Devastation, destruction meet redemption and reconciliation on the U.S. East Coast

By October 23, 2013

USA (MNN) — Hurricane Sandy brought her friends, devastation, and destruction with her when she struck the U.S. East Coast last year.

Also known as Superstorm Sandy and Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy impacted 24 states, and damages reached an excess of $50 billion according to a May assessment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Nearly 150 people died, making Sandy the "deadliest hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Katrina in 2005."

Click here to see what made this hurricane a "superstorm."

As Sandy's one-year anniversary approaches, EFCA ReachGlobal Crisis Response Director Mark Lewis says the recovery process is a mixed bag. For some families, everything is back to normal.

"The reality is that there are still thousands of families that are stuck," he states. "We have a file drawer full of several hundred families that we're working with."

This week, ReachGlobal has been reconnecting with families they met at the onslaught of Sandy's wrath last year. Many are in a situation more typical of a third-world nation, not the United States.

A single mom's home is still in the same condition it was a year ago. There are bedrooms for her and her two children to sleep in, but the kitchen is gone and parts of their living room are heavily flood-damaged. Sections of wall and flooring are missing.

Another woman's home was completely flooded, from floor to ceiling. "She's gotten a little bit of money in from FEMA and is trying to save things up on her own, but [without] outside help, it's just difficult," says Lewis.

ReachGlobal has been on-the-ground helping affected communities from the get-go. They're still sending teams today to share the Gospel as they help rebuild lives.

"It's been really amazing; we've had on the order of about 1,000 volunteers [in the past year]," Lewis says.

"Some have come for a week at a time. We've also hosted volunteers that will come in on a Wednesday night, take two days off of work, and then volunteer Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We've had many people that have done that."

ReachGlobal works as an extension of EFCA churches in the affected regions. Salem Church on Staten Island, New York, and Beacon Evangelical Free Church in southern New Jersey are the "hubs" for Sandy clean-up efforts.

"Those local churches have developed relational ministry teams that help connect and follow-up with people that request help," Lewis explains.

Relationships are the foundation of ReachGlobal's work.

"It's focused on relationship, and it's focused on that relationship flowing through…Christ-following volunteers coming into the home and into the community, as well," states Lewis, "to connect with neighbors and bring Gospel hope, as well as the physical recovery."

Hurricane Sandy covered a lot of ground during her week-long stay on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Water levels rose from Florida to Maine, and Sandy's tropical storm-force gales extended 1,000 miles in diameter.

"We see the amount of damage and the work that still needs to be done, and we know it's going to be a very long-term work," says Lewis.

"Our local church partners are committed to that, to continuing to be a light and a source of Gospel hope for the communities that they serve."

With recovery work far from complete, volunteers are needed on a regular basis. Sign up or send a team here.

"We're in it for the long haul," says Lewis. "Our focus is on the disciple-making, and that's not a short-term process.

"We believe that there is a mission field that follows in the wake of crisis."

Pray that more people will answer a call to serve in the mission field of disaster response.

Sandy's one-year anniversary will bring anxiety for many survivors. Pray for an overwhelming abundance of hope.

"There will be lots of memories…. There's an element of 're-living' the trauma, re-living the experience," explains Lewis.

"[Pray] that the tangible presence of God would be felt by folks that are stuck."

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