Yesterday a friend and I delivered a few Christmas gifts to the Tunnel to Tower distribution center for Hurricane Sandy Relief in Staten Island. It was an amazing experience. The looks on the faces of the volunteers when we walked in with 3 large shopping bags full of gifts was awesome. They were so appreciative. I felt guilty because what we did is nothing in comparison to what they are doing each and every day. Last week when I had called to inquire about the feasibility of delivering the gifts the woman on the phone had said “if you come on a Saturday maybe you could volunteer for a couple of hours.” I can tell you that I gained so much more than I gave yesterday. I am awed at the opportunities that the Lord puts before me.  Let me start at the beginning of how this all came to be.

In the days and weeks since Hurricane Sandy, Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene, my local church has collected money from all over the nation. Actually my Pastor, PB, has been the main person in this. (He will deny that but it is true) He has a lot of friends – real friends and Facebook friends that wanted to “do something”. One of the many things PB is good at is mobilizing people whether in person or through social media.  So money started arriving at WVCN. “We” used some of that money to purchase blankets, water and flashlights. People within our congregation and community donated more blankets, flashlights and water. And within one week of the storm those supplies went down to the effected areas. Some were also distributed in our local community.

At the same time the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene through SDMI started a Christmas gift drive for Hurricane Sandy Families. SDMI stands for Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International. I am the Metro New York District Children’s Ministries Director.  The idea is that local churches/communities will collect Christmas gifts, then deliver them to a mission area collection site and then the gifts will be distributed to Hurricane Sandy families.  WVCN is a mission area collection site for the Northern zone and our gifts will go to Staten Island. We are also collecting in six other locations with those gifts going to Long Island, Far Rockaway and Jersey City. See Metro New York Church of the Nazarene on Facebook for further information. Anyone can contribute – the more, the merrier.

Anyway, I mentioned the gift drive to PB and he came up with “Keep Calm and Shop with Pastor” event that took place on December 1 at 10:30. Kids from my church shopped at the local toy store and purchased gifts for the gift drive using the money that had been donated from all over the nation. Well, this blossomed into an amazing event. While the kids shopped at the toy store, teens and adults shopped at other local shops to purchase gifts for teens and adults. PB had contacted the store owners ahead of time and the store owners were thrilled with the idea and gave 20% discount as well as a no tax. YES!! The event was wonderful. The kids did a super job shopping. People commented on how well-behaved they were and what great gifts they had picked. I was thrilled when I realized we would be shopping in the local toy store – no electronics. If we had shopped in a big toy store, picking electronics would have been the first choice of many of the children. Shopping at the small local store gave way to the purchase of dolls, puzzles, books, crafts, dress up clothes and games. It was so fun seeing what the kids picked.  J is really into trains so he found a book about trains and two little trains for a kindergarten age boy. E loves dress up and she picked a fuzzy pink boa, gold wings and crown for a kindergarten age girl. It was delightful to watch. After shopping we all headed to church to wrap the gifts in clear cellophane. Thank God for cellophane bags. Because wrapping a hundred gifts with 17 children would have been something. And probably not something good. The adult and teen volunteers were wonderful and patient. Pizza was served for lunch. The gifts were placed under and around the tree and I was home by 2:30. The whole event was energizing but when I got home I needed a nap.

The Church of the Nazarene doesn’t have any churches on Staten Island so we began seeking a place to deliver the gifts. A member of our church was born in Staten Island and still has family there so she started “finding” us a place to donate. And that is how I ended up at the “House of Crabs” – Tunnel to Tower collection location yesterday. While I was there another one of the other volunteers asked where we are from and I said Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene. She mentioned she used to live in Port Jervis, and her husband is a firefighter. Conversation continues and she says “I met you about 10 years ago you are the woman who lives in Greenwood Lake.” Okay that is weird. 🙂

When my friend and I left the center we drove towards the beach. Oh my!!! It was like we were in a third world country. I know it has been said before but you have to see it, to believe it. And that being said it is unbelievable – house after house boarded up, storefronts being cleaned out, tents distributing supplies, insurance company mobile units, the military, the police, debris, garbage, cars and trucks in the strangest places.  While we were stopped at a traffic light, I looked over and realized that the storefront being cleaned out was the local dancing school and with that I started to cry. The families and businesses affected my Hurricane aka Super Storm Sandy will need our help for a long time. This won’t be better soon. May we not grow weary in doing good. We are heading back to Staten Island next Saturday to deliver more gifts.

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