Challenges, Yet Gratitude 3 Months After Sandy
by Jennifer Peacock, Redeemer OPC, Toms River (Seaside Heights), New Jersey (February 2, 2013)
Weather continues to be a challenge for residents of the Jersey Shore. At this moment the area is bracing for Winter Storm Nemo (the lost little clown fish? the rogue submarine captain of Verne’s imagination?), expecting between four to 10 inches of snow and moderate coastal flooding. An earlier late-autumn store already re-flooded some Superstorm Sandy affected homes and businesses.
At the same time many are fighting with insurance companies to get funds to rebuild, some are getting news that their homes must be raised anywhere from three to 10 feet or pay more than $30,000 annually for flood insurance (see article). Whether they are primary or vacation homes, many of these homes belong to working-class folks, retirees, or families who inherited beach houses.
Secondary issues such as mold are forcing people out of their homes as well.
There are certainly challenging times ahead.
Locally, the small congregation of Redeemer OPC had 12 families directly impacted with losses and displacement due to Hurricane Sandy.
Michael and Tracey Letso, whose home is located on the barrier island, lost three vehicles and many personal items, some “personal family treasures” that cannot be replaced. They did receive some assistance from FEMA, as well as friends, family, and NJEA (Michael is a middle school music teacher). They have been displaced from their rental property, but were able to quickly find a winter rental off the island just a few miles away. They are hoping to move back into their barrier island home soon.
“In comparison to many other storm victims, Tracey and I are doing quite well and are extremely thankful to God for being so blessed. We have grown closer to our Lord Jesus through this, as we all do through all things, in Him.
Ann Stabile, of Toms River, along with her husband Gary, faced devastating losses not only to their primary residence, but three rental properties.
“Our first floor was flooded with almost two feet of bay water due to Sandy. It had to be gutted out and the furniture, appliances and cabinets had to be thrown out. Thanks to the help of our Christian brothers and sisters, and a lot of hard work from all of us, our first floor is now livable,” Ann said. Furniture was delivered at the end of January.
Other families are back in their homes while others are waiting for work to start on theirs.
The congregation also lost use of its rental property in Seaside Heights due to major flooding. Providentially, they were able to worship alongside brothers and sisters at Faith Bible Church, an independent Presbyterian congregation in Brick, NJ. The two congregations have recently agreed to move forward with a merger. (More on that to come.)
Individual volunteers and teams from all over the country (the furthest so far being a member from Grace OPC, Wasilla AK) and across denominational lines have poured into the region. They have used their skills, their strength, and their time to not only rebuild homes but to show the love of Christ to the hurting in the body of Christ, and outsiders. Local churches and parachurch organizations have offered hot meals, hot showers, and overnight accommodations to volunteers as well. “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV)
It’s been three months since the Jersey Shore was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, but prayers, money, and volunteers are still needed.