By Bob Allen
Baptist leaders in New Jersey estimate between 20 percent and 30 percent of the state’s 280 American Baptist churches sustained damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Lee Spitzer, regional pastor for the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, described an “arc of damage” across the state, where 1.2 million people remained without power, and grocery stores and gas stations remained closed Nov. 2.
Spitzer’s ministry team set out during the storm to contact as many of the state’s 320 active clergy as possible. By week’s end, of 108 churches that had reported, 34 suffered damage ranging from broken windows and downed trees to significant roof or water damage.
New Jersey’s Camp Lebanon suffered broken doors and windows plus downed power lines and trees and expects to lose more than $20,000 in revenue from cancelled retreats during the next two weeks.
Spitzer estimated that in all, between 70 and 90 churches may have suffered damage. “Many of our churches are trying to minister to their communities and need assistance in meeting the needs of people without shelter, power and food,” he said.
He said the ABCNJ has received an initial grant from the One Great Hour of Sharing relief offering and will begin distributing those funds immediately.
A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-affiliated church in New York survived with only minor gutter damage.
“We continue to remember those dealing with the frustrations of power loss and especially pray for those in the more devastated parts of the city,” reported Alan Sherouse, pastor of Metro Baptist Church in Manhattan. Sherouse said city officials are calling some of the damage “unprecedented.”
“We are actively assessing how we can most effectively be a part of the disaster-response efforts,” Sherouse said. “In the short-term, we are opening our sanctuary as a daytime shelter for anyone who needs power, Internet, a cell phone charge or a hot meal. We are also teaming with area partners to provide meals for a local housing community that is without power. Additionally, we continue our regular direct services of food, clothing and toiletry distribution.”
The Atlanta-based CBF has already sent $5,000 aid to Cuba and the Bahamas, where the hurricane struck before heading toward the East Coast of the United States.
CBF and CBF of Florida have provided funds to purchase 8,000 pounds of food for the people of Santiago de Cuba. “Right now, one of our own is on the ground delivering that food,” said CBF Florida Coordinator Ray Johnson. “Pray for her.”
Johnson said CBF Florida is also receiving clothes, particularly children’s clothing, to be distributed to churches in the Bahamas, where some families lost everything in the storm. Collected items are scheduled for airlift to the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas next week.