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.
In this article, pastors and disaster relief workers share their thoughts on Thanksgiving in light of Sandy.
— Fritz Wilson, the North American Mission Board’s executive director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, noted to Baptist Press, “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.
“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.”
— Mike Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York, wrote, “There comes a time in the lives of people that we need to put aside the idea that if a disaster is not in our area that it does not affect us.
“In this global economy we have become interdependent and we are responsible because of our commission to share the Word. Many times when we are out in the area where the disaster has taken place, people spontaneously say ‘thank you’ to us,” Flannery wrote.
“They express their thankfulness of being alive and say things can be replaced but lives cannot. What happens in disaster causes people to refocus on what is important. They become more open to asking questions, ‘Why did this happen and what is the meaning?’ And we, the people of God, have a unique opportunity to express love and care in their times of need,” Flannery wrote.
“So this Thanksgiving think of those affected by Hurricane Sandy and remember to be in an attitude of gratitude.”
— Don Knotts, pastor of Wayside Southern Baptist Church in Buckhannon, W.Va., helped his church host Southern Baptist feeding units in the aftermath of a crippling snowstorm connected to the hurricane.
“As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by family and friends, we will humbly reflect and share those things that we are most thankful for as is tradition. However, the things mentioned this year may be a bit different,” Knotts wrote to Baptist Press.
“This week in parts of West Virginia as families sit down to their traditional Thanksgiving meal they will give thanks for the simple things, things often taken for granted. In addition, they will give thanks for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers operating kitchens at Wayside Southern Baptist Church in Buckhannon, W.Va., where they cooked nearly 25,000 hot meals for people in five counties.
“They will give thanks for the Red Cross that delivered the hot meals to the drop centers and for their neighbors and churches who came to help hand these needed and greatly appreciated meals out,” Knotts added.
“God used the fury and destruction of Hurricane Sandy to give this pastor, our church, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and others the opportunity to walk the talk, get outside the walls of the church and be Jesus to those in need,” Knotts wrote.
“This year as we give thanks to God for His many blessings, many West Virginians, me included, will remember things often taken for granted. Things like electricity, hot water, hot meals and the people who work hard to make sure we have them. And a special thanks for selfless volunteers who came to minister, in the name of Jesus, in a time of great need.”
— Sterling Edwards, a church planter on Long Island, wrote, “I have personally spoken to dozens of churches over the last three weeks who want to send teams and support, and that are praying for our church and community. Churches are sending blankets, gift cards and money to help get people through this crisis. We are so thankful and appreciative for this response.
“… We live in a community that often appears to have no real tangible needs. By in large, people in our community have what they need and more,” Edwards, pastor of Ecclesia Church of East Islip and Crossroads Church in Farmingdale, wrote. “People in our community work hard. They fight to make ends meet. But all in all, the majority of people in our community are quite comfortable.
“So when something like Hurricane Sandy comes along, it reveals a vulnerability. It reveals that there are needs. But this storm has provided us an opportunity to share with our community that food, shelter, clothes and gasoline are not the only needs that we have. We have been able to share that Jesus Christ has met our absolute greatest need,” Edwards wrote.
“Our community has been hit hard. It is aggravating to wait in line for gasoline. It is frustrating to live without power. But this Thanksgiving we celebrate Romans 5:6: ‘At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.’ For this, I am truly grateful.”
— Ray Parascando, pastor of Crossroads Church on Staten Island, was among the first responders in a community hit particularly hard by the hurricane.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy I’ve been reminded how easy it is to take for granted the comforts of home like food, electricity and phone. More impactful is the sobering realization that every day of life which God gives is truly a gift,” Parascando wrote to Baptist Press.
“In just one wave, everything that is dear to your heart: people, possessions and property can be destroyed. These are facts that all of us know well but these same facts easily get lost in the grind of life. I’ve been challenged once again to make every day count and to wisely number my days with family, friends and the faith.
“Thanksgiving this year will be more significant than in past years for sure. I’ve been convicted to live with an attitude of gratitude regardless of the many storms that life may bring my way,” Parascando wrote.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. With reporting by Art Toalston and Diana Chandler. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).