, etc.  Meanwhile, I attended a meeting of the congregants of the OPC in Toms River, coordinated by Pastor Jim Zozzaro who happens to be the over-seeing minister of this church that is currently between pastors.  We listened to the harrowing stories of one couple who survived after riding out the storm in their residence on the barrier island Seaside.  We also learned of the needs there.
  • Sunday, November 4 - I traveled back up to Long Island to meet with the Franklin Square congregation as well as some of the officers of the OPC in Bohemia.

Deployments:  We have deployed the following individuals to help.

  • Raun Treible, member of Lake Sherwood OPC in Orlando and an HVAC expert, to travel to Franklin Square to assist in assessing and repairing  furnaces and water heaters that have been flooded in basements, so that the residents can be ready for winter.
  • Rev. Richard Dickinson, retired Army Chaplain and OPC minister, will assist in Franklin Square with ministering to those who are hurting and will help Pastor Shishko with his ministry responsibilities.
  • Deacon Kenley Leslie, member of the CDM and an experienced disaster responder, along with his wife, Sarah, have moved their RV into the Toms River area to help support the efforts in that region.

Communications:

  • I have been thankful to hear reports from many, many OPC churches throughout MD, NJ, PA, NJ and New England.
  • Many of these reports are posted to www.facebook.com/OPCDisasterResponse.
  • Other requests that arise are also posted to the same FB page.
  • Please link up to this page if you desire the latest reports.

Site Coordinators:

  • Elder Al Zarek (zarekpackaging@optonline.net) has been established as the Site Coordinator for the Franklin Square area.
  • Pastor Meindert "Meint" Ploegman (ploegman.1@opc.org) is serving as the coordinator for the one project out of the Bohemia church.
  • Charlie Farrell (farre954@regis.edu) is serving as site coordinator for the Toms River area.

 

WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE:

Material Needs:

  • Fuel - There is a great fuel shortage on Long Island.  Ideas on how to help them with fuel would be welcome. (Anybody have a pickup with dual tanks?)
  • Generators - These seem to continue to be in short supply, particularly as have the potential for further impact from this Northeastern coming through.
  • Parts - Replacement parts for flooded furnaces and water heaters.
  • Water Heaters - There is suddenly a shortage of these, particularly on Long Island, for obvious reasons.
  • Vehicles - Many church members have had their vehicles flooded by sea water, deeming them useless.  Do you have an extra to loan or sell for cheap?
  • Coats - This is a tough one, but Franklin Square would receive coats donated, as winter is coming, and thousands have lost wardrobes.
  • Space Heaters - For those whose furnaces are no longer working and to help with drying out buildings.
  • A Truck - Al Zarek would be blessed to have a truck lent to him for the next month or so to better enable him to carry out his duties as site coordinator.

Skills Needed Now:

  • Electricians -  We need to assess and seek to repair damaged electrical systems in homes.
  • HVAC - Those who can help assess and repair flooded furnaces and water heaters.
  • Plumbers - To replace water heaters.
  • Roofers - We have many in the OPC who have suffered roof damage.
  • Tree Trimmers - There are still some who are dealing with fallen trees and limbs.
  • Ministers - Offers to help our ministers in the affected areas with pulpit supply might be welcome, as they scramble to minister to many needs.
  • Teams of those willing to remove contents and wet sheetrock from buildings.  We will need to coordinate these with our site coordinators.  Lodging is limited, yet teams are welcome!

Donations:

The Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM) is accepting gifts designated for Hurricane Sandy relief.  Such gifts ought to be made payable to "Orthodox Presbyterian Church", noted for "Hurricane Sandy Relief" and mailed into the OPC Administrative Office: 607 N. Easton Rd, Bldg E, Willow Grove, PA 19090.  Please know that the CDM does have disaster response reserves from which to pull and we are concerned that the important annual Thank Offering, being received by the OPC at this time, not be negatively impacted by giving towards relief.  We really need to do both.  Please keep that in mind as you consider your giving.

 

MORE DETAILED REPORTS FROM AFFECTED AREA:

The two main areas of the OPC that have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy: Long Island, New York and Seaside, New Jersey. These two locations represent the beach heads of our Disaster Response.

LONG ISLAND, NY

On Long Island, the OPC has 4 churches and mission works.

1.)  Reformation OPC in Queens:  Pastor Brad Hertzog reports of one situation that they are still evaluating. Currently there is no need for help, but as they get more info, if that changes they will let us know in the near future.  (There might be an opportunity for a reputable contractor within the OPC who would be willing to work in Queens for hire for some aspects that this particular situation.  Please contact Pastor Hertzog if interested at hertzog.1@opc.org). NO NEEDS.

2.)  Trinity OPC in Huntington: Pastor Ben Miller reports that, besides power outages (which up to 90% of Long Islanders suffered!), none of their families suffered any flooding.  We thank the Lord for His mercies on Trinity OPC and her members.  NO NEEDS.

3.)  Bohemia OPC in Bohemia: Pastor Meindert ("Meint") Ploegman asks us to consider helping one family in this church.  This family's home, located in Massapequa, was flooded with 42" of seawater.  They are now living in a camper in front of their home.  While they anticipate that much of the damage will be covered by the insurance they carry with FEMA, it will be well into the winter before they anticipate that settlement.  Teams coming in to help them get reestablished in their home would be greatly appreciated.  The specific trades they would like help with are electrical, sheetrock installation and spackling and finish carpentry (hanging doors and installing molding).  The church can host and feed teams.

4.)  Franklin Square OPC in Franklin Square: Pastor Bill Shisko reports that four families have been directly impacted.  One family's first floor condo is right on the water.  It is anticipated that they will need a major rebuild of the walls and floors and replacement of appliances, furnishings, etc.  They have been granted temporary lodging by FEMA through December.  Please remember them in your prayers.  Three other families suffered their basements being partially, if not completely, flooded.  Of course, this means significant, if not complete, damage to their water heaters and boilers.  You can imagine that these are very difficult to replace at this time, even as winter approaches.  There is plenty of cleanup to do in these homes as well.

TOMS RIVER, NJ

In the Toms River area of NJ, about 80 miles north of Wildwood (think Boardwalk Chapel), the barrier island of Seaside off the coast by Toms River really got hammered by the raging surf.  Grace Evangelical OPC in Toms River has members who live on that island.  They also have church members who live on the bayside who experienced flooding in their homes.

This church is currently without a pastor, but Pastor Jim Zozzaro is the ministerial adviser working with them at this time.  He reports that there are at least 5 homes that have been inundated with water on the bayside and the condition of homes on the barrier island is still unknown as many have not yet been able to get back onto the island to see their property.  Teams willing to come and help with clearing out these homes will be welcome.

 

IN GENERAL

Specifically, at this time there is a need for those who are specially skilled with water heaters, boilers, electrical and roofs.  Teams that would like to come help with clearing out homes would also be welcome.  Once the work is completed on the homes of our OPC families, this can be a rich opportunity for outreach and ministering the compassion and love of Christ to those who are going through one of the most difficult times in their lives.  What a wonderful time to bring them Christ!

TO SUMMARIZE:

1.)  Volunteer teams can be assembled to aid in:

  • Removing wet contents from flooded homes.
  • Removing wet wall-board and insulation from flooded homes.
  • Encouraging those impacted by the storm.
  • Other means of service?  Cooking?  Clothing distribution?

2.)  Skilled teams or individuals can come to aid in:

  • Repair / replace flooded furnaces, water heaters and A/C units.
  • Repairing/replacing the walls (and potentially floors) of the flooded homes.
  • Inspect and repair electrical wiring, where needed.
  • Repair roofs with wind damage.
  • Finish carpentry once sheetrock is completed.

3.)  Funds will be used to help offset the potential cost of the following:

  • Replacement of flooded vehicles, in the event insurance does not pay.
  • Replacement and/or repair of heating units.
  • Building materials.
  • Space heaters and fans for use in drying out the flooded homes.
  • Help with rent for those displaced
  • Help replace incidental items.

PRAY:  Here I reiterate the prayer requests from Pastor Bill Shishko.

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.  That the Lord would not permit the Northeaster that threatens our area tomorrow to come with power that would make things worse here.  Many people have partially felled trees on their property.  These could easily topple with another storm.  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.

Serving Christ with you by His grace,
David Nakhla