It was only one year ago when Hurricane Sandy stormed through the East Coast of the United States, leaving terrible destruction in its wake. The homes and hopes of families were destroyed, tens of thousands were out of work, personal property – from family pictures to cherished memorabilia – were swept away in the floods, and many were left homeless and helpless for weeks.
In the midst of this tragedy, God’s people were faithful and generous, as many followers of Yeshua the Messiah gathered clothing, food, electrical generators and so much more – distributing them to needy families in many areas. Chosen People Ministries focused on the thousands of Russian Jewish homes lining the shores of Staten Island, New York City, where there was tremendous loss and suffering because of the hurricane. We cleaned homes; distributed food, blankets, electrical generators, heaters, small refrigerators and stoves; and wept with those who wept… prayed with those who did not know how to pray… and stood alongside the victims of this terrible event that still traumatizes many of the families who suffered the most.
In the midst of what was a very difficult season, we saw God’s faithfulness and care for individuals and families, which was nothing short of amazing. Believers from all over the country came to the eastern seaboard, and many focused on some of the poor residents of Staten Island – mostly Russian Jewish people, who suffered tremendously – and showed God’s love in the most tangible ways.
Our ministry developed many personal relationships with folks who needed help, and those relationships continue until this day. Very few of us on the Chosen People Ministries staff were experienced in disaster relief, but we knew that God wanted us to love those who were hurting. We spent weeks and even months serving the hurting, and it was really wonderful to see how that love was received by many Jewish people in particular… who knew that the One motivating our love and actions was the Messiah Jesus – the Savior of the world.
We actually distributed tens of thousands of dollars to those who needed to rebuild their homes and lives, from paying contractors to rebuild their homes and having funds to survive!
I want to thank those who helped support the hurricane victims during this very difficult and dark time – because of you, the Light of the Messiah was able to shine brightly through us and others who served the suffering of Staten Island and many other communities during this time.
As we look towards November and the celebration of Thanksgiving – which of course falls on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah – I remember setting up tables outside with Hanukkah menorahs, gifts for children, hot chocolate and some Hanukkah foods in devastated neighborhoods of Staten Island. It was during those dark and gloomy nights that the lit candles on these tables reminded me of Messiah’s presence among us in ways that I personally will never forget. This passage from the writings of the prophet Isaiah became very dear to me:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Please remember to keep praying for some of the victims who have yet to rebuild their homes and be restored in their finances, jobs and family lives.
Perhaps one of the lessons that we learned from this tragic event was that God wants us to be willing, and though we may not always be able or have the resources to do all we want – we can always do something, and that something might make a huge difference in someone’s life. I learned this lesson as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and I’m grateful to God for all that He did through so many to show His presence in the midst of the storm.
Your brother in the Messiah,