Editor's note: Associate Conference Minister Andy Gustafson is on sabbatical, traveling across the country. He will be visiting United Church of Christ Justice and Witness immersion centers and mission sites and blogging about what he sees. His posts about those sites will be posted here on macucc.org. His full travel blog is here: http://travelblogs.mapquest.com/32860/changing-lives-tour.
The eye of hurricane Sandy passed over Margate, a resort community just south of Atlantic City, sparing it the level of devastation further up the coast. However flooding was widespread and many homes were flooded. The activity on the boardwalks gives the impression that everything is back to normal, but a drive down side streets reveals homes with dumpsters out front and piles of moldy sheetrock on the porch. Margate Community Church was spared any flooding damage (its steeple is damaged and a cross which topped it came off in the storm and fell through their roof). There are still members who have yet to return to their homes. Anger at Sandy has now shifted towards anger at the slow bureaucratic response and endless red tape. Ironically, those who defied the evacuation order were able to immediately begin to dry out their homes once the storm passed, mitigating further damage. Those who had evacuated were not allowed back for a week, and during that time mold grew, sheetrock was soaked and even more damage was done to their homes. Immediately following the hurricane the church served meals, provided clothing and food. It has been a place members affected by the disaster have found both emotional and tangible support.
After worship on Sunday, I had the privilege to sit down with pastor David Fleming and a number of church members involved in disaster recovery. For seven years teams from the Margate Community Church in New Jersey had gone on mission trips arranged through the United Church of Christ disaster ministries. Travelling to New Orleans, Alabama, and Texas they helped local communities recover from devastating disasters. Now these same people are the ones hosting mission teams to help in the post-Hurricane Sandy recovery in their own community. With financial help and advice from the United Church of Christ and other churches, they have almost completed renovations to host groups of up to 18 people each. The experience they had has well prepared them for this work. They know first hand what visiting mission teams need. Work teams staying at Margate will find new showers, a recreation room and comfortable surroundings. The church expects to be ready to accept teams by mid-June. Teams can expect to work either in Margate, or further up the coast into Atlantic City.
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