Monday, November 26, 2012

5 Gallons of Gas

How many churches does it take to keep a family warm for a night after Hurricane Sandy has shut down power and a nor'easter drops snow?  Let's count:

1) Pastor William Baum from Saint Barnabas Lutheran Church in Howard Beach sends out this email urgently asking for gasoline to keep families in his community warm through the upcoming snow storm:
Dear Friends,
I would like to be as clear as possible about this. At this point, the people in my community (Howard Beach & Hamilton Beach) need gasoline.  Not food.  Not water. Not blankets. After nine days, almost everyone still has no heat and no electricity. In very many cases, they do have generators. But no gasoline to power them. There is a nor’easter blasting through for the next twelve hours.  It is snowing heavily. Tree limbs are falling. They are cold, exhausted and in shock.  In many cases they have kids and they have long surpassed the excitement of living through a crisis. 
I just heard from a kind and generous man in Westchester that will deliver 10 gallons of gasoline to my people. It will be put to immediate and grateful use by families that are struggling to get through this. As I understand it, ten gallons of gasoline will power a generator for a few days and it can be shared by about three families.  This would provide them a little bit of light and if they can wrangle a space heater, a little bit of heat to get them closer to 50 degrees, rather than sub 32 degrees.
If you or someone you know is able to safely deliver gasoline, please be in touch and I will give you delivery instructions. Please be advised, you will be given a hero's welcome.
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Baum 

2) Shamika, a young woman who attends not one but three churches in Brooklyn, St. Lydia's, Not So Churchy, and Parables, decides to put all the pastors in touch with one another so that they can work together to help those affected by the storm. Though three churches are mentioned in this step, we'll just count Not So Churchy in our list at this point.

3) Emily Scott, pastoral minister at St. Lydia's, and a friend of Pastor William Baum, forwards his email to the new coalition of Brooklyn churches, saying that she knows where gas is available, but no one has a gas can, and all the stores have sold out.

4) I get a hold of Alfredo from St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Williamsburg.  Alfredo runs his own carpentry business and has a gas can which he can give us.

5) I stand in line for an hour and fill up the can 10 minutes before the gas station runs out of gasoline.
(curiously, of the twenty or thirty people standing in line with me, all of them were men)

6) Emily gets a hold of Ann Kansfield, pastor of Greenpoint Reformed Church, who has a Prius with enough gas to make the delivery to Howard Beach.  Ann is busy running a soup kitchen, so she doesn't have time to make the run herself.  Fortunately, two of her parishioners do, and pick up the can to make the delivery by nightfall.
(you can see the silver Prius in the background)

In the end, people from six churches across three denominations came together to get a family enough gas to keep warm through the night. Across New York, thousands of stories just like this one were, and still are, taking place.  The coalition of churches that Shamika inspired continued to deliver gas for another week and now has a google group for people to coordinate their efforts as we each do what little we can, praying each day that it will be enough.      

Because the blog post doesn't really do the emotional content of the experience justice, I wrote the following epic bilingual poem/psalm about the experience, taking some artistic licence.

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