Reports of damage to EPC church buildings and congregation members’ homes resulting from Hurricane Ida continue to emerge in the days following the storm’s August 29 landfall in Louisiana.
Bill Crawford, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Thibodaux, La., said several families in the congregation suffered “total losses.”
“One of our losses is just crippling,” he said. “She in her 50s, uninsured, and her husband died in December. Another family lives out in the bayou and it’s really bad.”
Crawford reported that he and his family were staying in the home of a church member who had evacuated and has a generator.
“My home has two trees that have fallen over the fence and are hanging on the neighbor’s power line, so I’m leaving them alone,” he said. “My roof has shingles missing everywhere, the garage roof is leaking, and the tarp I put over the damage is leaking. Thankfully it’s only over the garage, and so many people here are dealing with much worse. Some of these folks are just beside themselves trying to figure out what’s next.”
Crawford said the church building escaped major damage.
“Structurally, the church building in Thibodaux is sound. The building has always had leaking issues, but they have been mitigated and we are good there,” he reported, adding that he and his family are using the church as a makeshift relief center.
“We are set up for relief and giving out supplies in the dark—but what’s how we roll around here,” he said. “For now it’s me and my family because the members of the church are dealing with stuff too. We have received an initial load of supplies from the Presbytery, and even though we are not advertising we’ve had about 30 households come through and pick up bottled water, tarps, and other things.”
Crawford also serves as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Houma, La., about 15 miles south of Thibodaux.
“The ridge cap blew off the roof of the church building on Houma, and there are leaks all over,” he said. “Bricks are on the roof, but they are not our bricks. If I can’t get the insurance folks over I’ll have to figure something out. As for our members, everyone is just coping. For the most part, people either evacuated or are in serious trouble. The big problem we are going to face is mildew—this is South Louisiana, so we are literally in a swamp.”
He said one family who lives in a trailer home “has a hole in their roof and no tarp” while another was “completely flooded when water overtopped the levee. Another family lost everything—they are in Florida now.”
Amid the devastation, Crawford noted that the area is “one of the most churched places in America. There are so many good Christians here jumping in to help—we are blessed.”
The news is better in the Presbytery of the East, where the remnants of Ida delivered heavy rains, flooding, and tornadoes across a wide area of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
Glenn Marshall, Pastor of Park Avenue Community Church in Somerdale, N.J., said his congregation escaped significant damage.
“We are all fine,” Marshall reported. “We had storms all around us. One family who lives in Mantua Township had a tornado close to them, but they are thankfully unscathed.”
Mantua Township is about 4 miles from Mullica Hill, N.J., where a confirmed EF-3 tornado with 150 mph top winds destroyed numerous houses on September 1.
About 80 miles north in Kearny, N.J., Pastor Valdir Reis said the Closer to God Evangelical Presbyterian Church building’s basement flooded, but the members of the congregation fared well.
“Thankfully, so far no one has reported any loss or anything serious following the storm,” Reis reported by email on September 3. “There were members with minor leaks but that was all taken care of and everyone is healthy as far as we know.”
In the northern portion of Brooklyn, N.Y., Pastor Jamison Galt said many parishioners of Resurrection Clinton Hill had flooded basements, “but nothing worse. We are grateful.”
About 5 miles south, Brian Steadman said parishioners of his congregation had their homes elevated as part of their recovery from Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge in 2012, and only experienced minor issues. Steadman is Pastor of Resurrection Park Slope in Brooklyn.
Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said he has been in contact with church and Presbytery leaders across the affected areas.
“Several churches in the Presbytery of the Gulf South are coordinating relief efforts and work teams,” Weaver said. “As they assess the situation and start to be able to host volunteers, we will get that information out. In the meantime, we are accepting donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund to help with immediate needs. We’ve been told the most pressing items are fuel, tarps, bottled water, and Gatorade.”
Secure online donations can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief, which also includes instructions for donating by check and text-to-give.
Back in Louisiana, Crawford said they would continue to distribute relief supplies as they are delivered and looks forward to hosting work teams as soon as they can.
“At this point, we are just chugging along and accomplishing tasks,” he said. “We are a really small congregation and it’s a bit overwhelming. I can’t imagine how those with a large group are keeping up with everyone. Just knowing our EPC friends are praying for us and that they care is a huge comfort.”
Pastor Brian is founding pastor of Resurrection Sheepshead Bay Church in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, and interim pastor at Resurrection Park Slope.