Superstorm Sandy Relief

 A reflection on the trip by Lindsay Wylie, and Claire Karlsson

The Social Justice Committee of the United Methodist Community at American University has a passion for serving God through reaching out to our local, national, and global communities. After hearing of the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast in November, we felt moved by the plight of the victims of the disaster. Amidst the great loss suffered by mid-Atlantic communities, the Social Justice Committee felt called to take action. We began to plan a trip to the Jersey Shore in February with the goal of rebuilding the homes and spirits of the affected citizens as ambassadors of Christ and of the United Methodist Community.

Happy Workers at the end of an exhausting day.

After a long drive to North Jersey from Washington, our group was feeling tired but excited to begin our work the next day. We woke up to falling snow on Saturday morning and drove to Union Beach, NJ, a small community that was drastically affected by the storm. As we rode through the city streets, we glimpsed a sign in front of one home waving to passerby: “UBSTRONG” – “Union Beach Strong.” This was a surprisingly poignant indication of the work ahead of us. Through Habitat for Humanity’s coordination, we arrived at our first work site, a pale pink home with a gutted and waterlogged interior. While we prepped to sand the walls and tear up the moldy floors, Esther, the owner of the home, stepped through the doorway with her son trailing behind her. Seeing Esther’s raw emotion and gratitude was moving to us in that it put our mission in perspective; not only had we come to physically  repair these homes, but we were also called to spiritually uplift their owners. Later in the afternoon, our group moved to the home of Margarita, an elderly woman whose basement had flooded. We set to work painting the basement while filling the space with spirited conversation. The work passed quickly, as our friendships strengthened throughout the afternoon. Yet during a work break, Margarita shared with us that despite the loss of many family photographs in the storm, her family remains her rock in the midst such upheaval. This sentiment grounded us in the true meaning attached to our efforts and reminded us of God’s power to bring people together. Upon leaving the work site, we found ourselves paint-splattered, weary, and yet stirred by the force of humanity within the Union Beach community.

Today, looking back on the trip, we have become closer as a group, stronger in our commitment to social justice, and renewed in our conviction to God. We want to thank Metropolitan Memorial Church and David Hosey for their support of this truly enlightening experience.