If one phrase could capture the message of the events we attended, it would be this: global mission is no longer just for the West.
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.
After almost 15 years of complex and lengthy probate procedures, construction plans and permit applications going through the excruciatingly slow and ponderous - oftentimes frustrating - process of dealing with the vagaries of Township and County politics, the Harker Legacy fund has now arrived at the construction phase!
In a letter sent on August 31, 2017 to the ABC General Secretary, the Executive Directors/CEO's of the American Baptist Home Mission Society and International Ministries, Dr. Familiaran wrote:
Everyday we awake, the news bring more unspeakable horror and suffering from the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Words fail to describe what we continue to see unfold.
I write to all of you for several reasons:
- I want to reiterate the unwavering solidarity of ABCNJ with every effort that our national denomination is making in sending aid and relief to the affected people of Texas.
- Many ABCNJ churches have already responded to the OGHS appeal that have been issued in the region. And many more will respond. That appeal will be sustained through every channel in our communications network.
- In massive tragedies like these, it is also a sad reality that many unscrupulous people exploit the chaos and the emotions of people who are eager to help. We also have had many unpleasant experiences of the toxic mix of politics and dysfunctional national relief organizations mismanaging vital relief funds that never reach their intended recipients - a breach of trust that tarnishes the profound acts of mercy of many. I will be assuring our ABCNJ churches by emphasizing in the continuing appeals to ABCNJ the historic track record of ABCUSA of being good and faithful stewards of the relief resources that we deploy here and around the world through the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering and the work of the World Relief Committee (WRC) of the Board of General Managers (BGM) in overseeing the dispatch of those vital funds.
- ABCNJ has forged a vital partnership with The American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) and International Ministries (IM) in disaster relief born out of our joint response to Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. That partnership has deepened through the years and remains strong, personified in the outstanding team of Vickie Goff of ABHMS and Denise Gratzel of ABCNJ.
- The compassion of Christ is welling up from the hearts of many in our region who yearn to be of help. But we are also aware that organizing our limited resources into a strategic response can multiply its impact manifold. And so I want to assure all of you that ABCNJ stands ready to mobilize when called upon and join our national efforts and ABC regions near Texas in the long rebuilding and rehabilitation phase of this tragedy that lies ahead.
Let us continue to lift the people of Texas in our prayers and actions.
Would you like to get a taste of what's in store for Annual Session? Check out Annual Session's Featured Speakers page!