Forcefully Advancing Through the Storm!

"O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires.  I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.  All your sons (and daughters) will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children's peace."  – Isaiah 54:11-13

On October 28th & 29th the “super-storm” of Hurricane Sandy afflicted the 20 million residents of New York City, leaving many without electricity, heat or hot water.  Almost a thousand homes were destroyed, and 41 New Yorkers lost their lives as a result of this natural disaster.  Particularly in Staten Island and Long Island, the home of our shepherds and several families, power outages and major flooding were rampant in the city.  The Chin & Rivera families in Long Island did not have electricity for almost 2 weeks, and the O'Donnell family in Staten Island were forced to evacuate to a shelter as their car floated over a 100 yards away!  Sadly, 15 of the 41 deaths attributed to Hurricane Sandy occurred in the O’Donnell’s neighborhood.  Our hearts go out to the families of these people who are still coping with such tremendous loss, and we pray that their hearts will be opened to seek the Lord.  The entire Metropolitan Transit Authority, which provides transportation (subways, buses, etc) to over 9 million New Yorkers every day, was completely shut down for almost a week, and the lack of gas caused lines of cars for hours, severely limiting the ability for disciples in the church to reach each other.  These challenges did not deter our disciples, who helped each other to get floodwater out of basements as well as providing food and shelter for others.  I was encouraged by the resilience of our brothers and sisters who remained "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12), as well as the initiative of Sunita Woodcheke and Randy Garayua, who led a group of disciples down to Staten Island to assist in the recovery efforts!

Despite such a tumultuous week, the spiritual temple of God’s Kingdom remained strong and has been “forcefully advancing” (Matthew 11:12) as 3 “precious stones” were added to the church on November 4th – the Sunday immediately following the storm!  Carl Jules, a freshman at the City College of New York (CCNY) majoring in Computer Engineering; John Ogbit, a sophomore majoring in Electrical Engineering at CCNY; and Melissa Fonseca, a single professional who works for Sloan Kettering Hospital, all rejoiced as they were united with the Lord in baptism!  I was very proud to see the selfless nature of our disciples to teach these young Christians to know the “peace” of the Lord through the trials of a hurricane!  With the baptism of our dear brother Joseph Perez on November 11th, through the grace of God we have seen 6 baptisms in the last 3 weeks! 

Special thanks are due to Mike O’Donnell who preached the Word powerfully last week after navigating his family faithfully through this crisis, as Patrique and I were out of town last weekend to celebrate her brother’s wedding and mourn her uncle’s funeral.  God blessed our efforts to encourage our family as 7 members of Patrique’s family joined us for Sunday worship with the Washington, DC church!  2 more family members would have come, but we didn’t have any more cars!  It was inspiring to see the work that Ron & Tracy Harding have done with the church that Patrique and I planted back in 2008!  Please pray earnestly as both of our churches are working diligently to reach our goal of 100 disciples by the end of the year!  God is working powerfully through our movement’s worldwide efforts to “win as many as possible” (1 Corinthians 9:19) as we prepare to give our 5x Missions Contribution today!  While it is clear that our worldly possessions are subject to loss, we have the opportunity to have an eternal significance in the souls of the world!  And to God be all the glory!

All for Him,

Andrew Smellie, Missions Evangelist

The O’Donnell’s car found days later about 100 yards from where they parked it.

The lower level of the Veras’ household as water continues to flood in down the basement steps. “We dont even know what to do and there’s no way out of here right now...we’re on the second floor trying to get away from the flooding and just keep each other safe.” - Facebook post of Anais Veras

An SUV comes to rest atop a stone wall in a Staten Island neighborhood as Sandy unveils her devastaing impact.