Photo: A ‘winter wonderland’ in New York City on Nov. 8. (LCMS Atlantic District)
A Nor’easter passed through the New York and New Jersey area starting Wednesday, Nov. 7, dumping up to 8 inches in the same areas ravaged by Superstorm Sandy just a week before.
Dr. David Benke, president, LCMS Atlantic District, shared this disaster response report “When the Snow Lay All About, Deep and Crisp and Even” on Nov. 8:
“We went out to the Rockaways in the snowstorm, a three-car cortege, bearing gifts — sorted clothes in bags, buckets of cleaning supplies and three dogs. Comfort dogs. Golden retrievers trained, with certified handlers, to receive affection.
“And affection they had given, on this strange dark and stormy day in early November in an upside-down New York, on the day after the election. They spent hours in a day care center with the children and staff. One of whom, Michael, had lost his home on Long Island and whose own children had been taken to a shelter. Another staff member brought in her sister-in-law, a shell-shocked evacuee with her son, happy to receive mercy from Lutherans in a warm and well-lit building in East New York. The dogs bundled up and visited a family of 10 in cramped quarters weathering the storm while thinking of the house they had just lost in Sandy. And the mother wept as she petted the dogs, and shared and prayed with those bringing mercy in this new form — sharing how much she appreciated the gifts of God she still had left.
“We went out to the Rockaways in the snowstorm, three cars-full bearing gifts, occupants including:
- an evacuee deaconess from Far Rockaway;
- Puerto Rican and Dominican Lutherans from East New York;
- mercy-giving Missouri Synod leaders on their second trip to visit and assist from Sacramento, Dallas and St. Louis; and
- a squadron with three comfort dogs from Illinois.
“But mercy is not evenly or easily distributed in the middle of a storm.
“And so, in the snow, the sideways blowing snow, we were turned away; first from a church, then from a public distribution site, then from a park, then from a big box store and finally by the Office of Emergency Management. We drove up and down and back and forth, avoiding huge vehicles plowing sand mixed with snow, unearthing and re-depositing debris, witnessing only a few citizens who were huddling in bus shelters waiting for a ride off the island. No room, no one home, no place to bring mercy and comfort.
“We left and decided to stop at an American Legion Hall in a place called Broad Channel, in a community that’s two miles long and two blocks wide. Trudging in with buckets of cleaning supplies originating from a Lutheran church in Texas, we were treated as though we were the wise men bearing gold, frankincense and myrrh.
“’This is exactly what we need!’ exclaimed the coordinator. ‘Every resident of this community is asking for cleaning supplies.’ Mercy distribution transpired, even as the snow blew deep and crusty.
“We took refuge a little later at a pizza place in Brooklyn. The waitress, discovering our mission, shared pictures of her house in Sheepshead Bay. We offered help.
“’No, no,’ she demurred. ‘We’ll be fine at my home. Don’t worry about me.’
“But she pointed at a young man, a Central American immigrant. We all know these kids — the pizza delivery guy. This one, lugging pizzas safely stored in those hot cases heading out over and over through the night on a bicycle in the deep, crisp, blowing snow. For tip money.
“’That guy,’ the waitress pointed, ‘he lost everything. He lived in a basement apartment in Coney Island. It’s gone.’ Him we could help. And we did. Help with some mercy, some resource, some small sign of hope.
“We went out all day in the storm even though. Even though the snow was deep and crisp, and even though we were stuck in it. Even though it would not be easy. Even though we were turned back. Even though the distribution of mercy would not be easy or frequent.
“We went out because Christ went out for us, to the cross and beyond unto life eternal. We went out because Christ went with us, alongside us, in us, trudging in accompaniment when our spirits flagged. We went out because Jesus is the Shelter in every storm, our Rock and Hiding Place.
“And we will go out again today.”