Our team of eleven spent four days on the Jersey Shore working on houses nearly a year to the day that Super Storm Sandy damaged them. The material accomplishments of our trip are pretty easy to describe: as a team we hung a lot of drywall in a house built around 1900 with not a single square angle; we hung wall tile in a bathroom; and we identified problems in a house that was literally starting to sag with rot.
What isn’t so easy to describe are the ways in which our lives were touched by those we met. When I first signed up for this trip, I figured we’d hear some of the homeowners’ stories while we were working on their houses. I was not expecting to be welcomed so warmly by the members of Lacey UMC who amazed me with their long-term dedication to helping all those affected by the storm. When we talked to some of the people who’ve been cooking and serving breakfasts and dinners for the last year to those who were temporarily homeless and those who were helping to rebuild, we heard incredible stories of survival and servanthood. One woman who was left homeless was able to find a home again, and even though she now works multiple jobs, she finds the time, energy and selflessness to cook breakfast and dinner for those in need at least five days a week. One man’s house was flooded, and he barely managed to drive his car to safety, while another man waded through water for what may have been an hour or more holding his bicycle above his head praying that he wouldn’t drown, and they both continue to serve others. Our team spent four days helping as we were able; these volunteers have spent a year serving and continue to serve with a lightness and cheerfulness that implies that all they want is to be able to continue to serve God in any way possible.
When we heard the story of one of the homeowners, I was reminded that sometimes it’s not nature that is so devastating, but rather, the ability of man to prey on the desperate and hurting. One owner had paid a contractor a large sum of money and instead of doing the work he was paid to do, or even just taking the money and running, he hid a mold problem and then removed a supporting beam of the house, damaging the house more than the storm had. I am grateful that my team and I got to play just one small role in restoring this homeowner’s house and reconfirming her faith in God and what He can and will provide. It reminded me that a single person’s negative actions can be followed by the love and support of those moved by faith and God; that a ratio of about 1: 100 of those who take advantage of the poor to those who are willing to help through God’s love, isn’t a bad thing to remember.
Remembering all of this, reminds me that I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Submitted by Jennifer