HOBOKEN, N.J. (BP) — Two weeks after superstorm Sandy tore through New Jersey, thousands of people still lack food, clothing and water. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, nearly half of Hoboken’s population of 50,000 was trapped in their homes by floodwaters.
It’s in this setting that the members of Hoboken Grace Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation, have been ministering tirelessly since the morning after the storm hit.
“We began by moving crews of volunteers to pump out basements,” the church’s pastor, Chris High, told Baptist Press. “As the water began to subside, we transitioned our teams to move from apartment to apartment assisting our neighbors and local charity organizations in cleaning out their destroyed apartments, offices and buildings.”
Hoboken is a 2-square-mile city across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and it is home to many middle- and upper-class people under the age of 35, according to The Star-Ledger in Newark. As many as 90 percent of the residents were without power after the storm, and National Guard trucks were brought in to rescue people who could not escape their flooded homes.
The city’s sidewalks have been completely covered with trash, High said. Garbage trucks in the city typically collect 62 tons of trash per day, The Star-Ledger said, but since the hurricane that number has increased to 309 tons as people lost many of their possessions to the floodwaters.
Hoboken Grace assisted a local food pantry that had been flooded. Members helped salvage what they could and then helped establish a new location from which the pantry could operate, High said.
“We also began collecting supplies ourselves and delivering them to the local housing authority,” the pastor said.
In the immediate aftermath, Hoboken Grace set up three grill stations in local housing projects to provide warm meals for people who were without electricity.
“Throughout all of this it has been phenomenal to watch people give and to watch those with power and heat take in those without,” High said. “This not only provided for those in need but also enabled us to come out day after day ready to assist those around us in any way possible.”
Hoboken Grace lost its offices to the flood, and High and his wife were out of their apartment while post-flooding repairs were being made.
“We’ve got a long road ahead,” he said, “… but we’re seeing what the body of Christ looks like in action.”
The church is helping its community rebuild. They have set up a fund to replace lost food, find temporary housing and meet long-term needs.
“As the power comes back to Hoboken it can be easy to forget about those who lost so much or continue to be without, but we want to walk through this with them to the end,” High said.
By Nov. 11, most of Hoboken had power restored, but a major cleanup was still underway. Warped floors and walls and thick dust was common in too many homes and businesses, according to a CBS affiliate in New York. People were not earning money, yet rent and mortgage payments still would be due.
“Sadly, Hoboken has been so hard-hit by this,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer said, according to CBS New York.
The mayor’s own home was damaged by floodwaters, enabling her to identify with the pain her city’s residents are facing. By Sunday, she thought the city showed signs of recovery.
Even so, a caravan of trucks arrived in Hoboken Sunday to deliver supplies for people in need. A grassroots effort in another part of New Jersey resulted in two 18-wheelers, four box trucks and four hitch trailers carrying blankets, food, water and clothing, The Star-Ledger said.
“You have a lot of people who escaped with the clothing on their back and little else,” an assistant business administrator for the city told the newspaper.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).