You may have been too busy to think much about it, but I have been unusually quiet in recent years—especially the last couple.
On Tuesday, October 31, my son and I were traveling home from the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board meetings in Manhattan. Driving south on the West Side Highway, and then turning west to enter New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel, I was unaware that just a short distance away a terrorist act of extreme violence was unfolding. Yesterday, while traveling home from a wonderful ABCOFLASH celebration of the executive ministry of Sam Chetti, along with the rest of the country, I was deeply saddened by the news of the horrific violence inflicted upon the members of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.
With Annual Session behind us, we are ready to enlist your help as together we begin to make a difference in the many lives that have been effected by so many hurricanes this season.
Photo by: Roosevelt Skerrit
On Thursday, September 28, 2017, Dr. Familiaran and ABCNJ Disaster Relief Coordinator, Denise Gratzel, joined in the first roundtable conference call of a national emergency disaster relief task force convened by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. ABCNJ is one of the ABC agencies that was invited to join this national task force which will spearhead the multi-year concerted effort of American Baptists to “Rebuild, Restore, and Renew” all of ABC of Puerto Rico's 114 churches and nine missions, all of which has been damaged - and some have been totally devastated - by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane's catastrophic destruction on the entire island of Puerto Rico is complete, far-reaching and cataclysmic in scope.
Vicky Goff, ABHMS Associate Director for Passionary Movements and Coordinator of Disaster Relief, and known very well in ABCNJ by way of our partnership in the Hurricane Sandy relief work, has been appointed to lead this massive American Baptist relief effort.
An on-site ABHMS assessment team composed of Vicky Goff, Salvador Orellana and Susan Gottshall left for Puerto Rico yesterday to meet with leaders of the ABC of Puerto Rico and conduct on-site inspections with them to guide us in prioritizing our relief efforts to make optimum impact in effecting succor to our fellow American Baptists there.
While we continue to support the Relief work from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that damaged Texas and Florida respectively, ABCNJ encourages its churches to give to give over and above and sacrificially to the Puerto Rico Relief by sending their contributions to ABCNJ or ABHMS and indicate on your check's memo line, "OGHS - PUERTO RICO."
In a very short while, ABCNJ will call for volunteers to join work teams that will be deployed in this long-term relief work with our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico.
(Main image of this article of Hurricane Maria overwhelming the island of Puerto Rico is from NASA )
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies is coordinating a comprehensive American Baptist response to the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Rebuilding, Restoring and Renewing Puerto Rico will be a multi-year initiative consisting of a fund-raising goal of One Million Dollars through One Great Hour of Sharing to provide multi-pronged support to our American Baptist family and others in Puerto Rico.
Ms. Victoria Goff, Director of Disaster Response and Development, is ABHMS’ staff lead in developing the coordinated strategy. Victoria will convene a Task Force comprised of diverse American Baptist partners to design and implement the multi-year strategy. The Task Force should include representatives from the American Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, Region Staff, American Baptist Men, American Baptist Women, ABEC, ABF, Office of the General Secretary, Board of General Ministries, International Ministries, the Latino Caucus, American Baptist Colleges and Seminaries, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors, Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, among others.
ABHMS has faithfully deployed mission staff, disseminated One Great Hour of Sharing Funds, mobilized volunteers, and managed resources in the aftermath of natural disasters. In the words of Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS Executive Director, “Hurricanes Maria and Irma have presented American Baptists an extreme challenge to be the hands and feet of Jesus in ways that exceed past interventions and responses. We must develop a comprehensive response that fully engages our ABHMS partners in collaborative, strategic and effective ways in Puerto Rico.”
Vickie and other ABHMS staff will visit the Gulf Coast and Florida next week—then Puerto Rico as soon as possible—to show the support of the American Baptist family.
We earnestly solicit your partnership as we undertake the long-term response effort ahead. From Hurricane Katrina and other extreme disasters, we have learned that long after the news reports have ceased, the rebuilding needs will remain. ABHMS has responded to the call and is committed to leading a massive multi-year effort with our American Baptist partners to address the manifold needs that exist in Puerto Rico.
Roberto Dieppa-Diaz, Interim Executive Minister of ABC Puerto Rico contacted the Office of The General Secretary of ABCUSA today (September 25, 2017) and wanted to convey their appreciation for all of the prayers and expressions of support they have received since Hurricane Maria devastated their island. Today (9/25/2017), they are holding a meeting to continue the damage assessment process they have undertaken, and have asked that visits by volunteers to the island be delayed at this point until that assessment is complete and conditions on the ground are in better shape. Specifically, the government needs to make the island safer for visitors by clearing roads, restoring electricity, opening ports and ensuring the supply of gasoline. When the Convention’s damage assessment collection is complete, we will receive their report on how to come alongside them in rebuilding the churches, homes and lives of our brothers and sisters, as well as their communities. I assured them of our solidarity, support, prayers and love. At this time, it is vital that our churches across the country prepare for this unprecedented relief effort by making donations to One Great Hour of Sharing.
ABCNJ has pledged its solidarity with our national effort and through ABCNJ Disaster Relief Coordinator, Denise Gratzel, we are staying in close contact with Vickie Goff of ABHMS. In the meanwhile, our Denise Gratzel will begin to assemble work teams to stand ready for deployment the moment we are called upon.