Tribune-Courier General Manager
When Hurricane Sandy rolled through Long Island, New York in October 2012 she left behind a trail of devastation for thousands of residents along the northeastern Atlantic shore. Many of those residents continue to struggle with rebuilding nearly two years after the disaster.
Thirteen volunteers from Zion’s Cause Baptist Church returned from Islip, New York Sunday after spending a week helping with those rebuilding efforts. The group joined the Southern Baptist Disaster Sandy Rebuild effort, working alongside volunteers from around the country to help paint, install flooring, do carpentry work and continue general cleanup.
Sandy Rebuild is a two-year effort planned to conclude in August 2015. The goal is to repair and help restore communities, not only physically, but also spiritually, said Mickey Caison, North American Mission Board SBDR recovery coordinator and overall director for Sandy Rebuild. The bulk of the work is on Long Island. Projects are also ongoing on Staten Island and in Allenwood, New Jersey.
The volunteers from Zion’s Cause worked last week at two homes still in need of repairs.
In Central Islip the volunteers installed flooring for a family whose home had been flooded when the storm surge came onshore from Sandy. At another home, electrician Rich Lichtenberg, Benton, a Zion’s Cause missionary along on the trip, installed outlets so that an elderly man could once again have a washer and dryer in his home.
Forming relationships with the homeowners is a big part of disaster relief ministry, said Caison. The volume of work volunteers do in initial responses and later in rebuild, coupled with the way in which they serve, has given Southern Baptists great credibility in the community, he said.
“One of the comments I keep hearing over and over here is, ‘Your volunteers are so loving and kind,’” said Caison.
“It’s truly amazing to be able to help make a difference in people’s lives,” said Misti Jaco, Benton. “We are here sharing Gods love with this community. The people are so amazed and thankful that we care enough to come and work for free to help improve their lives and homes.”
She was accompanied on the week-long mission trip by two sons. Jaco said the experience was one she hoped they would return home from with a new perspective.
“The young people here are involved in helping people in a hopeless situation, hard work and the willingness to give back to others. Taking the time to listen to people and truly understanding their pain and their hopes is the reward they will return home with,” said Jaco.
Dana Titsworth and teenage daughter Chaney Ramage of Benton were also part of the missionary team. Titsworth said it was a great blessing to see her daughter work so hard to make a difference for a total stranger.
The North American Mission Board estimates nearly 11,000 volunteers have served 1.85 million meals, completed 2,678 jobs, shared the gospel 878 times and witnessed 116 professions of faith since Sandy made landfall October 29, 2012.