Jason Reed is the synod staff person for youth ministry in the New Jersey Synod of the ELCA. He lives in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Jason is a member of the ELCAYMNet and the SYMBOL (Synod Youth Ministry Band of Leaders) Network, and a strong advocate for young people within the congregations of his synod. He’s also an all-around great guy. The New Jersey Synod was deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. Jason posted this update on the SYMBOL Facebook page. With his permission, I’m sharing it with you. Please keep these people in your prayers, and please work within your congregations to seek ways to support those who are beginning recovery.
Many friends and colleagues have written and texted me asking how I and my family are doing in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. The short answer is, we’re fine. I would like to give you a brief update (well, not very brief) about how we’re doing in the New Jersey Synod and to ask for your continued prayers.
Here is a brief snapshot:
The morning after the storm, Tuesday, 2.7 million homes were out of power – about 1home in every 4 in New Jersey. As of today 1.2 million homes still are without power.
Only about half of the gas stations are operating, and in the northern half of the state there is now enforced rationing.
This coming Monday, a week after the storm hit, less than half of the school districts expect to be open. The ones in our town opened on Thursday. One of my daughter’s teacher was absent because downed trees still blocked the roads out of her town. Her other teacher dressed in the dark because the power was still out in her home.
In New Jersey halloween has been officially moved to this Monday (October 36, as my son now calls it). Reformation Day had October 31 all to itself this year!
As of tonight, 6,500 people are still living in shelters, with countless more staying with relatives, friends and neighbors. Many are staying in homes with no power, sleeping in the cold and dark out of fear of thieves or because they have nowhere else to go.
The state and FEMA has set up massive feeding kitchens throughout the state. Churches, schools, power companies, businesses, and neighbors are also distributing food, clothing, fuel, health and baby supplies to those in need.
As for the New Jersey Synod, we are still assessing the situation. Of our 180 congregations, we’re still determining how many of them are damaged or without power. Many, many will certainly be without power for worship tomorrow. I spoke with Karen Astrom today, a youthworker at Messiah Lutheran Church in Parlin, NJ. Her pastor’s home is without power and had a tree branch fall through her bedroom window during the storm. Karen’s home is without power, and she has been told it will be two to four weeks before it is restored – this with the temperatures dipping into the 30s at night now. 80% of her town is without power. She and some others were at the church yesterday cutting up trees and cleaning away some of the debris. When others came this morning the discovered the church shed where the tools were kept had been broken into and the tools taken. I asked her if they were going to hold worship services tomorrow. She said, “Of course!” Some members are talking about trying to bring in a generator to help warm the sanctuary up a bit, and they’ll have to do their singing without the organ. They will be worshiping at Messiah, Parlin tomorrow.
Our wonderful outdoor ministry site, Cross Roads, expects to be without power for another couple of weeks. Hundreds of trees are down. The low ropes and high ropes courses are completely destroyed. Many buildings are damaged, though no major ones were severely hurt.
In other news, our Synod Jr High Retreat Among The Wolves is/was scheduled for the weekend of November 16-18 on Long Beach Island. As the bridge to the island is still closed and there is no telling when the power will come back on, we are making plans for an alternate youth ministry experience that weekend – one that will most likely send these young saints of the church out around the state serving those in need and trying to stay out of the way of the professionals!
Please keep us in your prayers as we continue the joyful, hard work of being the church on this territory. We continue to keep the rest of you in ours – especially those in New York, the Caribbean and others affected by the storm. And more deeply still we hold in prayer all who have no safe shelter tonight, who won’t have enough to eat tomorrow, whose lives are dominated by violence, fear, loneliness, hopelessness. Our God is out there in this night, with all of us. Thanks be to God.