Disaster Relief

ABCNJ Joins ABCUSA Emergency Disaster Relief Task Force

A damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan. Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Gerry Images

A damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan. Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Gerry Images

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 )

ABCNJ Affirms Support of National Disaster Relief Efforts


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.


ABCNJ Pledges Solidarity With Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Efforts

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:

Dear Colleagues, 

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Globetrotting – An ABCNJ Ministry reaches the Philippines

Globetrotting – An ABCNJ Ministry reaches the Philippines

Denise Gratzel (second from the left), ABCNJ's Disaster Relief Coordinator, was part of a team representing ABCNJ in the Philippines this week. The group travelled in order to take part in a ministry round-table which shared wisdom between several ABCUSA regions and ministry organizations, and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches. ABCNJ was a significant partner in the event.
Denise, in particular, travelled across

Philippines Typhoon Relief - Update


Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches General Secretary Submits Report to ABCNJ

To our Sisters and Brothers in ABCNJ,

I am sending you the recent development updates of reconstruction project supported by ABCNJ and the summary of our financial releases of the $41, 000 you have extended to us. The following documents are attached to this email:

A.      Update Reconstruction Project B.      Summary of Financial Releases C.      Photos

The love and concern of our brothers and sisters of ABCNJ that were manifested in many ways has given us hope, particularly your monetary assistance to help reconstruct various structures. We are more challenged to continue doing our ministry doing ministry to the lost.

Recently,we were able to visit some areas and documented the progress of the on-going reconstruction projects.

However,in our observation and assessment, many of our recipients of both ABCNJ and IM assistance have not reached the accomplishment of the projects because of lack of funds. We tried to figure out factors that caused it. Certain factors that were obviously seen are: a. price of commodities has significantly gone high which adversely affected and increased the prices of construction materials; b. the cost of labor also escalated remarkably, imagine a 35 % labor cost from the total relief budget is considerable amount from the budget, and even if the members of the churches are extending significant contribution to the project particularly their labor cost, the budget is not enough to address the full extent of the damage; c. the scarcity of skilled workers and laborers, aside from the fact they also need help to fix their homes, they were busy looking for means immediately to provide the needs of their family.

These factors cannot be controlled because the system of economy and that we have to live with it and be wise.

The impact to the Community of the kind gestures extended by ABCNJ, have drawn a positive impressions in the lives of many in the community.  It convinced people that our Christian witness is not only being expressed in words/utterances but it is manifested in life and practice. The recovery of our damaged structures were realized because of the tangible assistance rendered to us. It actually conveys the message of love, hope and generosity. An example of life that is ready to share not only as a good neighbor but as a responsible keeper of a brother. We have clearly declared our claim as children of a loving and a caring God.

Presently, the recipients are planning to initiate a local fund campaign and even to friends and relatives abroad that will help them address the remaining needs of the ongoing construction. The unstable prices of the construction materials are one of the major factors that disturb their budget. Hence, such attempt to raise funds in the locality is proposed.

We are happy to report that our people are so grateful for the unfailing support of ABCNJ and IM ABCUSA.

Again,thank you so much for your commitment to journey with us.

May God grant you more blessings in life and service for His glory and honor.

Love in Christ,

Rev.Judson F. Herbilla, Sr. General Secretary Convention of the Philippine Baptist Churches, Inc.Fajardo Street, Jaro, Iloilo City Philippines 5000 Telephone Number: +63 033 329 0621 Telefax: +63033 329 0618

Together with this narrative report, the general secretary also sent the following summary of progress in each of the recipients of ABCNJ designated disaster relief funds:

  1. Ajuy Christian Academy - on the library and staff quarter, the amount for the reconstruction is released already. However, the program of work is a little bit delayed because of the shortage of carpenters and construction workers that are available in the area for obvious reasons. But as per our person’s in-charged, the work will commence soon.

  2. Pontevedra Christian Academy - On the reconstruction of the old school wing, the materials were purchased already and building construction is ongoing with 20% accomplishment already.

  3. Filamer Christian Academy - On the full rehabilitation and repair of FCU Cyber Library - almost Complete

  4. Community Baptist Church, Bingawan, Iloilo Province - The construction materials were already purchased work for the foundation of the building is done

  5. Glad tidings Church, Bingawan ,Iloilo Province - Materials were purchased already, just setting up the schedule for workers’ availability in the area.

  6. Batad Viejo Evangelical Church, Batad , Iloilo province - The amount designated on these two (Batad Viejo Evangelical Church & S. Barrido Memorial Church) churches is not facilitated yet because of some important problem to settle on the church lot. But they are processing their church lot donation papers as per request of the office

  7. Sublangon Baptist church - Construction almost complete repair of school and stage

  8. Estancia Evangelical Church - Materials already purchased and the work for the full restoration of the parsonage is ongoing.

Rev. Herbilla also sent photos of the work progress in the various sites where ABCNJ disaster relief funds were designated. To see the photos click on this link.

Delivering Hope


Recently, while attending one of Governor Christie's Town Hall meetings in Belmar, NJ, I introduced myself to the young lady sitting next to me. As is the case with many folks, her Sandy-damaged home is still in need of repairs. I let her know that a volunteer team from Blue Bell, PA would be here in May and would be able to come alongside her as she prepares to elevate her home with a REMM grant from FEMA and the State of New Jersey. That team of ten wonderful hard workers came and went, leaving hope in her heart. Half of the team worked to get the first floor gutted to the studs and ready for the next stage. The other half of the team went to a home in Brielle, NJ. They spent their week painting the interior of a cute little beach cottage. I am working with our ABC churches and our community partners to welcome our teams for ABCNJ/ABHMS 2014 “Rebuild • Restore • Renew” Work Weeks. I would ask you to prayerfully consider joining us in Manasquan July 12-19 or in the Atlantic City area August 9-16 as we bring physical help and spiritual healing.

To register as a group or individual, please follow this link.

Special Delivery – The Birth of a Ministry


We have a NEW arrival coming in April; a wonderful addition to aide in Disaster Response. Through grants provided by The American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and First Baptist Church of Manasquan we have purchased a 7x14 utility trailer to support ABCNJ’s Disaster Response Teams. Special thanks to the Missions Team from First Baptist Church of Mt. Holly. They will be preparing the trailer to store the tools we have already acquired, and to make rooms for needed additions in the future.

As American Baptist we will join other denominations to be the Hands and Feet of our Lord. We want to be among the first to arrive to deliver the aid needed to our churches and their communities, and to be ready to be deployed in other emergency situation .

We now know that there are three stages in any disaster :

  • The Initial Stage - emergency mode , warmth, provide shelter and tend to health issues.
  • The Renew Stage - opening of Government offices, gas stations and food markets.
  • The Rebuilding Stage - this is where we are in NJ now . It is the most difficult and longest stage.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

I would love to share with you, minister with you as together we continue to change the lives of those effected by disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

Please join us for one of the following “Coming Together For New Jersey-2014” work weeks:

  • July 12-19 – Manasquan area
  • August 9-16 – Atlantic City & Wildwood areas.

You can register by filling out the registration packet available found at this link.

Solidarity in the Storm


ABCNJ & Partners come to the aid of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches

The Philippines is hit by an average of 21 typhoons each year. But when Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines on November 8, 2013 with the strongest destructive cyclonic force ever recorded to hit land, even such a typhoon-jaded country like the Philippines was felled to its knees, and visited upon by a tempest beyond its imagination. By now most of us have seen a photograph or two of the horrific destruction that Typhoon Haiyan has left in its wake, which only belies the massive number of lives lost and upturned, and countless structures demolished in this populous but largely rural and agrarian country.

Philippines Map of Regions and ProvincesOf note for us here in ABCNJ and ABCUSA is that the megatyphoon entered from the east and plowed through the central part of the Philippines on its way out to the west. Lying on its direct path as it moved westward were the northern provinces of the three major islands of western Visayas, where the historical location of American Baptist missionary work in the Philippines is centered. The vast majority of the churches and institutions of our partner convention there, the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, are located in the same region.

The day after the typhoon hit, ABCNJ's Council authorized Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, senior regional pastor and executive minister, to mount a regional appeal for CPBC. Many of our ABCNJ churches and individuals have generously responded to the appeal so far. American Baptists, through its One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) disaster relief, immediately released an initial amount of funds to assist our partner convention in the emergency phase to purchase essential times like food, fresh water, medicine and temporary shelter materials. This rapid response enabled CPBC to visit stricken areas and deliver assistance almost immediately where safe passage was possible.

Estancia Evangelical Church

In late December of 2013, Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, Rev. Dr. Ben Chan, International Ministries area director for East Asia, India, Hong Kong and China, and Ms. Lisa Rothenberger, ABC World Relief Officer, began discussion on how we can effectively partner together in the now crucial recovery and reconstruction phase. By the turn of the year in January 2014,  ABCNJ, IM and WRO joined together to commission me to travel to the Philippines on a brief mission trip. This allowed us to conduct direct onsite assessments with our partners in stricken areas in order to provide vital information needed to enable IM, ABCNJ and WRO to faithfully discharge American Baptist disaster relief funds received thus far. After a flurry of negotiations with CPBC to coordinate my schedule, I was able to finally leave for the Philippines on January 26, 2014, affording almost 7 days of intensive onsite visits to affected areas, engaging in dialogue and prayer with pastors, church members and leaders of institutions, and daily debriefings with CPBC staff. I returned to the US on February 5, 2014

Community Baptist Church, Bingawan, Iloilo ProvinceDue to the limitation of time, I was not able to visit all the provinces where CPBC churches and institutions were affected (and some locations are yet inaccessible even to CPBC staff almost three months after the typhoon), but CPBC staff took me to enough locations that provided a visual overview of the damage in other provinces. The damage to property, loss of life and livelihood that I saw were heartbreaking. But what encouraged me daily was the knowledge that wherever I went, I brought a personal presence to the love and care of American Baptists from across the ocean. Dr. Spitzer and I went to the national office in Valley Forge after I returned, to report my findings and handover data I collected to International Ministries and the World Relief Office. Initial damage findings of CPBC indicate more than 149 churches and 53 parsonages destroyed, and hundreds upon hundreds of member homes damaged and livelihoods disrupted or lost.  Filamer Christian University, a major university established by American Baptists which now has more than 4,300 students, sustained 42 million pesos worth of damage.

Together with IM and WRO, ABCNJ is now finalizing a strategy to allocate funds for the recovery and rebuilding phase along the priority categories of rebuilding churches and parsonages, schools and institutions, member homes, and restoration of livelihood.

In the midst of the loss, grief and destruction, I never heard a single word of bitterness uttered from anyone - even from those who have lost everything. Instead, I was blessed to see dignity in the suffering of the innocent; I was blessed to see the fruit of the Holy Spirit at work as a vibrant community spirit is ignited spontaneously everywhere - people helping people, reaching out to total strangers with the meager resources they have, opening their homes and churches to refugees, consoling each other in the deep fellowship of their faith. While their walls, roofs, chancels, pulpits and pews may have been lost or damaged in the storm, the real church is alive and well! The journey ahead will take a few years, but the partnership between American Baptists and the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches runs silent, runs deep and is secure in the hands of Christ.Together we will face the promise of God's renewed future with faith and action.


Dr. Familiaran Represents ABC on Philippine Typhoon Relief Mission

By Benjamin SL Chan, International Ministries
Rev. Dr. Elmo Familiaran, Associate Regional Pastor/Area Minister of the American Baptist Churches in New Jersey (ABCNJ,) is running a series of meetings on typhoon relief in the Philippines beginning January 28, 2014.  American Baptist International Ministries (IM), the World Relief Office and ABCNJ are working together to plan the second phase of typhoon relief in the Philippines.  Rev. Familiaran, Associate Regional Pastor/Area Minister of ABNCJ, has graciously agreed to visit the affected areas and represent the three organizations to meet with leaders of the Convention of Philippines Baptist Churches. He is helping us gain better understanding of the current relief work, and what is needed to restore the operation of the Baptist institutions and normal life of the citizens. The information gathered will be used to shape the focus of the coming relief work. We will share the plan with American Baptist family.
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013 and devastated the country. Click to read related posting: http://www.internationalministries.org/drives/16.

ABCNJ Disaster Response: Philippines Typhoon

A devastating typhoon has hit the Philippines, and early reports indicate widespread destruction and the loss of over one thousand lives.  ABCNJ has enjoyed a very positive relationship with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.  In the last 2 years, we have led two mission initiatives in this country.  The storm passed directly over the part of the country where most of the Philippine Baptist churches serve.  I know that you and your ABC church will want to respond to this crisis, and this letter is intended to provide you with guidance on how to do so most effectively. The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey is especially suited to work with you in this crisis, since we have among us many Filipinos, including one of our Associate Regional Pastors (Rev. Dr. Elmo Familiaran) and one of our Council Vice-Presidents (Rev. Felix Tingson).

There are two ways you and your church can provide offerings for disaster relief and recovery which benefits the people of the Philippines.

ABCUSA One Great Hour of Sharing Offering

This option is good for a general response to the crisis.  You can use the ABC missions form to record and designate your gift. Use line “OGH” for this.

Through ABCNJ’s Philippines Ministries Response Fund

This option is best for responding to the many specific aid requests our region and churches will be receiving over the coming months.  This fund, administered by ABCNJ, will have 3 priorities:

  • Emergency aid to ABCNJ related families affected by the storm in the Philippines.
  • Emergency aid to Philippine Baptist churches that need to rebuild or make repairs, in cooperation with the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, our partner in ministry.
  • Financial support for efforts of Philippine Baptist Churches to help their members and community recover from the storm.

Church donations to the ABCNJ Philippines Ministries Response Fund can be made using the ABC missions form – or just send your donation to the region office and we will do the paperwork for you.  Make checks out to: ABCNJ.  Use the line SPECIFICS (SPC) and in the details box write  “ABCNJ Philippines Ministries Response Fund.”  For individuals, checks should be made out to ABCNJ and write “ABCNJ Philippines Ministries Response Fund” in the memo line.  Both church and individual gifts may be sent to the region office.

We are asking every ABCNJ church to take a special offering for this purpose before the end of the year.  Please do not re-designate offerings for ongoing mission gifts (such as United Mission or Region Offering) for this purpose.  Your people will be generous if they are presented the opportunity to give!


Update from Rev. Dr. Elmo Familiaran, ABCNJ Associate Regional Pastor

Here is the latest word I received this morning from Henna Baclagon, community development and disaster relief officer of CPBC.  “Iloilo Province is badly hit and so is Capiz and Aklan and not so much in Iloilo City. Me and Feraz had just arrived from our monitoring but most of the roads are not passable yet especially water from the Jalaur river is rising. Even government aid cannot get through via land transport. Capiz is still now out of contact and we are finding ways how to. Tomorrow, we will try to reach those who are still isolated.. Thank you so much for the support again.”

Hurricane Sandy Response - Awesome Deeds of Righteousness!


ABCNJ/ABHMS Sandy Work Week

Making a Difference!



ABCNJ and our American Baptist partners are making a difference on the Jersey shore (and beyond)!

Volunteers from FBC Westfield

The third of four Hurricane Sandy Relief work weeks, sponsored jointly by ABCNJ and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, is coming to a successful close.  Volunteers from New Jersey (ABCNJ), Pennsylvania (ABCOPAD), Indiana (ABC Ind/KY), Rhode Island (ABCORI) and West Virginia (WVBC) are among those participating - 94 in all!

As Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor of ABCNJ, I am so proud of how our region and its churches have responded to the storm.  We have repaired and rebuilt buildings, and more importantly, have served our communities in countless ways.These work weeks demonstrate that we are not alone - the entire ABCUSA family is alongside us!  And we are making a difference in the lives of families along the shore and beyond.  Folks keep letting us know how much they appreciate what the volunteers are doing.

I had the opportunity to visit some of the work sites on Tuesday (August 16), accompanied by Victoria Goff (ABHMS), Denise Gratzel (ABCNJ Disaster Relief Coordinator) and Mark Mahserjian-Smith (ABCOPAD).

A refrigerator damaged by the storm.

This has been an extraordinarily hot week, but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of our volunteers.  Each day they keep on serving!

Our Hurricane Sandy Response volunteers are involved in many activities, including painting interior walls of homes damaged by the storm, cleaning up and beautifying yards, hauling debris from homes (like refrigerators!), preparing a community center for future relief activities, and preparing the building adjacent to ABCNJ's Pilgrim Baptist Church, for future ministry.

But it is not just the physical labor that is touching peoples' lives.  Our volunteers have also been listening to the stories of and then praying with those they are helping.  Many have been through so much trauma and they deeply appreciate a listening and compassionate friend.

Victoria Goff, a homeowner, Denise Gratzel and Lee Spitzer

awesome deeds of righteousness

2013-07 Sandy Work Week 8As I reflected on what is happening in our midst, I was led to read Psalm 65.  In verse 5 and 7, David exclaims: "You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, ...who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves."  This week, I witnessed the "awesome deeds of righteousness" of God's people in response to the storm of a century, and from their actions, God's grace and love brought a measure of peace and consolation to those whose lives have been tossed about.

Looking to the future, we still have a work week scheduled for August 10-17, 2013.   In 2014, we hope to sponsor two more work weeks.

ABCNJ Council Endorses 3 New Regional Initiatives



The ABCNJ Council endorsed three new regional initiatives at its first meeting of 2013 on Saturday, January 26.  The Council:

  • Endorsed the region's Sacred Safe Spaces ministry, which addresses the need for our congregations to serve as safe spaces for women, children and others who have suffered physical, sexual and other forms of abuse.  Rev. Tamara Davis has been called to serve as Coordinator for this initiative.  Churches will receive a full announcement later this week.
  • Approved a resolution from the Public Mission Committee on Human Trafficking.  This resolution will be published on ABCNJ.net and sent by mail to all of our churches.
  • Agreed that ABCNJ should move ahead with plans to create a Disaster Relief ministry team, in coordination with the DC Baptist Convention (which ha strong ties to FEMA) and the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.  We have learned a great deal from the Hurricane Sandy experience, which will help both the region and its churches prepare for another future state-wide calamity.

2013-01-26 ABCNJ Council 1The Council also welcomed Rev. Erin Phillips as the newest half-time member of the ABCNJ Regional Ministry Team, approved the final working 2013 regional budget, and approved several special loans to churches.  We heard glowing reports about Fresh Expressions 2013, in which some 30 ABCNJ members are involved, Fanning the Flame 2013 (our next Pastors Conference, hosted with ABCOPAD), and the recently concluded Philippines Mission trip conducted by Drs. Spitzer and Familiaran.  They spoke to 700 Philippine Baptist Ministers and helped kick off this semesters Christ Emphasis Week at Central Philippine University.  Baptist camp Lebanon Director, Don Smith, shared that there will be an alumni weekend in May and announced an exciting new camp beautification and fundraising project - a brick walkway.

Special thanks to Rev. Curtis Haynes and the members of Second Baptist Church in Moorestown for hosting us in such a gracious and hospitable manner!


Helping and Serving After Hurricane Sandy


For Thanksgiving Week, 2012 

ABCNJ responded immediately following the storm, assessing damage and needs, providing pastoral support and encouragement, and coordinating relief efforts in concert with our ABC partners.  Over 50 churches reported some form of damage, ranging from minor to major.  Many of our churches have become mission stations, serving their communities as supply distribution centers, food providers, shelters for the homeless and volunteers, and worship sites for churches that lost their facilities.  They are expressing our commitment to following Christ in practical and helpful ways. As of 11/16/2012, ABCNJ has received $70,000 in One Great Hour of Sharing Assistance and an additional $4,385 in direct gifts from ABC of the Northwest (designated for Pastors’ needs), churches and individuals.   We have distributed $54,250 in aid so far (more requests come in daily).  We have helped 31 ABCNJ churches (and through them, church families and community members) and our Baptist Camp.  Specifically, $32,311 has been designated for assisting church members and communities (60%), $15,687 for facility repairs and damage (29%), $4,350 for Pastor relief and assistance (8%), and $1,902 for hosting volunteer groups and open houses for pastors from around the state (3%).  Going forward, we anticipate that the bulk of our OGHS need will be focused on ministering to church families and community outreach efforts our churches are engaged in.  There is much more to be done! ABCNJ has partnered with a number of ABC regions, and their help is much appreciated.  A team from the American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware, led by Executive Minister Frank Frischkorn, did a great job helping to repair damage at Baptist Camp Lebanon.  This morning, the DC Emergency Response Team, under the direction of Executive Minister Ricky Creech, completed a week of intense tree cutting and debris clearing work.  They completed projects at 42 homes and churches, logging 100 volunteer days, 803 volunteer hours and $20,075 of in-kind labor!  An ABMen team from the Great Rivers Region is arriving today, and following them, a team from ABMen in New York State will be coming.  Assistance and supplies have come in from all over the country from non-ABC sources as well.

Everyone is Asking: “How Can We Help?”

Continue to encourage donations through One Great Hour of Sharing.  All of the impacted regions (and countries) can be helped through OGHS.

ABCNJ is able to distribute store gift cards to churches and families.  This enables them to buy what they need and supports businesses in our state.  The best cards to send us are: home supply stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Sears, WalMart, Target) and grocery stores (Shop-Rite, Acme, Foodtown).  Gift card collections can be mailed to ABCNJ, 3752 Nottingham Way, Suite 101, Trenton, NJ 08690.

ABCNJ’s Baptist Camp Lebanon will be opened up as a supply depot for non-perishable items.  Boxes may be shipped to: Baptist Camp Lebanon, 79 Blossom Hill Rd., Lebanon, NJ 08833.  We can only accept the following items:

  • Gallon Ziplock Bags
  • Heavy Duty Contractor Grade Garbage Bags
  • Bleach, other industrial cleaning supplies
  • Sponges, Buckets
  • Toilet Paper, Paper Towels
  • Shovels and Brooms
  • Dust masks and Work gloves
  • Bubble Wrap, Packing tape, and New Empty Boxes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Towels, Washclothes, Blankets, Sheets, Air Mattresses
  • New underwear and socks for men, women and children

Everyone is also Asking: “Can We Come and Help?”

We request that individuals with specialized skills contact the American Baptist Mission Societies’ Volunteers in Mission office.

If a church is in the mid-Atlantic area of the country, it may be practical to send a short-term team to do volunteer work.  Please email ABCNJ (lspitzer@abcnj.net) and provide full contact information, size of group and work focus.  We will share your offer with churches to see if they can accommodate you.  You will be responsible for all costs related to your visit.  Please understand that hotels are full and it takes a good deal of work to host a volunteer group.  For others, we strongly encourage that you consider monetary gifts instead of coming to New Jersey at this point.

Pastors and churches all over the country have contacted ABCNJ to see if they can create a sister church relationship with a specific impacted church.  Most of our churches, through existing relational ties, already have partnerships with other churches.   At this point, the region will acknowledge your request and pass it on to our churches for them to consider, but we cannot promise such a relationship will happen.

Moving from Crisis to Community Rebuilding

On behalf of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, I want to thank the ABC family for the encouragement, love and support we have received from all over the country.  This has been a trying time for our state, and the rebuilding effort will take many years to complete, but tremendous progress has already been achieved.

The two storms plunged New Jersey and surrounding areas into crisis.  Millions lost electrical power, heat, internet, cable TV.  High winds knocked down trees and damaged roofs everywhere, sand from our cherished beaches was pushed throughout entire towns, and floodwater damaged countless homes.  Gasoline had to be rationed in northern and eastern counties, in large part because service stations had no electrical power.  Many people lost everything because their homes were destroyed.

In just two weeks, schools have opened, the trains are running, gas rationing has ended, stores have reopened, and most areas have electricity and heat again.  I am so proud about how New Jerseyans rose to the challenges we have faced; one sees neighbors helping each other get back on their feet.  Downed trees are being removed, roofs are being repaired, and roads are being cleared.

Here is an idea: help us rebuild by vacationing in New Jersey next summer!  The Jersey shore is a magical place where generations of people have cherished memories of special family vacations.  Come and enjoy the shore and all of its attractions, and worship in one of our ABCNJ churches.  You’ll be most welcome!

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, ABCNJ Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor