About a dozen men from Christ Covenant Church in Matthews recently returned from a hurricane-ravaged Atlantic City, N.J. where volunteers helped with cleanup efforts.
For three days volunteers from Christ Covenant joined a team just shy of 50 other men and women from other churches in the area for mold assessment and remediation, demolition of water damage and the construction and remodel of homes affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Church member Steven Wray was one of the volunteers.
“We had established a small steering group to determine how best to enter the disaster recovery ministry in the event that a disaster struck our area,” Wray said. “Some members of our team had traveled to a training conference hosted by our denomination domestic mission agency — Mission to North America. After Sandy struck the northeast, we were asked to participate in post-disaster cleanup and many men enthusiastically responded.”
The team traveled to Atlantic City on Dec. 4 and served Wednesday through Friday, returning home to Matthews on Saturday.
“The work day was from daylight to dark, although with the large number of teams, we often started a bit late,” Wray said. “We (were) hosted by Greentree Church in Egg Harbor, N.J. We were sleeping in their classrooms, eating in their gym, using their kitchen. They (were) kind and gracious hosts.”
Wray said the team worked mostly within a 5- to 7-mile radius of the church.
The people they served “were incredibly thankful,” Wray said. “Apparently the culture is not familiar with neighbor helping neighbor, because many first reactions were guarded and suspicious. We had a team that cooked food and delivered lunch to the work sites. In addition to our lunch, they would often bring extra smoked hams or turkeys for neighbors. Most to whom we offered were initially suspicious that the offered food was free. They warmed to overwhelmed. One lady actually helped us repair her neighbor’s home in appreciation.
“Public officials allowed a certain degree of parking tolerance for vehicles with disaster response signage as long as it was not egregious – which was convenient because our team had large trucks pulling large trailers.”
For Wray, his faith drove him to volunteer.
“As followers of Christ, we recognize that we have been given the ultimate gift of life, even though we have done nothing to deserve it,” he said. “Likewise, we have been commanded to love the Lord with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. The act of service is one of the best ways to demonstrate what we teach and believe. We also have learned from Micah 6:8 what is good and what the Lord required, ‘To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’”
Wray said he thinks each member of the team took a lot away from the trip.
“It was exhausting, chaotic, disorganized, at times frustrating, but mostly wonderful and extremely fulfilling,” he said. “It is powerful to see the collaboration of many churches all coming together to work to serve those in need. Each participant has an important role to serve. The economic disparity is obvious when those with resources and means have already recovered and those without are still significantly struggling.
Disaster creates significant emotional and physical disruption to those things that are routine. That sustained disruption creates stress. Extended stress creates all kinds of problems. Those involved in recovery efforts must be patient and flexible because the entire process is discombobulated.”
Wray said Christ Covenant’s work doesn’t end with the trip.
“Christ Covenant is more than ever committed to develop our disaster recovery ministry and will be excited to participate in the future whenever needed,” he said.
Wray said it was important that the church continue to send aid to those in need.
“We have been blessed with the resources and time to be able to help,” he said. “In other words, we can.”
For more information on Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, go to www.facebook.com/ChristCovenantChurchPCA or www.christcovenant.org.