Tree damage on Staten Island, NY (Image courtesy of TouchGlobal)
USA (MNN) ― You'd think they had been through enough. Hurricane Sandy ravaged the United States' East Coast last week, killing over 100 people in 10 states and leaving hundreds of thousands of citizens homeless. Now there's a nor'easter on the way.
"The emotional impact will be the first thing," says Mark Lewis, the Director of Evangelical Free Church of America's TouchGlobal. "Anytime people go through a traumatic event, and those events kinda replicate that, [it] brings back the memory of the initial trauma."
Forecasters are warning that a significant winter storm is still on track to hit the East Coast midweek. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the storm could produce hurricane-force winds of up to 55 mph, with the strongest gusts right along the coast. Forecasters also predict that temperatures could drop into the 20s.
"These are really difficult times," Lewis says. "It is cold; it is damp. With the holiday season coming up, it's just a difficult time of year to be facing loss of all your possessions."
Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast with a vengeance last week, leaving some 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey without power, along with almost 700,000 in New York City, its northern suburbs, and Long Island. TouchGlobal says the current situation varies for EFCA churches and their communities, ranging from power outages to entire homes washed into the ocean.
"We are in a pseudo war zone," said Pastor Keith Miraldi of Salem EFC in Staten Island, NY. Three-quarters of the island is without power, and this church's congregates are suffering from homes washed into the ocean, massive flooding, and over 10,000 downed trees.
"I don't think the media is over-hyping the situation," said Miraldi. "We actually feel it is way worse than what you see on TV."
Right now, Sandy survivors are struggling to get by. How will they endure the nor'easter's snow, ice, rain and wind?
"There's no one that's out on the street at this point, to our knowledge anyway," explains Lewis. "The agencies, authorities and city have done a great job of meeting those immediate food, clothing, and temporary shelter needs, but we do see that the people will be inhibited from getting access to the properties."
TouchGlobal works with local churches to provide crisis recovery, outreach, and evangelism.
"We just find being available, providing great opportunities for access ministry and being in the lives of people, really provides that missional opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people for that eternal life transformation," he says.
Lewis shared a recent example of TouchGlobal teams acting as the hands and feet of Christ. The Hoboken Evangelical Free Church in New Jersey was flooded and endured a variety of other storm damages. Teams did initial clean-up efforts at the church, but they didn't stop there. Lewis says they also threw a block party for the community.
"There were hundreds of people that came out around the neighborhood. Food was delivered to people who hadn't been out, hadn't had a hot meal in 4 or 5 days," says Lewis. "There were so many people that were out in the community, [and] there were lots of good conversations."
He adds, "There really is a seed-planting moment right now. Crisis provides a unique opportunity where people ask lots of questions about life, eternity, 'why' questions. They ponder things that normally they don't in the busyness of life."
Ask God to protect Sandy survivors as they brace for another storm. Pray that unbelievers would come to know Christ through the storms and through the compassion of ministries like TouchGlobal. Pray that God would be made known in a very powerful way.
The EFCA has established a hurricane response fund, and Lewis says funding is their greatest need right now. Volunteers are needed to assist with relief efforts, and there's also a need for supplies.
"In the very short-term, we're trying to mobilize blankets and winter coats for Salem Church on Staten Island," said Lewis. "We're trying to accomplish that actually by Thursday or Friday so that those supplies would be able to get distributed this weekend as temperatures continue to drop."