Shalom from New York City. On behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries staff, now serving in more than a dozen cities in the United States and Canada and another fifteen countries around the globe—Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
I am grateful for the many friends of Chosen People Ministries who have called and written to ask how we were doing during the terrible destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. I can tell you this—although it was not as bad as 9/11, there were moments when it felt like I was reliving the nightmare.
Flooded Homes, Broken Hearts
Some of our staff members spent weeks without electricity. Subways, buses and trains came to a standstill, and it was almost impossible to open our offices. The city ran out of gas for almost two weeks and many waited in line for hours to fill their tanks. Still, after a few days we opened our doors anyway for those who could find a way to get to our offices… and I praise God for our dedicated staff members who were willing and able to go the extra mile for the Lord!
It took us almost a week after the storm to get our relief efforts started, as we first had to make sure our families and homes were secured. Eventually we received some funding from our brothers and sisters around the country allowing us to reach out with food, financial aid for home repair, prayer and spiritual counsel. At this very moment, we are still helping those whose lives are not yet back to normal.
A Personal Note
I am sorry to say that the homes of one of our beloved staff members and her daughter were virtually destroyed. My wife wrote this note describing the impact that “Superstorm” Sandy had on these dear friends:
It’s been pretty rough out here. We took a team of 16 staff members and Feinberg students to Staten Island to Klaudia’s house. All of us working together for five hours were able to clear out everything from her first floor. The water had come up to my waist, and everything had a layer of mud on it. We cleaned what we could—but we had to throw so much away… it was really heartbreaking.
One of our girls took it upon herself to take all of Klaudia’s photographs home and dry them out and clean them; there were hundreds of them, and we hated to see Klaudia lose those memories. Then we sent our team over to Klaudia’s daughter’s house a few blocks down. The water had come all the way to the ceiling of the first floor, and stayed there for at least two to three days before it receded.
You can imagine what things looked like there. An additional problem was that raw sewage had backed up into their first floor and mixed with the flood waters and the mud. We went back again the next day to clean, but a federal agent advised us that it should be done by people with hazmat suits, otherwise it wasn’t safe. I used up the last of my gasoline going out there those two times, so now our car is out of gas. That’s not a big deal, but when I read about people in public housing who are still without power, my heart is broken. Today we sent a team to Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay to volunteer and minister there.
Hope in the Midst of the Storm
I prayed about whether to share what I have just mentioned with you, because I know that the Christmas and Hanukkah season is a time of joy and celebration. I did not want to “rain on your parade” because of the hardships we have experienced—but I would be dishonest to do otherwise. Our worldwide mission to the Jewish people is based in New York City, because this area is home to the largest concentration of Jewish people outside of Israel. I also know that you love us, pray for us and support us and would want to know how we are really doing!
As believers in Jesus, we know that the story does not end with devastation and pain. We follow a Savior who turns sorrow into joy and takes our most difficult hardships and uses them for blessing. We know that no matter how difficult our lives might seem at the moment, the Lord uses these tough times for our good and His glory.
My favorite rabbi, the Apostle Paul, understood this, as expressed in these words:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
As followers of Jesus, we can have hope in the midst of hardship as we are never beyond the reach of His love and power.
Turning Sorrow to Joy
As I write, our missionaries in Brooklyn are reaching out to poor and elderly Russian Jewish immigrants and others whose lives were shattered by the recent storms, offering food, practical help, comfort and the love of Messiah! We have helped hundreds with our relief efforts in Brooklyn, and we have also spoken to them about the only One, Yeshua the Messiah, who can transform their lives and provide all they need for a fruitful life.
I do not want to minimize the difficulties that many families have experienced because of Sandy, but I can tell you one good thing that has emerged from this tragedy. The storm got people’s attention—whether rich or poor, Jewish or Gentile. It helped many on the Eastern Seaboard of our great country realize that we are clearly not in control of our own lives, and we need the Lord.
Hope Has Come! Jesus, the Light of the World
This will be a most memorable holiday season for New Yorkers. Please pray for us as we continue to bring the Gospel, as well as practical relief, to those who have suffered from the storm. Your help and support will enable us to do more in His name than we could ever do without your partnership.
This is a time of the year when we know that God wants us to be especially generous. My dear brothers and sisters—the needs are overwhelming. Your generosity is needed now more than ever to help Jewish and Gentile New Yorkers hear the Gospel and to experience God’s love through Your Mission to the Jewish People at this very difficult time.
Let’s face it—trouble causes men and women to open their hearts to God, and this tragedy is no different. We continue to have many wonderful opportunities to bring the gift of salvation to those desperate for the gift of His love during this Hanukkah and Christmas season.
I hope and pray that your holiday season will be filled with joy and thanksgiving!