Category Archives: Emergency Relief

Freeport and Nassau, Bahamas: on the ground one month after Hurricane Dorian

 

by Jerry Iamurri
EPC Assistant Stated Clerk

“This is the worst natural disaster in the history of the Bahamas—please don’t forget us.”

Sarah was not the only person in Freeport who asked me that. But she represents thousands of people who know that the news cycle is short, and that the media coverage that galvanized a wave of relief support since Hurricane Dorian ravaged the northern Bahamian islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco inevitably moves on to other things.

About a month after the storm, Mike DeHaven and I touched down in Freeport after a short Bahamasair flight from Nassau.

The airport terminal was completely destroyed. Baggage handling equipment, seats, and security screening conveyor belts were strewn around the broken walls of the terminal building. A bus waiting on the tarmac drove us a couple of miles to a tent in the parking lot of a strip mall. During the bus ride, we met some nurses from Samaritan’s Purse. They were there to staff a field hospital that had been set up behind Freeport’s main hospital—which was knocked out of service.

Ken Lane, Pastor of the EPC’s Lucaya Presbyterian Church in Freeport, met us at the bus.

We toured some of the areas of Grand Bahama most affected by the hurricane, and saw piles of destroyed furniture and debris in front of every home. Broken utility poles and downed power lines blocked some of the streets, and the smell of brush fires lingered in the air. Ocean water from storm surge had killed much of the grass and foliage, and that dry brush had recently caught fire. Flames came dangerously close to Lucaya’s food distribution ministry, which had previously flooded. Despite the hardships, they have provided thousands of pounds of food, cleaning supplies, and military style, freeze-dried MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat).

We also visited a non-governmental organization (NGO) that was distributing 22,000 meals per day, and had served about half a million meals total since the storm hit. That was only one of two such NGOs we saw in Freeport.

After the tour, Ken took us to meet some of the elders and members of the Lucaya congregation. Sarah is one of these faithful church members, and she is a long-time volunteer in the children’s ministry.

For several hours we listened to them describe their homes being flooded, the floors moving with the ocean waves, their apartments swaying with the hurricane winds, and their fear that they would be overcome by the storm. They showed us videos of waves crashing over balconies and into the second-floor windows of their homes. They talked of their prayers, their faith in the Lord to deliver them, God’s generous kindness, and His blessings on their lives and families. Though many had the thousand-yard stare common to those suffering from the effects of PTSD, they are amazed that the storm spared their church building and are hoping that electricity can be restored soon to the many homes that remain without power.

The Grand Bahama Children’s Home in Freeport has been closed. While the structure itself is sound, the contents are a total loss—including the possessions of its 32 resident children, who range in age from a few months to 14 years old. They were evacuated in the middle of the night during the storm, and now have been temporarily relocated to the Ranfurly Homes for Children in Nassau. These children’s homes have a connection to our churches in Lucaya and Nassau. Additionally, a large group of toddler-aged children were moved from Grand Bahama to the Children’s Emergency Hostel in Nassau.

And we were told that they share Sarah’s concern that people will begin to forget about them after the news media has stopped running stories on the Bahamas.

After spending the night in Freeport, Chrishon Ducker (Associate Pastor of the EPC’s St. Andrews Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau) took us to visit the areas of Nassau that have tried to absorb the influx of those evacuated from Abaco, which included the devastated town of Marsh Harbor. Some of these evacuees are living in the St. Andrews building.

“Abaco recovery still remains a military operation,” he told us. “The British Army just left, the Bahamian Defense Force, the Trinidad and Tobago Army, as well as the Jamaican Army are still patrolling the area around Marsh Harbor and providing for immediate needs.”

Gabe Swing, Pastor of the EPC’s Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor, is visiting displaced members of that congregation who have evacuated to Florida. Swing is an Associate Pastor of St. Andrew’s, responsible for serving the mission post in Marsh Harbor that is Kirk of the Pines.

“Bahamas recovery is going to be a long-term process,” Bryn MacPhail, Pastor of St. Andrews, told us. “We will need help for a minimum of several years, and the clock hasn’t even started yet. We’re still assessing the damage.”

While a full recovery in some areas is likely several years away, there are many, many short-term needs that EPC churches can help meet through continued financial contributions to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund. In Freeport, Ken told me that by next summer they expect to be able to host short-term mission teams of moderately skilled individuals, especially those with skills in the building trades.

Marsh Harbor will probably not be ready for mission trip teams that soon, but we encourage our EPC “prayer warriors” to pray for Bryn, Gabe, Ken, and their church leaders as they continue to seek discernment about how they can help with the rebuilding of Marsh Harbour. And please continue to pray for Sarah and the thousands of Bahamians like her.

If you are considering a mission trip or have skill in the building trades, please let us know at info@epc.org. Mike DeHaven coordinated our trip, and also led mission teams to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. He is working with our churches in the Bahamas to help put together future mission trips to help with the recovery effort.

October Jeremiah Journal offers Hurricane Dorian relief update

 

In the October 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah provides an update on EPC relief efforts in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

EPC hurricane relief efforts in Bahamas underway as casualties reported

 
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The Bahamas are home to three EPC churches; two of which were in the path of Hurricane Dorian (noted with red line).

Among the reported casualties in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, as a result of Hurricane Dorian are two individuals connected to EPC churches. Bryn MacPhail, Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, reported that a member of Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor and a cousin of a St. Andrews Ruling Elder are among the casualties.

As of September 9, more than 40 deaths in the Bahamas have been attributed to the storm, with hundreds of people still missing.

Of the three EPC churches in the Bahamas, two are located in areas directly affected by the storm: Kirk of the Pines (Abaco), and Lucaya Presbyterian Church in Freeport (Grand Bahama). Nassau received little effect from the storm, so St. Andrew’s is the staging point for the EPC’s relief work in Marsh Harbor.

In response to the storm’s destructive impact on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, more than $73,000 has been donated to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund as of September 9. The request for donations was issued on September 2.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said that he has been in daily contact with MacPhail and Gabe Swing, Pastor of Kirk of the Pines in Marsh Harbor.

“Gabe and his family were in Tennessee when Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas,” Jeremiah noted. “His return has been delayed twice, but he hopes to arrive in Nassau this Wednesday. The challenge the Swings face when they return to Marsh Harbor is that their home has been described as unlivable.”

Lack of power and wifi connectivity in Freeport since the storm prevented contact with Ken Lane, Pastor of Lucaya Presbyterian Church, until Saturday, September 7.

“Ken reports that the island of Grand Bahama also received significant wind and flooding, although not as extensive and devastating as on Abaco,” Jeremiah said. “The good news is that the Lucaya building did not endure flooding and suffered only minor exterior damage. When the banks in Freeport re-open in the coming week, EPC emergency relief funds will be sent as requested from Ken, who is still assessing the needs this weekend with his leadership.”

MacPhail reported that the recently constructed Kirk of the Pines building received minor damage, but is “standing strong on the main road” of Marsh Harbor—one of only a few structures in Marsh Harbor still intact. An estimated 13,000 homes in the immediate area of the church have been destroyed, including the homes of many Kirk of the Pines families.

Initially planned as a center for EPC relief efforts in Marsh Harbor, MacPhail noted that a pending mandatory evacuation order has put those plans for the Kirk of the Pines facility on hold.

“Sending supplies to Marsh Harbor appears to no longer be prudent at the moment,” MacPhail said via email. “Receiving teams to help rebuild also seems like something that will need to wait until we hear what the government intends for the city.”

MacPhail also noted that many of those evacuees are coming to Nassau.

“Two of our Sunday School classrooms have been converted into temporary lodging. Bedding, towels, and other necessities have been purchased and church members have supplied groceries.” At least eleven Marsh Harbor evacuees will be housed in this space, MacPhail said.

Jeremiah described three specific areas for prayer focus:

“First, pray for Gabe Swing as he returns. With the evacuations to Nassau, there are now more members of Kirk of the Pines in Nassau than there are in Marsh Harbor, so pray for Gabe as he ministers to his dislocated flock.”

The second prayer request is for a mental health team that MacPhail’s wife, Allie, serves with.

“She is a certified therapist and part of a mental health team with the Family Medicine Center in Nassau. They have been at the Nassau airports to provide evacuees with what has been termed, ‘Psychological First Aid.’ Pray for this team as they perform this incredibly important ministry.”

The third prayer request is for protection against looting.

“Looting is already a major problem in Abaco and Freeport,” he said. “Pray for the protection of those supplies, the safety of those protecting them, and of course, the recipients of that help.”

MacPhail requested prayer for the St. Andrew’s congregation and leadership as they assess the best way to meet needs in both their community and among evacuees from Abaco and Grand Bahama.

“I sense that we are being forced to wait before we get a clearer sense of where, and how, to best assist,” he wrote via email on September 8. “Our elders meet on Wednesday evening. Please pray for us as we meet and attempt to discern the best way forward with relief assistance.”

Donations to EPC relief efforts can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief. Contributions are sent directly to EPC churches in the affected areas for needs they identify in their local communities.

 

Relief funds sought for Hurricane Dorian relief

 

HurricaneDorianEmergencyReliefIn response to devastation wrought on the northern Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian, and in anticipation of potential further effects of the storm, the EPC is seeking donations to its Emergency Relief Fund.

“While Puerto Rico was only grazed by the storm and our church in Nassau fared well, it is sadly a very different story for our church at Marsh Harbor, Abaco—Kirk of the Pines, led by Gabe Swing,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Dorian made landfall there with record winds in excess of 180 mph, accompanied by a tremendous storm surge. We are still awaiting reports from church leaders and members, but news reports and social media show devastating damage.”

A third EPC congregation in the Bahamas, Lucaya Presbyterian Church, is located in suburban Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama. As of late afternoon on September 2, Dorian had largely stalled with its center located about 25 miles northeast of Freeport. Damage is expected “to be severe” in that community, Jeremiah said.

Click here to donate to the Emergency Relief Fund, or go to www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and any donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be held for future emergency relief needs.

Emergency fund launched for Midwest flooding relief

 

MidwestFloodingReliefThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by historic flooding in the Midwest. A massive winter storm earlier this month caused streams and rivers in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin to rise to all-time record levels. The flooding has killed at least three people and caused more than $3 billion in damages so far.

Donations to the fund will be sent to EPC churches in areas affected by the flooding for identified needs.

“At this point, the worst of the flooding has been in our presbyteries of the Great Plains and the Rivers and Lakes,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “However, forecasters are saying the waters will continue to flow south down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers so the potential for increased devastation is unfortunately high.”

He noted that many EPC churches are likely to have significant opportunity to minister in their communities as the floodwaters recede.

“Thankfully, due to the generosity of the EPC in giving beyond what was requested by our churches following other recent disasters, we have about $250,000 in our general Emergency Relief Fund that we can use to meet immediate needs.”

Click here to donate to the Midwest Flooding Emergency Relief Fund, and to download printable bulletin inserts to help your church publicize the Fund.

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements will be transferred to the general EPC Emergency Relief Fund to be used for other humanitarian emergency relief needs.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

March Jeremiah Journal highlights Hurricane Maria recovery efforts in Puerto Rico

 

In the March 2019 edition of the Jeremiah Journal, Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri and Juan Rivera, Pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, describe how some of the donations to the EPC’s Hurricane Maria Emergency Relief Fund were put to use in Puerto Rico.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

EPC church members safe following Alabama tornado outbreak

 
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Debris litters a yard the day after a deadly tornado damaged a home in Beauregard, Ala., Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

First Presbyterian Church of Opelika, Ala., escaped damage during the March 3 tornado outbreak that devastated portions of southern Alabama. As of March 5, 23 people had lost their lives in Beauregard, a rural community about 10 miles south of Opelika.

“No one in our congregation had major damage or injury,” said Josh Yates, Assistant Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, “though some of our long-time members knew some of the victims.”

Yates reported that numerous aid organizations were in the area, but the authorities are asking people to stay out of the affected area until all residents are accounted for. News outlets are reporting as many as several dozen people are still considered missing.

“We are in a holding pattern right now as far as relief goes,” Yates said. “Since things are still in a search-and-rescue mode, cleanup efforts would probably not occur until next week. Plus, area residents have donated so much in the way of dry goods and supplies that right now we have more than we need.”

Yates noted that the church expects numerous opportunities to minister as the recovery continues.

“We are very thankful that all of our church members were spared,” he said, “but pray for us that we would share the gospel during all of this, and for wisdom to provide the right kind of help when and where it’s needed.”

Emergency fund launched for Hurricane Michael relief

 

HurricaneMichaelReliefThumbnailThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help relieve suffering caused by Hurricane Michael in the southeastern United States—particularly the Florida panhandle. Donations to the fund will be sent to EPC churches in areas affected by the storm for identified needs.

“This storm blew up in a matter of hours to become the third-most powerful storm to ever hit the U.S.,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Many EPC churches were in the path of Michael. Members of those churches will have opportunity in the coming days and weeks to be the hands of feet of Christ to one another and to hurting people in their communities.  Our donations to this fund will help them in this redemptive work.”

As of October 14, the death toll has climbed to 19 people with dozens still missing. More than 700,000 people also remain without power across six states.

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Michael Relief (511)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Michael Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Contributions are tax-deductible, and donations that exceed directly related disbursements may be transferred to the general EPC Emergency Relief Fund to be used for other humanitarian emergency relief needs.

To help publicize the Hurricane Michael Emergency Relief Fund, bulletin inserts in downloadable PDF format are available in several sizes at www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

Mid-Atlantic church leaders assess damage from Hurricane Florence

 
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Flooding from Hurricane Florence inundated the parking area of Myrtle Grove EPC in Wilmington, N.C., but by September 19 had not entered the church building.

As flooding from Hurricane Florence continues to affect the Carolinas, pastors of EPC churches in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic continue to assess storm damage and prepare for further flooding from rain-swollen rivers.

At least 37 deaths in three states have been confirmed as a result of the storm, which dumped as much as three feet of rain in parts of North Carolina. More than 10,000 residents remain displaced.

Stacey Miller, Pastor of Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, N.C., reported via email on September 17 that the primary difficulty is that flooding has isolated Wilmington. The city of 120,000 is on the Atlantic coast in southeastern North Carolina, just north of the South Carolina border and was still mostly surrounded by floodwaters on September 19.

“Flood waters are blocking roads and highways in every direction,” Miller wrote. “As the inland creeks recede, the rivers are rising and are expected to crest at record levels. So it may be quite some time before routes are clear for people to be able to drive in and out of the city.”

He said about half of the church members and staff evacuated before the storm and are currently unable to return.

Florence-Interstate40Wilmington

Flood waters covering Interstate 40 outside Wilmington, N.C.

“One of our elderly members is in ICU and her daughters can’t get to Wilmington to be with her,” he wrote. “In the community at-large, we have heard some sobering stories of total destruction of property, and flood damage with no flood insurance. Once all of our members return to Wilmington and assess their property, we may hear of other major losses within our own flock as well.”

Miller noted that he has been able to contact many church members, including some who stayed as well as some who evacuated before the storm hit.

“I know of two members who had trees come through the roof,” he wrote. “Otherwise, most have had trees down in yards, roof leaks, and other relatively minor issues. There have been few reports of major damage for our folks who stayed. As we have heard from members of our congregation, the prevailing theme is that God has been gracious to us.”

He said the church roof lost some shingles, resulting in some minor water damage. “Otherwise, there appears to be very minimal damage to our property,” he said.

Keith Cobb, Pastor of Hollywood Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Greenville, N.C., reported a “significant leak around our steeple, and water under several doors throughout the building. This, of course, is minimal in comparison to what is going on around us.” He noted that since the Tar River flows through Greenville, “we have every reason to suspect that we— like Goldsboro, Kinston, Tarboro, and Rocky Mount—will shortly have many opportunities to help flood victims in our community in the coming days and weeks.”

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Flooding in Leland, N.C., a western suburb of Wilmington.

Greenville is in eastern North Carolina, approximately 120 miles north of Wilmington. The metro area has a population of approximately 175,000.

Kevin Cauley, Pastor of Darlington (S.C.) Presbyterian Church, said extensive flooding is hampering a full assessment.

“Everyone is waiting for flood waters subside to be able to assess damage and have a plan,” he said via email on September 19. “Unfortunately, there is more flooding expected over the next 24 hours.”

Darlington is in northeastern South Carolina, approximately 130 miles west of Wilmington, N.C.

Matt Walton, Pastor of Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Florence, S.C., said a tree fell through the roof of a church member’s house, and his sister’s home in Wilmington, N.C., suffered significant water damage.

Florence-CeilingDamage

Damage to Matt Walton’s sister’s home in Wilmington, N.C. Walton is Pastor of Trinity EPC in Florence, S.C.

“We will soon see our rivers swollen from water from North Carolina trickling down,” he added,” so pray that that will not cause flooding over the next few days.”

Walton noted that the church property emerged largely unscathed, though a break-in occurred during the storm and some items were stolen.

Florence, S.C., is about 10 miles southeast of Darlington and is home to approximately 40,000 people.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said donations to the EPC’s Hurricane Florence Emergency Relief Fund would be disbursed as quickly as possible.

“As we saw with the hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria last year—and the recent wildfires in California—when there is a need, our churches step up and demonstrate the sacrificial love of Christ. We will get those funds to where they are needed as soon as we can.”

In collaboration with the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, donations to the fund will be sent to EPC churches affected by the storm. Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Florence Relief (283)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Florence Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

To help publicize the EPC’s Hurricane Florence Emergency Relief Fund, a bulletin insert is available for download in printable, pdf format at www.epc.org/emergencyrelief. The insert is designed to be printed on standard, 8.5×11 paper and cut in half vertically or horizontally.

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Red flags mark EPC churches within 150 miles of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., where Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14. Wrightsville Beach is 6 miles east of Wilmington, N.C.

Emergency fund launched for Hurricane Florence relief

 

HurricaneFlorenceReliefBThe EPC has launched an emergency relief fund in anticipation of Hurricane Florence’s potentially devastating impact on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and beyond. Donations to the fund will be sent to EPC churches in areas affected by the storm.

“I’ve seen some predictions that Florence could do to the Mid-Atlantic region what Harvey did to southeast Texas last year,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We all pray that history does not repeat itself, but if the worst happens we want to do everything we can to help our churches and their communities recover as quickly as possible. As the storm comes ashore over the next 24-48 hours, we need to pray for those in harm’s way.”

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Florence Relief (283)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Hurricane Florence Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Thank you for providing help to those in need.

Emergency fund launched for Redding, Calif., wildfire relief

 

ReddingWildfireReliefIn response to the Carr wildfire in and around Redding, Calif., the EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help with recovery efforts. As of August 1, the fire had resulted in six deaths—including two firefighters—and has destroyed more than 1,000 homes and 180 square miles. California fire officials are calling it the sixth-most destructive fire in the state’s history.

“We are all in a bit of shock,” said Jim Howe, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Redding. “Thank you for your prayers—we are still gathering information, and I heard today that our former pastor’s daughter lost her home.”

Click here to donate online (Click the “Click to Donate” button, then choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Redding Wildfire Relief (282)” from the second pulldown menu,). Or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Redding Wildfire Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Donations to the fund will be sent to First Presbyterian Church of Redding to be used for identified needs. Donations beyond those needed for local recovery will be held in a general Emergency Relief Fund to be used at the discretion of the EPC National Leadership Team for future emergency relief needs.

January Jeremiah Journal provides hurricane relief update

 

In the January edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri provides an update on EPC relief efforts in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that struck in fall 2017.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Donations to EPC hurricane relief funds top $860,000

 
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Dead shrubs and stained walls provide evidence of the extent of flooding in Houston, Texas, as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

As of November 20, more than $860,000 has been donated to the EPC’s emergency relief funds for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The fund for Hurricane Harvey has received $575,541.54 toward relief efforts in Texas; the Hurricane Irma fund for relief in Florida has received $159,250.67; and the Hurricane Maria fund for Puerto Rico recovery has received $126,862.25.

In addition, $21,000 has been donated to the Mexico Earthquake emergency relief fund, which was set up at the request of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. The Mexican body is a fraternal partner of the EPC.

“In this week that we celebrate God’s generosity, I praise the Lord for the magnificent generosity demonstrated in support of our hurricane disaster relief funds this fall,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “We continue to work closely with the EPC churches in areas affected by the hurricanes to ensure we can get these funds to them as quickly as possible.”

Recovery efforts in southeast Texas continue, with Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Houston serving as the resource center for Samaritan’s Purse in the area. Pastor Richard Harris said that Samaritan’s Purse has hosted more than 2,800 volunteers at the church during the recovery effort.

“That is a Samaritan’s Purse record for disaster relief work,” he said.

Brad Starner, Director of Church Finance for New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Fla., expressed gratitude for the donations to the Hurricane Irma fund.

“We thank God and the EPC for the goodness of His people through our denominational family,” he said.  “Almost all of us in Southwest Florida lost trees, electricity, water, internet, and lots of little things from our homes. However, some of us lost considerably more due to flooding and wind damage. In particular, we have families with extensive damage to their homes and property which will require months of rebuilding and repair.”

Starner noted that Immokalee, a largely migrant agricultural community southeast of Fort Myers, was hit especially hard by the storm.

“Immokalee was devastated,” he said. “In partnership with First Baptist Church of Immokalee, we sent teams of volunteers and supplies to those in need—many who simply could not live in their homes due to flooding and wind damage,” he said. “We continue to support those relief efforts directed by our Missions Council, which is taking an active role in caring for those effected by the storm.”

On November 20, the Office of the General Assembly received a check and note from a member of the New Hope congregation, which read,

Please accept the enclosed donations for Hurricane Maria Relief. My daughter, Lily, had a birthday party and collected donations instead of gifts. She also sold brownies and lemonade to add to the donations.

“While it is certainly a blessing to see the amount of money given to these relief funds,” Jeremiah said, “the spirit (and act) of generosity displayed by Lily—who turned 12—and her friends touched me in a way that is hard to describe.”

Each of these emergency relief funds remain open for donations. Gifts can be made online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and the specific fund from the second pulldown menu,) or checks made payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church with the appropriate fund noted on the memo line and sent to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

“We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” Jeremiah said. “Thank you for your generous, sacrificial response in helping those in need in the EPC.”

IRS ruling allows donation of paid time off for hurricane relief

 

HurricaneCleanupA recent IRS ruling could hold significant impact for EPC hurricane relief in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Under the provision of the ruling, employees who earn paid time off (PTO) can donate their vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for a cash payment by the employer to a charitable organization. As a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the EPC is eligible to receive these donations.

“What a great way for people to help those who are still dealing with the effects of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and especially Maria,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I encourage our churches to inform their congregations—especially those church members who own businesses with employees, or are in HR or other roles. This gives people who may not have the resources to donate money directly a method help in a tangible way.”

The PTO donation is not included in the income or wages of the employee, and therefore not subject to income or payroll tax withholding. However, the employee cannot claim a charitable contribution deduction for the value of the donated PTO.

The provision also allows a for-profit employer to deduct the payments it makes to charities in connection with the donated PTO as a business expense, resulting in the payments not being subject to the charitable contribution deduction limits normally applicable to charitable contributions.

Click here for more information from the IRS website.

Emergency fund launched for Mexico earthquake relief

 
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Photo credit: EDGARD GARRIDO / Reuters

In response to requests for assistance from leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (La Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México or INPM) following a series of devastating earthquakes that hit Mexico in September, the EPC has launched an emergency relief fund to help with recovery efforts. The EPC and INPM entered into a fraternal partnership in 2016, with an initial focus on church planting.

On September 8, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck near the coast of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. The epicenter of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit on September 19 was approximately 40 miles south of Mexico City—resulting in the collapse of more than 40 buildings. On September 23, a 6.1-magnitude quake shook the southern state of Oaxaca. More than 500 people have been reported killed, with more than 6,300 injured. The majority of INPM churches are located south and east of Mexico City, in some of the highest-damage areas.

“We understand that ‘donor fatique’ is a possibility,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “The EPC has already given more than $550,000 to the Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria disaster relief funds. However, the National Leadership Team believes we should make this effort for our fraternal partners to the south, trusting the Lord will provide.”

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Mexico Earthquakes Relief (509)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church and designated “Mexico Earthquakes Relief,” and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

Donations to the fund will be sent to the INPM. Thank you for providing help to those in need.

EPC removes “pause button” from Hurricane Maria relief

 
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Juan Rivera (left), Pastor of the EPC’s Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and Abraham Montes (second from right), Pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, receive a check from Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri from the Hurricane Maria emergency relief fund. Also pictured is Lizzette Gonzalez, Clerk of Session for Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez.

Following two weeks in a “wait and pray” stance toward relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the EPC has restarted its Hurricane Maria emergency relief fund. While the fund had not closed to contributions, active promotion of the fund was put on hold until leaders of the EPC’s churches on the island reported that they were able to receive donations and effectively use them.

Juan Rivera, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, reported October 18 that banks on the island have reopened, and efforts to rebuild the island’s infrastructure are slowly getting underway.

“We are still without power, and two of our three congregations there cannot hold worship services in their normal locations due to the damage,” Rivera said. “Everyone has lost something, and we have probably 10-15 families in our three EPC churches in Puerto Rico who have lost everything.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that the situation on the island, while still very challenging, has improved to the point that relief funds collected can now be dispersed.

“They have a long road ahead—including untold opportunities for ministry—and by the EPC being ‘much better together’ we all can play a part in their recovery,” he said.

On October 19, Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri presented checks to Rivera and Abraham Montes, Pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Mayagüez, who were in Orlando for the fall meeting of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Lizzette Gonzalez, Clerk of Session for the Mayagüez congregation, said four families from the church suffered a total loss of furniture, appliances, and personal belongings; three familes experienced partial loss of their house roof, furniture, and personal belongings; and the church administrative office has structural damage.

“We are so thankful for our EPC family and everything they are doing for us,” she said.

As of October 19, almost $52,000 has been contributed to the Hurricane Maria emergency relief fund.

“Thank you for your generosity in response to all three recent hurricanes,,” Jeremiah said. “To date more than $550,000 has been donated to our Harvey, Irma, and Maria funds.”

Click here to donate online (Choose “Emergency Relief” from the first pulldown menu and “Hurricane Maria Relief (508)” from the second pulldown menu,) or make check payable to Evangelical Presbyterian Church with “Hurricane Maria Relief” on the memo line, and send to:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
5850 T.G. Lee Blvd., Suite 510
Orlando, FL 32822

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Damage to their regular facility from Hurricane Maria has forced Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, to hold worship services in an outdoor parking garage since the storm hit the island on September 20.