Hurricane Sandy Relief, One Year Later

Volunteering to Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy

 “You should go!” exclaimed Gordon as he placed the sign-up sheet in front of me. That was all I needed. As a freshman desperate for a Christian community, I was immediately working my homework assignments around our weekend away. I am so glad that I went—it was a weekend of valuable service, community, and time with God.


When we first arrived in at Bethany St. John’s in Pleasantville, New Jersey, I learned a very important lesson about the Methodists—they take “daily bread” very seriously. As we unloaded the entirety of Cosco from the van, we realized the church members had supplied us with a full fridge of homemade meals and snacks! (Culture shock for a Presbyterian—not only do we demand donations for the weekly donuts at my home church, we also cut them in half.)  In all seriousness, though, the hospitality Bethany St. John’s reminded me of the amazing common thread we have in Jesus, that complete strangers would extend their resources in the way Bethany St. John’s did.

On Saturday, our workday, we were assigned to a house right on the water that had been gutted after holding four feet of water during Hurricane Sandy. Its owner was rebuilding the entire thing by hand—we were there to do whatever he needed. By the end of the day we had painted his future guest room, assisted him in putting up drywall, and eaten a lot of his homemade meatballs. The most poignant memory I think we all share of that day, though, is lunch.  We walked down to the beach, and he met us there. On the walk back he shook hands with neighbors, told us the story of his town, and gave life-advice to us students in need of a perspective, as finals emerge.  When a passerby asked who we were, he answered “friends of the family.” While many of us in the afternoon wanted to go to a different site, (since only a few of us were needed) God used our resident’s interactions with his neighbors to remind us to be less like Martha and more like Mary.  Instead of being focused on doing FOR our resident, he reminded us of the importance of simply being WITH him during this tiring process of rebuilding.

I knew Pleasantville, New Jersey, would leave an impact on me greater than I could possibly return, just as every service project does.  But I could not have imagined the extent to which it did so. That is a funny paradox—we always go in wanting to be His hands and feet, and end up realizing that God completely blessed every aspect of the project. Thank you, Metropolitan Methodist Church, for supporting this trip in prayer, partnership, and finances.  I can say with confidence that everyone involved was truly blessed.

By: Deborah Carey