When disaster strikes anywhere in the United States, the first responders we usually hear about are FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the American Red Cross. Depending on the severity of the damage, actors and artists from the entertainment industry are sometimes next in line to dominate the spotlight, holding benefits and supporting causes to raise funds to help those affected. As a nation, we are blessed to have such groups and individuals who care enough about others to want to assist in time of need.
On the local level, the news is sure to focus on stories about individuals who have performed heroic acts or acts of kindness. But it is unlikely that you’ll ever hear about some groups of people who are a part of the fabric of the community and who are also there to lend a helping hand. Among those groups are Seventh-day Adventists. That was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the most recent storm to hit the east coast.
Hurricane Sandy is recorded in history as the largest Atlantic hurricane and second-costliest on record—second only to Hurricane Katrina (2005). Over the span of one week, Sandy devastated portions of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeastern United States. It developed from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22 and fluctuated between a tropical storm and a hurricane, leaving devastation along the way. The storm made landfall on the east coast on October 29 near Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Well before Hurricane Sandy dealt that devastating blow to the New Jersey and New York coastline, leaders in the Atlantic Union, Greater New York, and Northeastern
conferences, and, more specifically, the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response teams, began meeting to plan the church’s response in the aftermath of the storm. As soon as the storm passed, the teams immediately went into action. Many of them, victims themselves, put their needs aside to help their neighbors.
Facebook, a social networking site, was one source used to provide information before and after the storm. Facebook users were able to follow the activities of several teams through notes, photos, and videos, and were also notified of much-needed items and locations where people could go to help.
The actions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church family brought scripture alive: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes”—Matthew 25:35, 36 (Message). They provided meals, distributed school supplies, personal care packages, clothing and blankets. They also provided charging stations for those who needed cell phones and other devices charged, and so much more.
We take time to recognize the leadership teams, church members, youth groups, students, and groups from other states who, realizing that the church is not a building with four walls, put self aside and, with love and compassion, represented Christ as they went into the communities bringing hope to the suffering.
Many people may find this holiday season to be especially difficult. The Atlantic Union administrators and staff are lifting up in prayer the families who lost loved ones in the storm, those who have been displaced, those who were directly or indirectly impacted by the storm, and all those who took the time to help and make a difference. Heaven’s record is the only source that will have the true account of the donations made and the work done by all these groups in the aftermath of the storm. “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith”—Galatians 6:9 (Message).
Ednor A. P. Davison is the editor of the Atlantic Union Gleaner and assistant to the president for communication in the Atlantic Union Conference.