Helping NYC

There is an adage that says, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

For 10 members of the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship Church in Westfield, this saying holds true following work they have done last week.

Pastor David Herr, along with Lydia and Judah Herr, Isaac and Seth Byard, Dawn Bowen, Jillian Douglas, Sarah Harp, Bruce Diamond and Ariana Cooke traveled to New York City last week to help rebuild for victims of Superstorm Sandy. And, in their journey, they were able to see the reactions of Burt and Jeanne Metz of Breezy Point, N.Y., a couple who received a surprise home makeover.

“We were working on a home that they were redoing for an elderly couple who hit on very hard times,” Herr said. “The wife has been a two-time cancer survivor. After they retired, they contracted a carpenter to work on their house to refurbish it, fix it up. Shortly after that, before the work ever got completed, he died and their money that they gave him was lost, so their life savings was kind of swallowed up in that. Then, the storm hit, and it came in about four feet into their first floor, which, they only have one floor. It just created all kinds of damage, so they were very discouraged.”

Herr said a member of his church was questioning what could be done to help victims in the New York City area following the October storm. So, he contacted the New York School for Urban Ministry, which ended up hosting the group and putting it in touch with Operation Blessing International and Samaritan’s Purse.

Operation Blessing International is a nonprofit organization with a mission to alleviate human need and suffering in the U.S. and around the world. Samaritan’s Purse, on the other hand, works to help the world’s sick, poor and suffering. It also provides emergency relief programs to victims of natural disaster, war, disease and famine. The group from Lighthouse Christian Fellowship worked with these two groups to help restore what they could in New York.

“NYSUM hosted us, we went there and stayed in their school every night. They gave us some orientation and training, and they provided breakfast and lunch for us. They also connected us with different faith-based ministries that were reaching into the areas of Breezy Point and Rockway,” Herr said. “NYSUM was the vehicle, or the facilitator, to connect us with groups that were actually doing the work there, helping to rebuild.”

On Jan. 7, the group worked with Blessings International to help work on the Metz’s home. They returned to the Metz’s to welcome the couple home just two days later.

“It was like an ‘Extreme Makeover,’ except it was an Extreme Blessing,” Herr said. “It was really touching, because they had no idea all this was going to be done. There was new furniture, everything was new, and it was all a gift from volunteers and donations to bless this couple.”

The group also helped victims in Rockway, when they spent the day last Tuesday volunteering with Samaritan’s purse.

“Our job there was to work in people’s basements,” Herr said. “The drywall had already been taken off, about four feet to the floor. It was our job to pull nails and spray a disinfectant to stop mold. We did a lot of sweeping and cleaning up. It was kind of neat, because the homeowners were there and they were looking at weeks of work that we accomplished in hours because of the large group and just putting our heart into it. They were so encouraged and so thankful they can go on with rebuilding.”

To travel to New York City, each person had to raise roughly $150 to cover the cost of their stay at NYSUM, gas, meals and other expenses. Members of the church also donated toward the cause.

“We took a love offering at the church to help offset costs for gas and transportation that way,” Herr said. “I think a lot of people have been looking for ways to give where they know it is going to the right source. It was really neat.”

The group also needed to find a way to get to New York City. Herr learned that the cost of renting a van large enough would be very expensive. Then he learned about Tom and Judy Marsh, who are members of an area Baptist church. Herr said the couple bought a van and lent it to their church to be used for any outings.

“So, we got in contact with them and they willingly donated their van for us to use,” Herr said. “It was really great to see the churches work together to accomplish something like that.”

The 10 who volunteered their time this past week were all very different, according to Herr. The youngest member of the trip was only 15, while others were college-age, up to adults in their 60s.

“The group that signed up was very interesting and from different walks of life, but it all worked together well. So, that was really special, because there sometimes can be internal problems, and we didn’t have any of that,” Kerr said.

Additionally, Herr recalled seeing the reactions of the people the group helped while in New York City.

“Just to see their reaction and how appreciative they were. Oh my, they were overwhelmed,” Herr said. “Sometimes, you think, ‘Why go, why spend all that money?’ What really encourages the people that have been traumatized by all this is to see people come volunteer to help and encourage them. We had the opportunity to give people hope, and that’s really special.”