Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A wonderful letter from our Bishop Jeremiah Park:
 
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging . . . The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
(Psalm 46:1-3, 11)

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference:
 
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, the Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world!
 
Within the past several days, you and I have witnessed and felt the impact of what some meteorologists and news reporters have described as the conditions for a “Perfect Storm”. Hurricane Sandy was a storm unlike anything else in recent history. The path of destruction, including the loss of about 60 lives (thus far), has been felt from the Caribbean to the Northeastern portion of the United States. The financial loss alone is calculated to surpass billions of dollars. Yet, there is no way to calculate the loss of human life and the feelings of anxiety and despair that countless people have experienced and felt. This storm was unprecedented in the amount of rain, wind and snow that were produced as it made landfall.
 
For the most part, our congregations and our people within the boundaries of the Susquehanna Conference have been spared the type of mass destruction that is so evident along the eastern seaboard. We offer our thanks and praise to God that we have been spared the worst of this storm; but, as a people who only one year ago experienced so much destruction from the effects of Hurricane Irene, we know that this is a time of immense need for so many of God’s people. We need to be the visible expression of God alive and at work for such a time as this. I previously served as the Resident Bishop of the New York Annual Conference and as a District Superintendent in Northern New Jersey. I know the pastors and congregations that have been affected so severely by these most recent events. My heart and prayers continue to go out to them, just as I have been praying for all of you.


One of the great strengths of our connectional church is that we are equipped to immediately respond to such tragedies. Once emergency officials deem that it is safe, early response teams from the United Methodist Church will be on site. Many of our congregations have received similar assistance following previous storms. In fact, last year the Mississippi Annual Conference gave the Susquehanna Conference a check in the amount of $50,000 because of our conference’s generous support at a time when their conference needed support. Many VIM teams were sent to them by this annual conference. I encourage you as individuals and as a
congregation to respond as generously as you can to help alleviate the sufferings of others. Please make your check payable to the Susquehanna Annual Conference, and then send your donations in care of the Susquehanna Annual Conference at 303 Mulberry Drive, PO Box 2053, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055-2053.

Clearly mark UMCOR Hurricane 2012 Advance #3021787 on the memo line of your check. You can also donate at www.umcor.org

If you donate online, please be sure to select Hurricanes 2012 from the drop down menu. You can also text the word RESPONSE to 808988 to make an immediate $10 donation. Our conference received significant financial support from UMCOR to help in the rebuilding of our churches after last year’s hurricane. In addition, Mission Central has already begun to respond by sending flood buckets and other materials as needed; see Mission Central’s website for current list (www.missioncentral.org). There will be an increased need for more flood buckets and other items. Please contact Rob Visscher, Director of Mission Central, at rvisscher@susumc.org for additional information as to how your church can participate in the recovery response. Financial gifts will be needed for Mission Central to help defray the costs of sending the materials. Please see their website as to how you can contribute to this vital ministry.

It is too soon to know when we can respond in ways other than financially. First responders are providing the assistance relevant to the initial response. Once plans have been developed as to how we can respond, that information will be shared through the QuikLink and other forms of our conference communication. In the meantime, if you and/or your church would be interested in being part of recovery efforts in PA and in our neighboring conferences as invitations are extended, send an email to Curt Knouse, Director of Volunteers in Mission and Outreach,
cknouse@susumc.org. Please include your name, contact information and the area or areas in which you would be willing to help. In addition, recovery efforts are still on-going within our conference from last year’s floods. If you would like to help with those efforts, please contact Larry Siikanen, Director of Disaster Response, at lsiikanen@susumc.org. Last year 53,000 volunteer hours were provided to help churches and individuals in recovery efforts in this conference alone. The monetary value of those hours was equivalent to 1.16 million dollars.

Three hundred and sixty-five times in scripture we read the phrase or some form of the phrase, “Be Not Afraid.” As people of faith, we take heart knowing that God is with us. God will sustain God’s people. As God has been faithful in the past, so is God faithful even now. Please continue to pray for those who are in harm’s way. Pray for the emergency personnel who place their lives in very dangerous positions. Give as generously as you can. Be prepared to be the extension of God’s love in all that we say and do.
 
With You in Christ’s Ministry,

Jeremiah J. Park Resident Bishop, Harrisburg Area

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