(Photo: The Christian Post/Vincent Funaro)
NEW YORK – Over two weeks after Hurricane Sandy ravaged beachfront areas in New York and New Jersey, churches have remained at ground zero providing aid to those who were affected the most by the storm.
Residents of Staten Island, N.Y., one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy, have seen the body of Christ unite during this time, putting denominational affiliation and theological perspectives aside to help those suffering.
Pastor Daniel Delgado, a first responder to Sandy and executive director of Third Day Missions, is a witness to this new unification.
"We are here at the forefront of the greatest disaster since 9/11," Delgado told The Christian Post. "And I would even venture to say while the lives that were lost were not of the same magnitude, 9/11 [happened] in a concentrated area."
Delgado explained that even though the borough of Staten Island pales in comparison to the rest of NYC in terms of size, 50 percent of the deaths caused by Hurricane Sandy took place there. He feels that the mainstream media has downplayed the damage to the borough, and stated that the first people looking to lend a helping hand to victims was the church.
"It's exciting because never before have I seen the unity in the body of Christ as has happened from day one of the hurricane," said Delgado. "It is just a true move of God."
Delgado also is a co-founder of the New York State Chaplain Task Force, an organization that arrived on the scene shortly after the storm hit, which includes representatives of other faiths, including Muslims and Jews. Government organizations such as FEMA, and nonprofits such as American Red Cross got there three days later.
Their interfaith chaplaincy employs people from all walks of faith, and accepts aid from anyone willing to help in the relief.
"Quite frankly, if you're hungry, if you're naked, you don't care who gives you food and who gives you clothes. It's all about reaching people right now," he said. "It's not about rocking banners. I can give you a list of the names of the churches [helping], but really that's not important."
Delgado and many churches plan to help out the affected communities with long term solutions, implementing strategies to turn four churches into food and supply hubs for heavily damaged areas. One of these hubs, CPC, the Christian Pentecostal Church, is the main headquarters for the relief effort.
CPC, located in the Grasmere area of Staten Island, is headed by Pastor John Carlo. He described the church's efforts as something that started with the Staten Island Association of Evangelicals and "has gone beyond that."
Their relief efforts received aid from some larger organizations including Glenn Beck's Mercury One and Somebody Cares, two companies that have cut checks to the Staten Island churches and provided them with supplies.
"We'll accept help from anybody as long as it doesn't come with red tape or strings attached," said Delgado.
The hubs also send out teams to clean out and gut flooded homes. Amish and Mennonite believers even showed up to the affected areas and volunteered to help those in need by bonding together with Staten Island churches' efforts.
To Delgado, the relief effort on Staten Island is a representation of how the church is supposed to work, and for victims thinking God has abandoned them, these believers are here to reassure them that this is not the case.
"Jesus Christ is … going to appear through us," said Delgado. "God's in the midst of all this through his people."
Delgado predicts that the initial clean-up from the hurricane's destruction on Staten Island should take around six months and homes will not be fully restored for another two years. He also admitted that some people's houses will be bulldozed, as they will no longer be efficient for living.
In order to complete this task, more funds and machinery are required that help workers get the job done, and red tape will have to be eliminated so government aid can be provided at a faster rate.
So far, their progress has been "phenomenal," as the church has already reached 85 homes in the Midland Beach area of Staten Island through their hub at the Oasis Christian Center, which was the hardest hit place in the borough.
The volunteers working in damaged homes traveled to New York from other countries including Canada, and states such as Texas and Tennessee.
"We have seen an outpouring of compassion from the body of Christ from all over," said Delgado.
In order to assist in the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and donate to the cause, readers can visit http://www.cpc900.com/disasterrelief.html.