Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Great ministries are happening, but I do not want to underestimate what is ahead of us. I have traveled to most of the communities that have been significantly impacted and there is only one word to describe what I have seen, it is a DISASTER. Words cannot describe the devastation, chaos and the deep emotional impact Superstorm Sandy is having on many people. I want to assure you, while there are many challenging times ahead, God will see us through as we rebuild a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
I want to update you on several items:
At least seven of our parsonages are uninhabitable. Our families have not only been forced out of their homes but they have lost most of the touchstones of their lives – photos, diplomas, clothing, sentimental gifts and much more. We have been able to move families into temporary housing and will continue to work with congregations to repair parsonages.
While we do not have a firm number or know the full extent of the damage, a number of our churches have suffered flooding, wind and falling tree damage.
Next week, there will be an online resource where your church can report property damage, worship service changes, new ministries serving those impacted by the storm, ministries that you have changed or are not doing because of Superstorm Sandy and many other pieces of information that will help in both the short and long-term recovery processes.
The conference center has regained power and began operating at full force as of this past Tuesday. We will be adding additional staff to help facilitate the needs that will arise in the relief and recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
A number of changes have been made to our conference schedule, which may be found at www.gnjumc.org
We have established a GNJ Sandy Relief Fund to raise funds to repair homes of the elderly and low income residents in our communities, as well as to repair parsonages and church buildings. Churches have sustained damage and many in our communities that have been flooded do not have flood insurance. We will need to raise millions of dollars to assist with these relief efforts and that will only happen with your help. You can donate to this fund online at www.gnjumc.org or by mailing a check to GNJ Sandy Relief Fund, 1001 Wickapecko Drive, Ocean, NJ 07712.
We are asking every United Methodist to help us by first, giving as you are able to the GNJ Sandy Relief Fund. This fund will be critical to our relief effort. We know for the next five days we will continue to be in the immediate response phase after the disaster. This includes checking for people’s whereabouts and providing emergency food, water, clothing, shelter and other basic human needs. For the next 150 days, people will be engaged in the initial clean up process, helping people to return to their homes as they are able, continuing to restore power, preparing to receiving thousands of volunteers, and initial counseling for the emotional and spiritual toll this disaster has taken on so many. For the next 3-4 years we will be repairing and rebuilding homes, churches, lives and communities. This will require millions of dollars. The denomination will be raising funds on our behalf but this will not be sufficient for our complete ministry.
The GNJ Sandy Relief Fund will make a difference. In just one week, we have received $111,000 in contributions. This is a good start but we still need your help. We not only need for you to receive an offering in your church, but also to share about this fund with your family and friends around the world by email, Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth. We have a video to help you with this effort, but nothing will be more important than your own personal connection with family and friends. Here are few resources you and use:
2. Facebook post: [Word]
3. Twitter post: [Word]
4. An email you can send to friends: [Word]
I encourage you to email this letter to your church friends who may not be on our email list.
With God and by serving and collaborating with one another, we will come through this stronger, wiser and more faithful. God will see us through as we rebuild a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference