(Photo: Reuters/Gary He)
Several Christian disaster relief organizations, including those focused on providing emotional support to victims, announced yesterday that they are ready to head into the heavily damaged areas of northeastern United States in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As the storm made landfall a little after 8 p.m. EDT, it was declared a post-tropical cyclone with damaging winds reaching lower hurricane strength.
"Three mobile office units will leave Charlotte tomorrow morning headed into the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy," stated the Billy Graham Rapid Response team Monday afternoon. "We will have teams on the ground within 24 hours of the hurricane's passing. Please pray for safety in travel for the chaplain coordinators who will be driving the mobile units, and the volunteer chaplains coming from around the country."
The purpose of the response team, a part of the renowned evangelist's organization, is to "deploy chaplains who will bring a ministry of presence and prayer and appropriately share God's love, comfort, and hope with those affected by a man-made or natural disaster."
In terms of food and shelter relief, some Christian organizations such as the Salvation Army were already in place.
"The Salvation Army is mobilized and ready to serve," said Major George Hood, National Community Relations Secretary for The Salvation Army in the U.S. "Our mobile feeding units and staff are strategically positioned and already beginning to serve at shelter locations throughout the East Coast."
The Salvation Army maintains a fleet of disaster vehicles and supply warehouses across the nation to enable speedy mobilization. There are more than 300 emergency response vehicles in the eastern and southern U.S. alone and nearly 600 units nationwide.
Specific Salvation Army activities include:
• In New Jersey, The Salvation Army is serving meals, snacks and drinks at 11 shelters in five counties. A full fleet of emergency response vehicles is ready to deploy if needed. This includes 10 fully-stocked mobile feeding units (canteens), two service vehicles, and one mobile command unit. A canteen is embedded with Task Force 1, the State's official search and rescue team, at Lakehurst Naval Base and may travel with them as they are deployed throughout the state.
• In New York, The Salvation Army is coordinating with the local American Red Cross to provide volunteer support for shelters throughout Suffolk County. Eight canteens are equipped and ready to be deployed from the northern and western parts of the state.
• In Philadelphia, the Christian-based organization is working closely with the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management and as of yesterday was preparing three shelters within the city to help ensure those impacted by Hurricane Sandy will have access to essential services and safety.
Shelter from the group was already provided in Virginia since Saturday. Relief plans and help are in place in North Carolina and Maryland as well.
The Salvation Army's mission includes providing a ministry of presence that gives compassionate care to residents looking for hope in the midst of turmoil. Pastoral care is available for all those impacted, but is not a prerequisite for receiving assistance.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders were ready yesterday for a large-scale response once the storm cleared, according to the Baptist Press.
"We worked through the weekend to make sure we have a solid plan in place," said Fritz Wilson, disaster relief team leader for the North American Mission Board. "And not only a plan, but we have already begun to make sure the people to work the plan will be in place to respond and meet needs."
Wilson transported one of NAMB's recovery units to Harrisburg, Pa., on Monday. Also yesterday, the organization said the Pennsylvania-South Jersey state convention's mission house in Harrisburg will serve as the area command center for the storm response. Given the wide range of possible damage and the potentially large area affected, Wilson said yesterday he fully expects multiple incident command centers to be established for the response.
Convoy of Hope's Rapid Response Team was in State College, Pa., on Monday. The team was scheduled to remain there overnight, then head east as soon as it's determined safe to assess areas with significant damage.
Around 80,000 pounds of additional relief supplies are in the queue and are tentatively scheduled to leave Convoy of Hope's World Distribution Center on Tuesday. The loads contain meals, drinks, cereal, trashcans and cleaning supplies.