It has been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit the New York City coastline packed with high waves and strong winds that resulted in displacement, destruction, and death. Disasters are followed by a surge in giving, volunteering, and charity. Everyone wants to help as long as the pictures remain on our television screens.
It happened with Sandy. People gave, volunteered, and helped. Adventist youth ministries worked side by side with Adventist Community Services in the New York area. I can still picture a sea of yellow shirts—our New York young adults wearing the Adventist Community Services shirt, all over Far Rockaway, New York. You could not miss them. I can picture Adventist academy students from across the Atlantic Union sharing warm soup, blankets, prayers, and hugs in the disaster zone.
I cannot forget a South Lancaster, Massachusetts, group of young adults showing up in New York with a bus filled with supplies and food that were distributed to those in need. The young adults totally covered in white were wearing masks, cleaning debris, and diligently cleaning homes. We have a generation of youth and young adults filled with compassion, who are always ready to be the heart, eyes, hands, and feet of Jesus in our communities.
When television crews leave the disaster area, so do the people, the donations, and the volunteers. It also happened with Sandy. Although some efforts have continued, it is no longer the same. Nevertheless, there is a group that has never left—Adventist youth and young adults who have embraced a lifestyle of compassion. They continue to show up and make a difference.
The Adventist Youth Emergency Services Corps (AYES), the One Year in Mission Team, students on senior mission trips, have gone to the disaster zone. Youth and young adults have participated in the Compassion Rally, on the Greater New York mission trip, or the Northeastern Conference iServe Movement event. The Adventist youth and young adults compassion team has not forgotten and left. We have been there nonstop.
The North American Division Adventist Community Services leadership noticed the acts of compassion and the movement of young people. They called and offered more than $180,000.00 to continue the work in the areas affected by Sandy (New York and New Jersey). This enabled our Adventist youth ministries team to lead several initiatives that have benefitted thousands of families.
The Back2School Compassion Bash in Far Rockaway and Coney Island touched the lives of thousands of children. For the second consecutive year, our Adventist academy students returned to New York for the Compassion and Leadership Mission and served hundreds of families, helping them to be better prepared for the winter and for future disasters by distributing Go Bag survival kits, blankets, beanies, gloves, and other items in Coney Island.
But it did not stop there. The Clinton Foundation invited our compassion team to participate in the Clinton Foundation Day of Action with Chelsea Clinton. Hundreds of Adventist youth and young adults, wearing compassion and Adventist Youth Ministries beanies, also volunteered for the New York City ING Marathon, making Adventist Youth Ministries one of the largest groups of volunteers for this world-renowned event.
And as if that was not enough, I just received a note from a group of young adults and adults who have met and made more compassion plans as the Christmas season approaches. Their list includes toy drives, Christmas meals for needy families, buying and distributing Bibles for small groups, visiting shelters for battered women, volunteering at animal shelters, blood drives, giving free hugs, offering prayer, painting murals, and doing a home makeover.
When Jesus bestows His rewards on the saved at His Second Coming, He will say to these young adults and others who had joined them, “For as much as you did it to these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
José Cortés, Jr., is the director of Adventist Youth Ministries in the Atlantic Union.