The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Recovering from Sandy

Churches, members surprised by depth of damage, grace

As its pastor, John Collins, says, “You just don’t join Faith Lutheran Church, you become family.”

So when Superstorm Sandy struck the Lavallette, N.J., church last Oct. 29, they pulled together. Its 400 members joined with another 200 volunteers to rip out walls and flooring, clean and remediate mold, pressure wash the exterior, and install everything new.

At the one-year anniversary of one of the most damaging storms to ever hit the Northeast, Faith — which reopened last Feb. 3 — is stronger than ever. 

“This is the amazing thing,” Collins said. “We had 35 new members join us since Feb. 3.” He attributes this simply to: “We praised God through the storm. We kept telling our story and we let people know we were here.”

Faith, which worshiped at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Tom’s River during the renovation, is home to Lutherans as well as disenfranchised members of other denominations and nonbelievers. Faith is on the New Jersey shore where many families vacation. The devastated area was featured prominently in news photos after a roller coaster in nearby Seaside Heights fell into the ocean. 

Members not only rebuilt Faith, which was flooded by 6 feet of water, but more than 60 percent of the members suffered damage at home. 

Everything in the church needed to be redone. The electric repair bill alone was $25,000, Collins said, and mold remediation was another $15,000. Landscaping killed by seawater had to be replaced. 

“The funny thing about a storm is that it lingers. When you think it’s done, another thing pops up,” Collins said.

The more than $100,000 in repairs was offset by donations and a $70,000 grant from the ELCA Mission Investment Fund

Collins said Faith’s rapid rebuilding defies logic. As many questioned “Why?” more people grew closer to God through the disaster. “[They were reminded] that with God, all things are possible,” he said. “If we had any doubt this was true, the word of God can be trusted.”

And at St. Barnabas …
While Faith was able to move at light speed, the progress is more tedious for St. Barnabas Lutheran Church in the Howard Beach neighborhood of New York City. The church needed massive rip-outs and extensive electrical work.

“We’re moving along,” said William Baum, pastor. “A lot has been done, but more always seems left to do.”

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