Thanksgiving after the storm: Reflections on life & faith
Nov 30, 2012

RELIEF An Oklahoma Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mud-out team finishes cleaning out the flooded basement of Ruth Noonan, a Hurricane Sandy survivor in Belford, N.J. Chaplain Carl McCollum (left) prays while Michael Bolton (right) and some members of area baseball teams look on. BP photo
NEW YORK CITY (BP)—Thanksgiving in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has prompted new reflections on life and faith among those who were impacted and those who came to their aid.

The writer of Proverbs 27 warns that a man does not know what a day may bring. Few expected that a hurricane would cause as much devastation in the New York and New Jersey areas and other parts of the East as residents there are coping with now. 

Just before Thanksgiving, in light of Sandy, Frtiz Wilson, the North American Mission Board’s executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the former Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Director, shared his thoughts.

“As a kid I always looked forward to Thanksgiving Day. Not just because it meant Christmas was a month away, but also because we got to watch the giant balloons in the New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, eats lots of food and watch football.

“On Thanksgiving Day 2012, most people across the country will only think about the parades, food and football in the New York area,” Wilson wrote. “But for me, I will be thankful for something much more important, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers who continually respond en masse to New York and New Jersey. Their mission is to simply bring help, healing and hope to people and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy almost one month ago.

“Since Sandy’s landfall more than 2,500 SBDR volunteers have responded to the people affected by the storm’s fury,” Wilson wrote. “Leaving home, family and friends, they have driven thousands of miles from across the country to serve people in the name of Jesus.

“While most folks are celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends at home, hundreds of SBDR volunteers will be preparing thousands of meals, helping homeowners clean up their homes and providing a hug to hurting families simply because they care and want to show Christ’s love in a practical and selfless way,” Wilson wrote.

RESPONSE Oklahoma Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers gather outside Middletown, N.J.’s New Monmouth Baptist Church, the host of 90 SBDR volunteers responding to victims of superstorm Sandy. NAMB Photo by Laura Sikes
“So when you join with your family to give thanks, stop and say a prayer of thanks for the SBDR volunteers who are giving of themselves in the New York and New Jersey areas, and for the people who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy.”

Wilson told Florida Baptist Witness a team of 12-15 Florida Baptist Disaster Relief workers currently are serving with the Baptist Convention of New York. Previous teams have been dispatched to Maryland and leadership continues to serve with the North American Mission Board in strategic positions.

While most of us were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers prepared 39,486 meals in New York and New Jersey. Of the six feeding units operational on Thanksgiving Day three were closed over the weekend, leaving the three remaining kitchens in Staten Island, Long Island and Queens. Feeding volunteers have prepared about 1.5 million meals since Hurricane Sandy made landfall. 

In addition to the feeding operations, recovery volunteers continued to assess properties where homeowners have requested assistance and mud-out teams cleaned out flooded homes this weekend. Chaplains are visiting with homeowners while mud-out teams work, their ministry takes on an added significance as the holiday season makes their losses even more difficult.

Florida Baptist volunteers have joined more than 1,200 SBDR volunteers from Canada and 33 other states that have responded to Sandy. Baptist convention volunteers have served from Alabama, Arkansas, Baptist General Association of Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas-Nebraska, Kentucky, Maryland/Dela­ware, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota/ Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Southern Baptists of Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah/Idaho and West Virginia. Also responding are volunteers from North Carolina Baptist Men and Texas Baptist Men.

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