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Area under reconstruction

by | Sep 16, 2013 | Uncategorized

by Jim Nibbelink and Chris Spencer

Church exterior shows little of the impact of Super-Storm Sandy.

Church exterior shows little of the impact of Super-Storm Sandy.

We traveled to New Jersey to meet with congregational and Greater New Jersey Conference leaders to celebrate the fact that Belmar First UMC in New Jersey can now be entered safely and rebuilding is proceeding. The drying out process is largely complete and interior repainting has started. A new Communion Table incorporating many items of memorabilia commemorating the history of the congregation, including the board from the old table that was present at Desert Southwest’s recent Annual Conference will be commissioned soon. Through the compassion, concern, and generosity of the people of The Desert Southwest Conference, Belmar First UMC in New Jersey received over $70,000 to assist with their recovery efforts. The gratitude and relief of the Belmar congregation was so palpable, that we were moved to tears ourselves as each person came to us to share a hug and a word of thanks.

This house has been raised according to the new building code requirements.

This house has been raised according to the new building code requirements.

The journey of recovery is far from over for the people of Belmar. Even though Sandy blew in at the end of October, many congregants have not yet been able to return to their damaged homes. Entire neighborhoods remain just as they were left by the power of the storm. New zoning and building regulations put into place to prevent similar damage in the future, have resulted in rules that require existing homes to be raised up ten to fourteen feet in the air on stilts. This just isn’t financially or structurally feasible for some of the affected families. This requirement would be a significant cost in addition to the extensive repairs that most homes require. Those without flood insurance are facing uncertain futures, as disaster funding for temporary housing is going to run out later this year. The Desert Southwest Conference will continue to receive funds for this effort through December 31, 2013 and will continue to forward future designated funds to the New Jersey Conference Treasurer for Belmar First as additional monies are received. UMVIM team leaders will begin training in October and soon after volunteer work teams will travel to Belmar. Training information is available athttp://desertsouthwestconference.org/UMVIM-team-leader-training.

The vintage 1890’s parsonage has been stripped down to its studs.

The vintage 1890’s parsonage has been stripped down to its studs.

Even as we toured up and down the New Jersey shore area that experienced the sudden and devastating winds and waves, it was difficult for us to imagine what happened. In several areas, it took just seven seconds for the flood surge to reach a depth of thirty feet. (For reference, telephone poles are typically twenty-eight feet high.) The help we provided to the Belmar congregation will aid in getting the church building functioning again. The help that future Desert Southwest work teams will be able to give will be directed in part to the parishioners who have been unable to get their homes back into a livable condition. This assistance will be critical, helping to reduce the expenses associated with home reconstruction. Our efforts will continue to be valuable and necessary for two or three more years. Please consider forming or joining a work team to go to New Jersey! If you would like more information on how to participate, check our Conference web page or contact Chris Spencer at  We’re scheduling teams for this fall, winter, and spring. Individuals can volunteer to help as well, and Chris will assist in appropriate team assignments.

Desert Southwest’s partnership with Belmar was conceived through the vision of Bishop Bob Hoshibata and his Greater New Jersey counterpart, Bishop John Schol. Partnerships are based on relationships between people, and our visit certainly helped to cement warm relationships as well as giving us important insights into just what is going on at Belmar on a personal level and how much work remains to be done. From Bishop Schol to each member of the Belmar congregation, we return with sincere thanks for the love and support shown to the people of Belmar by The Desert Southwest Conference. As we journey into the future together, we remember our mutual trust in God and take heart from knowing that real people are joined together in a partnership of healing and hope.

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