Damage assessments underway in wake of megastorm

By November 1, 2012

USA (MNN) — A huge clean-up continued across America's northast in the wake of a direct hit by superstorm Sandy that left New York City paralyzed and New Jersey shuddering.

Although the Stock Market opened its doors again Wednesday, the effects from the direct hit on Monday night were still being felt. More than eight million people were without power, transportation systems were essentially paralyzed, and there was the promise of exhausting debris cleanup left by high water.

Disaster groups think Sandy caused tens of billions of dollars of damage with a unique combination of high winds, a massive flood surge, and even a blizzard in mountainous areas. Its footprint stretched from North Carolina to Canada. TouchGlobal, a relief ministry of the Evangelical Free Church of America, is in the region.

The TouchGlobal Crisis Response Director Mark Lewis says that's what makes figuring out what to do difficult. "Just the process of trying to get in touch with local churches and assess how they've been affected, how the congregation has been affected, and how the community that the church serves has been affected: just that process has been rather daunting with hundreds of churches to try to connect with."

Not surprisingly, with an area that big, Lewis is getting damage reports. "This storm affected many, many churches across two of our districts: the Eastern district and the New England district."

Lewis adds that just getting to the disaster zones has proven to be a challenge. "My staff person was telling me he's been trying to get around: there are power lines down, trees down, so finding open roads has been bit of a challenge. The major infrastructure was closed."

However, he says their first responder partners are making the effort to make personal contact in the hardest-hit areas. "We do have some staff on the ground in the North Jersey area outside of New York City, and they've been trying to make some personal visits to some of the churches that we suspect may be in the harder hit area. In Hoboken, for example, we have a church there, and that area has been evacuated, so we're not even able to get in."

For some of the storm's survivors, returning to normal was nothing more than picking up a few downed limbs in the yard. For others, they're learning a new "normal:" coping. There's more trauma involved with the post-storm days than people anticipate. "There will be significant ministry opportunities to express the Gospel in word and in deed in the lives of the people who have been impacted over a broad region."

It's too early to say what their needs will be, which is why TouchGlobal has "some other folks coming in to add more feet coming onto the ground to help with the assessment process." They want to make accurate reports, but time is of the essence, Lewis adds. "Hopefully by the end of the day tomorrow, or sometime Friday, we'll have a much better picture of what the next steps are in terms of a response."

With the cleanup involved, manpower will be one thing on the "needs" list. Funding for rebuilding will also play a critical role. After the "new normal" settles into the rhythm of the day, Lewis says people start asking Why which can always be answered with Who. "Pray for those that have been affected, as well as  for the body of Christ in the area where there are impacts, that the body of Christ would rise up, that hope would be professed."

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