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February 25, 2013

Superstorm Sandy: Recovery Update from NJ

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

Immediacy.

More and more, I find myself thinking about how our society has lost its patience with everything. I think the first real time the impatience of society hit me was during the most recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just a couple of years following the first bomb dropping, politicians and media types were decrying the length of the battle. Basically, it became a national whine, “Why is the war still going on?”

No one wanted to hear military folk tell the reason for the continued fighting: The bad guys were killers and were killing innocent people. The military believed that the fastest way to win a war was to get the enemy, not by serving as the best armed international “Meals on Wheels” crew. Politicians and media types continued to attack, whining that the war should have ended right after Saddam Hussein was killed or some murderous band of killers were sent off to the hills surrounding Afghanistan.

I think video games and the internet have caused our incredible need for immediacy. Politicians and media types wanted the war to be over like one of those games on XBox – within an hour or two. They looked at the war on terror as a teenager looks at the latest Call of Duty game – something that can be beaten within days, not years.

Also, the internet has made it possible for news to travel at the sound of a keystroke, where at one time the earliest we could find out about fighting in a war required newspapers to publish and drop off their daily wares on your front stoop. Now, all we need is Fox News on TV or on their internet stream and we can find out what is happening immediately.

Immediacy nowadays comes as fast a Tweet or a post on Google+. Immediacy is, well, immediate.

This is what worries me when it comes to the rebuilding following Superstorm Sandy. October 2012 is light years behind us. While there has been millions of private dollars pledged to help homeowners and business owners rebuild, I have a fear that since we so far away from the impact and that life has gone on for the rest of us, the victims of the storm can easily be forgotten.

We here in New Jersey cannot let that happen.

There are so many of our neighbors on the Shore who are looking at years before life can get back to anything resembling normal. Homes that were damaged by the 30+ foot tidal surges are still damaged.  There are empty lots dotting the landscape in communities up and down the Shore where houses once stood. Communities and state leaders are trying to figure out the best ways to rebuild, or even if to rebuild, at all. FEMA keeps sticking their noses into everything, throwing monkey wrenches into the process, as only the federal government can do.

But to highlight some of the big news of the past week: Mantoloking, NJ, located on the shore, just got power back to their community a couple of days ago.

The rebuilding hasn’t even started. But it will.

And we all need to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who face so many great challenges.

This morning at our District Office in Mountainside, the Disaster Response Team of the NJ District met to discuss plans that for the coming weeks and months. Our friends at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Point Pleasant, a group of wonderfully faithful and God fearing people who were so hurt by the storm, are standing up for their community and preparing a grand plan to rebuild. Today, representatives from the congregation reported to the Team their very extensive plans to establish a volunteer village on their church property that could house upwards of 90 people. As communities up and down the Shore begin to rebuild, there is going to be need for volunteers to help rebuild and places for them to stay.

Good Shepherd has a plan that takes a good chunk of their church property and uses it for specialized trailers that will include sleeping quarters for volunteers, a kitchen and dining facility, bathrooms and laundry areas, and an relaxation trailer. They will have to do a good amount of work at their church — they will need to extend a sewer line, bring in water and electricity, make an area for RVs, as examples — but the saints at Good Shepherd are all ready to take this bold step.

They see this as an opportunity to extend the love of Christ into Point Pleasant and beyond. They see this work as an opportunity to serve as missionaries, showing mercy and love while at the same time witnessing to the greatness of our God. Since the storm, this is what Point Pleasant has done — they’ve shown mercy while witnessing for Christ. At Christmas time, the members of the church went door to door, handing out Christmas gifts that including gift cards (to purchase necessities) and devotional materials. At Easter time, they want to do the same, this time with Easter baskets.

Yet their plan to build a volunteer village on their property is a most exciting idea. To get this project up and running, of course they will need approvals from their local community. They will also need money. At our meeting this morning, we discussed the possibility of the New Jersey District stepping up to provide $250,000 in seed money so this project could get off the ground. Looking at a possible $1 million cost, this seed money would allow them to order trailers. Working with the LCMS, it is hoped that additional monies can come their way as they establish this blessed volunteer village in Point Pleasant, a village that can be a staging point for the many rebuilding projects up and down the barrier island.

We will continue to pray for Point Pleasant and all of our friends at the Shore while trying in our small way to help here at Saint Matthew’s. Also, as you read this, their pastor, Rev. Chis Schonberg, is going through a rather challenging health time. He already has had multiple surgeries on his throat and vocal chords and is looking going under the knife again. As someone who went through throat cancer and had several throat surgeries myself, I will keep Pastor Chris in my prayers, and I urge you to do the same.

Additionally today, we discussed a couple of matters that you can help with, namely we are trying to put together a list of LCMSers who are trades people (electricians, carpenters, roofers, plumbers) or people that we LCMSers have used to help repair our homes. One of the great troubles we are facing is that we do not have enough trades people to help rebuild. You and I can carry lumber or nail a piece of plywood, but we are not allowed to do electrical or plumbing work. Our District is looking for a list of skilled people who are willing to be available to help.

These trades people will get paid. This is not volunteer work. Right now, with the incredible amount of work that needs to get done, we and the Shore communities do not have enough trades people to do the work. If you know of any trades person that you’ve worked with (and they did good work), send me an email at reviovine@icloud.com. Or if you are a trades person yourself, and you would be willing to added to our list of available trades people, also send me an email at reviovine@icloud.com.

We live in a world where immediacy is the norm. Yet in New Jersey and in New York, Sandy rebuilding is not going to be immediate. We need to keep vigilant and continue to pray and help our brothers and sisters who lost so much.

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