So that just happened....Hurricane Irma has occupied most of our time and attention over the last 7-8 days. It is has been both an eventful and amazing week in as the impact of the storm changed all of our normal plans and schedules. Seeing the destruction that Hurricane Irma caused to our city has been devastating. However, I know that we will recover and it has been so powerful watching this community come together to help others during crisis.
Since the hurricane, we have mobilized over 100 volunteers who have helped families clean up their properties. Wednesday night, we fed 500 people, many of whom were there because they did not have power. One family left a note that said this was their first hot meal since Saturday! What a privilege it is to have the resources to care for people.
Our church does not want to just be a church in Jacksonville, but a church that is for the city and for the Northeast Florida area. We are calling our church to respond to help meet needs and use that as a platform for gospel witness. We have helped clear houses of debris, provided food and water, helped relocate families, and we have many more opportunities. A relief organization contacted me on Tuesday and offered us multiple tractor trailer loads of supplies. Our people have organized, opened warehouses, and mobilized to help us deliver water and supplies. What we are not using we are redirecting in a timely way to South Florida where needs are great.
Additionally, most of our property and facilities came through largely unscathed by the storm. God was gracious and our support staff did an incredible job. There was obviously damage on the auditorium and damage to some of our property at our Rehabilitation Farm in St. John's County. We are working with our insurance company on processing these claims and repairing what has been damaged. The fact that this was a named storm means that our deductibles will be considerably higher than normal. These are issues that we will work through in the days ahead.
Here is how you can engage with us as we serve the community.
- Sign up to work on a debris clean up team. We continue to get requests to help either church members or people in our community that need help cleaning up. These are a great way to serve people and let them know that our church loves and cares for them. You can text “Relief” (all one word) to 555-888 to be notified for future needs. We have teams going out on Saturday. Please meet at 8 am by the football fields.
- We are asking Classes and Small groups to help with providing food for families in need. We are doing this on a small scale at this time, but these are important opportunities for us to help in tangible ways. You may be contacted by someone to assist in providing food and supplies.
- We are working with churches in the North East Florida area to secure cleaning buckets. We launched a Crisis Bucket Campaign to help meet this need. Over the next 10 days, we will be collecting buckets and items to help assist families in their recovery efforts. You can bring a complete bucket or bring items to fill a bucket! All items can be dropped off to the Plaza at our Hammond location, Monday through Friday, 7 am-7 pm. You can also drop off items during Sunday service times at either Hammond or Oakleaf. These are buckets with a supply list that help families that have experienced water intrusion in the home and need help getting started in cleaning. Here is a link with information about the buckets.
- Please give to Hurricane Irma. (Click here to give.) We are using our resources to meet needs, and what we do not use directly we will donate to local relief efforts to help people in need.
- Finally, be in one of our services this coming weekend at either Hammond or Oakleaf. Obviously, there were not services last week and we missed most of the offering opportunities except for that which came in online. We need a good offering this week just to recover and help with our ongoing weekly expenses. If you are not able to be here Sunday you can give online
Our city is needy. While much of the need is fairly obvious, the greatest need is for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are privileged to help bring that gospel witness by word and deed to the community that we love. This should impact all of us. This is the perfect opportunity for us to teach our children and lead our families to serve, to give, and to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I want our church to be known in the community as one that is here for them and one that points them to Jesus Christ. See you on Sunday and know that it is a joy to serve the Lord with you.