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Nov. 1: Response in middle of disaster; prayer, flood buckets order of day

November 1, 2012

United Methodist News Service will continue to update this information throughout the day.

MADISON, N.J. — “As the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Sandy, business was as usual at Drew Theological School,” wrote Ivelisse G. Castellano, a second-year Master of Divinity student and a Latino/Latina seminary recruiter for Drew, a United Methodist-related seminary.

“Our dean had stayed in touch with the student body, and assured us that we would be taken care of.

“I did not doubt Dean (Kah-Jin Jeffrey) Kuan, as last year during our once-in-a-hundred-years winter storm, he went door by door, making sure each one of us seminarians were OK, and had a place to go since we were facing a mandatory evacuation,” continued the note from Castellano, who is a member of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference.

“Dean Kuan’s commitment has not swayed in the year that has passed. Here we were again, about to face one of the worst storms the East Coast has seen in 20-some years.

“The graduate students and their families were allowed to stay until the power went out. Once there was no electricity, all the families, and students that were left on campus were transported to Chatham United Methodist Church.

“There were around 60 people, including children, receiving alternate shelter, food and a safe place to call home during the storm, and the period of recovery. The students received visits from Dean Kuan, Drew Seminary Chaplain Tanya Bennet, along with the Bishop, and other United Methodist leaders.

“On Wednesday, as the chaplain of the university helped students cook dinner, the electricity went out. Again, in the midst of chaos and what could be a hopeless situation, resiliency and the sense of community prevailed. While candles were lit, the pasta was finished, the garlic bread was prepared, and dinner was served.

“It is important for us, the students at Drew Seminary, to receive such loving support and sense of family, as we all came from near and far. We have left home, wherever that is, to come and prepare ourselves to serve others.

“Nonetheless, it is amazing to witness God’s love, as we are in the middle of chaos. The place we call home is in havoc, dozens of trees, big and small, are down. There is flooding, no electricity, no heat, not a certain time for us to be able to return to homes. Nonetheless, we continue to function as the family we are. We do not leave anyone behind, and in the midst of our chaos, of our storm, the love of our Lord unites us.

“I can testify as my experience, that Drew Theological School, has been the holy ground to which I been brought not only to be prepared for ministry but also a holy ground where I have healed and learn many essential things that will be key in the years to come as I minister and bring a message of hope and love to others around the world. ” 4:40 p.m. ET, Bilha Alegria, Spanish Resources Office, UMNS

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NEW YORK — A United Methodist mission center in a section of Queens hard hit by Hurricane Sandy could become a place for the denomination’s disaster response.

A fire that consumed nearly 100 homes during the hurricane in that area’s Breezy Point neighborhood brought national attention to the Rockaway Peninsula, which faces the Atlantic Ocean and also includes public housing projects.

The Rev. Bill Shillady is executive director of the United Methodist City Society, the parent corporation of The United Methodist Center in Far Rockaway, and a member of its board of directors. Mearl Grant is the center’s executive director.

Far Rockaway Mission has operated in various locations there for 20 years, starting as a ministry for abused women and expanding into a feeding program. Two years ago, the center moved into a new storefront on Beach 19 Street, where it serves 150 hot lunches on weekdays, distributes a similar number of grocery pantry bags twice a week, has a “clothing give-away” program and offers Sunday worship, Shillady said.

Shillady, who has had initial discussions with the Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, New York Conference disaster coordinator, said he expects Far Rockaway Mission will be used for emergency disaster response and possibly a site for case management in the near future. 11:30 a.m. ET, Linda Bloom, UMNS

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NEW YORK — The Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie, disaster response coordinator for the New York Annual (regional) Conference, is looking for volunteers within the New York area to help with cleanup and the distribution of cleaning buckets after Hurricane Sandy.

“For the next 20 to 36 hours, we are mobilizing volunteers and positioning ourselves both with human resources and flood buckets to begin serious relief work, if not this weekend, early next week,” he told United Methodist News Service Thursday morning.

The conference is unable to accept volunteers from outside the region for this initial work because of problems with power and transportation. “We don’t have the logistics to host any volunteers coming out of the state at the moment,” Ewoodzie explained, adding that no overnight volunteer stays are possible at this time.

He encouraged potential volunteers to fill out the quick form on the New York Conference website detailing their availability. “That is important for us to place you,” he said.

Volunteers also can call 917-615-2233 for more information.

Ewoodzie said he was bringing in 500 to 800 cleaning buckets from the Mission Central resource center of the Susquehanna Conference in Pennsylvania. He was looking at possible distribution points today, including the Coop City apartment complex in the Bronx, a mission center in Far Rockaway, Queens, Church of the Village in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan and Madison Avenue United Methodist Church on the east side of Manhattan.

On Wednesday, Ewoodzie visited Community United Methodist Church in Massapequa, near the South Shore of Long Island, where a falling tree put a hole in the roof. The conference has dispatched a chainsaw crew to the church today to help remove the tree, he said. 10:50 a.m. Nov. 1, Linda Bloom, UMNS

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PITTSBURGH — Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton has written to his conference asking for help for the Northeast.

As people in the Northeast begin the long process of recovery after “Superstorm Sandy,” Bickerton called on United Methodists in Western Pennsylvania to pray for those affected, prepare flood buckets and donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) story recovery efforts.

“While we have seen and felt Hurricane Sandy blowing around us, her wrath has affected us much less than it has our neighbors to the east and south,” the Bishop said.

“They need our help. I am asking you to once again do what you do best here in Western Pennsylvania. This is yet another opportunity for us to act in response to our deep faith in God and genuine concern for God’s children. As these days unfold, the magnitude of the damage will be revealed,” he added. 10: 15 a.m. ET, UMNS 

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HACKETTSTOWN, N. J. — The Rev. Bob Mayer of Drakestown United Methodist Church posted at 9:15 a.m. ET this morning that the “Drakestown church has power, food and coffee. We are open, so come on over. Charge your electronics and warm up. 908-852-4460.” Barbara Dunlap-Berg, UMNS