(See story below the gallery)

Wednesday October 31, 3012

From Manhattan, branch leader Aaron Abramson reported on behalf of our team there:

So it’s day two without power at our 31st Street center and we decided to meet and pray together. Around a dozen of us gathered in my living room to share prayer requests and ideas about how we can best use our time this week. Life in the building had become increasingly more difficult, so those living down at the center have moved in with the families living uptown who still have heat and electricity. Several of our staff in the boroughs were not able to make it into the city. We were told that south of 39th Street, east side Manhattan could be without power for about a week. We wanted to reach out in some way to our neighbors there. The staff prepared around ten gallons of hot chocolate and tea to give out to the crowds who were making the journey from lower Manhattan to midtown where they could charge their phones and grab basic necessities.

We set up on a chilly yet busy corner and gave out warm drinks to passersby. We had mostly positive reactions, although a couple of people expressed frustration over Jews for Jesus being there. Dan Tasman had a conversation with an Israeli named Ariel who wondered why Jews for Jesus were handing out hot chocolate. After exchanging some words with us he grabbed his hot chocolate and continued on his way.

Amidst all this, an elderly woman named Arlene came up and asked if a couple of us could visit people in the low-income residential building across the street. David Liebman and I went along with her to see how we could help. We discovered that the 19-story building she wanted us to visit houses elderly and handicapped New Yorkers, many of whom have no one taking care of them and no means to provide for themselves under the circumstances. Without power they could not use the elevator, so many of these folks were bound to their homes without heat or running water. 

So while our team continued to hand out hot chocolate on the corner, we went door to door with Arlene. Many people were encouraged to see people asking about their well-being. Arlene introduced us each time as the “friends from the Jews for Jesus who were handing out hot chocolate across the street and were there to help.”

One Orthodox Jewish man said he didn’t care who we were, but he was glad to see us. We took a list of some basics and pooled together some supplies from the branch–including water and groceries–and brought them over. All in all, we knocked at 76 doors and visited with 20 or so people there. We plan to return tomorrow with basic supplies like flashlights and food and hope to bless them physically and spiritually. 

Most of us are feeling tired and a little weathered by the storm. We honestly didn’t think much would happen today, but we went out anyway. It’s amazing to see how God can use whatever we do for Him. Keep us in prayer over these next weeks as we seek to share the hope of Yeshua with a recovering city. 

Under the Dangling Crane

Maybe you heard about the dangling crane that became a major threat on October 29 as a result of the hurricane. That crane was just a few doors down from Calvary Baptist Church and the hotel above the church.

Saundra Epstein (usually goes by Sandy but is reverting to her given name till further notice), is our terrific administrative assistant for the Jews for Jesus center in Manhattan, also the wife of Pastor David Epstein of Calvary Baptist Church. On Thursday, November 1, she reported,

Hi …  we are only displaced, unlike so many others who have lost so much.  The “dangling crane” is just a few doors down from the hotel/ßchurch. (We live in the hotel above the church.) We had another pastor and his wife with us during the storm and we were all evacuated “temporarily,” we thought. We left with [only] the clothes on our back … as instructed … on Monday and we went to a friend’s apartment around the corner. We were evacuated from their place a few hours later; by then we were a group of six heading over in intense wind and rain to our friends on 59th Street and Central Park South. So, our group of 8 stayed in a beautiful one-bedroom/den apartment. We just left there this afternoon to stay with another friend on Roosevelt Island. So we are just “going from house to house breaking bread,” borrowing clothes and building memories and community. Thanks for thinking of us and praying! We cannot return until the crane is secured. It is 90 floors up and you can only imagine the damage it could do if it falls to the street, hitting gas lines and steam pipes etc. or blowing into another building. Our area is totally blocked off and we cannot enter at all. Calvary Baptist Church is also closed until we get NYPD approval to enter the area again.

Update, Tuesday November 6:

We got in [to our home] yesterday, but the heat and hot water were not on … so we stayed with friends. We went out early to vote this morning and Dave went back to the church/hotel and the heat is on! So PTL, we are going home! We feel blessed to have so many dear friends take us in. It was a wonderful time of bonding and building community. Now we continue to roll up our sleeves to help others in dire need … Blessings, Sandy

Last, but not least, Melissa Moskowitz reported from Brooklyn on Thursday, November 1:

The highlight of my life here in Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy was the appearance of an angel.  He came to stay with Rebekah Pill and me throughout the entire storm; he helped us put things away outside beforehand and restore order to our house afterwards. 

So while our ministry often is thought of as being to the unsaved, in this case God visited our home, which I so badly needed in my grief [the storm hit barely two months after the sudden death of Melissa’s husband, Jhan, as we reported in September], through a good friend and colleague, Richard Harvey. Richard just “happened” to be in NYC for a family wedding.  He brought much comfort, wise insight, physical help, prayer and caring company while we rode out the storm together.

Our neighborhood has seen much devastation and even two deaths.  Huge trees have fallen on people’s homes and cars.  There is no subway service to or from Manhattan and you are not allowed to drive your car over any of the bridges unless you have three people in your car.  So we are fairly cut off from the rest of the staff, but we don’t feel alone.  As we’ve walked around the neighborhood, we can see the stress on people’s faces, especially those who experienced damage.

I know there were countless people praying for us, and especially for me, as we encountered this storm.  This was my first big challenge since Jhan’s death.  My sense of security was deeply affected.  But, as they say, GOD SHOWED UP. 

I’ve included four photos:  you can see the tree that fell across the street from our house; you can see our house, completely unscathed; and finally the unified effort to clean up around that tree, with a Muslim and Orthodox Jews working together.