Due to the amazing deluge of questions, emails and rightfully concerned loved ones around the world, I thought a quick update on the current state of HillsongNYC and our amazing, relentlessly resilient city was in order.
It's been said that when the night is at it's darkest, the light of the local church must be at it's brightest. In the early aftermath of the superstorm known as "Sandy" (side note, at what point do we stop attaching deadly natural disasters to names of real people?! All the Sandy's out there, keep your head up, you’re loved) it's been apparent that the call for churches to be like “cities on a hill, shining for all to see", is truly on it's way to fruition and fulfillment. Obviously the NYC Fire Department and Police force are world class when it comes to responding to our city in need. Additionally there are other organizations doing a fantastic job, but from what I can see, NYC emergency shelters are filled with volunteers primarily from the local church. While food banks are lined with hungry people, again, the majority of those distributing food are volunteers from a local church and not just one church, but many.
In Sandy’s wake, Brad Reed and the NYC Dream Center really led the way; many of his congregation on the streets of NYC helping people even before the storm had ended. Our church and many like it have joined that fight and there are simply so many stories already of our church putting it's money where it's mouth is - so much so, it's overwhelming. I think our response may be my favorite memory thus far of pastoring this church. To see our people, help people, when many themselves need help!
That's the story of many churches, many of which are working together. It’s so encouraging to see - especially in a day and age where pathetic insecurities can turn church relationships into cold competitions or worse yet, opposing forces. Sometimes a tragedy like Sandy can remind EVERYBODY, what EVERYTHING is all about; helping people, encouraging the disheartened and mending the broken. If people can't unite around that vision, especially churches, that's a problem far greater than any natural storm. I pray what I’ve seen in the last few days are signs of cooperative things to come. I even saw a Romney supporter hugging an Obama supporter… okay, I made that up, but still, there’s a lot of love amidst the debris around this city!
For all those outside of NYC asking what you can do, firstly, thank you. It’s always a challenge to not feel guilty for going about your regular life while other parts of the country, or world are really hurting. Yet, although it’s part of life, “out of sight” doesn't have to mean “out of mind.” There’s a lot to be done in our city and in the State of New Jersey (over 1000 people who call HillsongNYC home live in NJ) and so far we’re only scratching the surface of assessing the damage done and response required.
As of today, NYC is losing 200 million dollars economically EACH DAY. The micro to that macro picture is families not only without power, but some without food and other urgent necessities. Our volunteers have seen first hand, elderly people going up 17 flights of stairs and down again simply to get water. More than a few people have died due to Carbon Monoxide poisoning from poorly run generators. Others have been lost due to falling power lines and other electrical disasters and fires. Some people are still trying to actually get out of their homes for the first time in days. A close friend of mine is grieving the death of his longtime friend and car park attendant of his building that was trapped in the garage and drowned - a lifetime of friendship gone in a blink, while 8 blocks away, some streets are virtually untouched. This is the current NYC reality. Our city truly looks like a war zone and long after the cameras are gone, churches like ours will remain here, picking up the pieces. All help is appreciated.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1.) GIVE MONEY
The advantage of giving to a local church like ours is that your money is used almost immediately and goes directly to the heart of the need. Giving to larger charitable organizations is important (and needed) however we have no corporate red tape or office outside of NYC to gain approval in activating any money given. We want funds to go directly to victims of this disaster, and RIGHT NOW.
You can give online here to our relief fund. I have already received some really encouraging messages from many Pastors planning on taking a special offering in their churches this Sunday to then send on to us. For individuals also looking to be generous, you can also use the same link above. Thank you all, ahead of time, for your support and your realization that a little bit of generosity goes a long, long way.
100% of all donations will go directly to the relief of Hurricane Sandy and is tax deductible through our registered 501(c)(3). Thank you for your generosity!
Prayer is perhaps the most powerful weapon the Church has in its arsenal. Please don’t underestimate what private and corporate prayer at your church this weekend can do in our city. It's going to have a bigger impact than you think!
Many people have also offered to send interstate volunteers and "teams". Its such a graceful and generous response but its important to note that sometimes that can actually be a detriment to some relief efforts. What ends up happening often is that in addition to housing and feeding people in desperate trouble, you have to also house and feed volunteers! So in this context if you are out of town but moved to help, I believe financially supporting and spiritually covering and powering a locally based emergency response is the most effective thing you can do to contribute. Thank you again for your heart to do so.
This Sunday, HillsongNYC will continue to hold our 7 services and I'm looking forward to personally worshipping Jesus and gathering together to build my own faith and the faith of many who are discouraged right now. Of the thousands of people that call our church home, a huge majority take the subway or other public transportation to church, which as of now, remains underwater in some parts. While at best, we can expect only a few routes this Sunday to be running, we started this church with the phrase "church in the WILD" so I’ve no doubt that our church family will be out in force by any transportation means necessary. As my friend Arlene likes to say (one of my all time favorite human beings, a 5 time cancer survivor, currently serving her heart out after this storm and volunteers at all 7 services EACH SUNDAY, traveling all the way from the Boogie Down BRONX…) when I frequently ask her "WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?!" on a Sunday... Her reply: "Where else would I be? This is my home."
In the aftermath of Sandy, most importantly through all we do, you’re going to find many followers of Jesus in NYC who are doing their best to point people continually toward Jesus and the hope that only He can offer. He is our Cornerstone in the middle of the storm and in the rubble that remains long after any storm. THANK YOU for your continual support, prayer and passion for our great city..