When tragedy hits a community, the people of the community bind together to remember and honor those who have been hurt, to help one another repair damage, and to find ways to move on with their lives despite their losses. They learn valuable lessons in the process.
Several weeks ago, a box arrived in the morning mail at Margate Community Church in Margate, New Jersey. In the box were sixty-six pairs of work gloves, a large number of cards and notes, a check for building supplies, and a letter from the pastor of the Waterbury Congregational Church (Vermont) explaining the purpose of the box and its contents. The box also contained a children’s book entitled Noah’s Ark by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock.
The members of the Waterbury Congregational Church had heard about the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to the coastal areas of New Jersey and New York in October of 2012. It reminded them of their own disaster just one year earlier in August of 2011, when Hurricane Irene (although then reduced to tropical storm status) caused significant flood damage to hundreds of homes, farms, roads, railroads, bridges, and utilities in their area.
They knew, first-hand, the enormous effort that would be required before lives in some of the heavily damaged coastal communities of New Jersey and New York could return to normal. After all, their own lives have not yet entirely returned to normal, and it has already been well over a year since their flood disaster.
The Waterbury Congregational Church also heard that volunteers from churches around the country planned to travel to Margate to help rebuild damaged homes. The volunteers planned to camp out in the Margate church and work in nearby communities during the week, coordinating their efforts with Habitat for Humanity, the United Church of Christ disaster relief groups, and local relief groups. The check for building supplies will help meet some of the rebuilding needs.
The letters and notes in the box from members of the Waterbury church expressed concern about the storm damage and gave encouragement for the future, citing their own first-hand experiences with natural disasters. As many of the notes were read aloud during one Sunday morning service, their sentiments touched our hearts and brought tears to our eyes. All of the cards, notes, and letters, now posted on a bulletin board in our Fellowship Hall, will be read by the volunteers who come in to work.
Last Sunday, Pastor Dave Fleming of the Margate church, read the book, Nora’s Ark, to the children of the church. Nora’s Ark tells about the Vermont Flood of 1927. The author, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, was only a child at the time of the flood, but she remembers it well.
It is a beautiful, well-told, true story of how Grandpa, Grandma, and granddaughter, Wren, help out their neighbors whose homes and animals had washed away in the Flood of 1927.
Nora’s Ark gives a perfect lesson on identifying what is important in life. What is important, as Grandma would say, is that neighbors help neighbors.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Emily Arnold McCully.
And those sixty-six pairs of work gloves? They’re gonna get a good workout! Volunteer church groups have asked for shelter in the Margate church, and the church’s own volunteers are getting ready to help feed these guests. After all, that’s what churches do. In times of trouble, churches help churches, and churches help their communities.
Special thanks to the Waterbury Congregational Church in Vermont for their ministry of love. . . and those sixty-six pairs of gloves. We’ll pass them on…well, maybe we will buy new ones and pass them on to another community that needs help.