Arms of the Gospel
In the early morning of June 24, 2021, a catastrophic event rarely seen in the United States occurred in Miami, Florida. At 1:25 a.m., the Champlain Towers South condo in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, collapsed. At the time, no one knew the significance of this event. It very quickly became one of the costliest non-natural disasters in the history of the state of Florida.
In a few hours, teams from all over the state were on their way to the site, including Adventist Community Services (ACS) teams from both Florida and Southeastern conferences. As with any disaster, ACS was called in to serve the need for donation management. In a very short amount of time, people from the area and people from all over the nation sent goods and supplies, not only for the victims but also for the rescue workers who would spend the next month and a half living and working on the scene.
In the following weeks, teams from Florida and Southeastern conferences worked together with the State of Florida and FEMA to help meet the ongoing needs of survivors and rescue workers. ACS team members helped by resupplying fire crews, delivering goods, and sorting and preparing kits for families. ACS was also actively involved in ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of survivors and their families. Under the new spiritual and emotional care program established by Adventist Community Services and facilitated by Pastor Derrick Lea of the North American Division, pastors and members from all over southeast Florida came together to meet the needs of survivors, families, and those waiting to hear about their missing loved ones. While the Red Cross typically handles spiritual care, due to the extended nature of this disaster, ACS was asked to partner with the American Red Cross in helping to meet the need. This disaster was unlike anything our local team had seen before.
Along with survivors and their families, much time was spent praying and ministering to the rescue workers. When the disaster first occurred, many were optimistic that survivors would be found amongst the debris. However, as time passed and the chances of survivors being found decreased, this realization began to take a mental and emotional toll on the rescue workers, in addition to the physical toll of the work. Seventh-day Adventist pastors were on site, along with police chaplains, to listen and pray with many of the first responders. Pastors came in on rotating shifts to ensure that our first responders always had someone they could reach out to in their time of need.
At the same time, members from both conferences established a warehouse at the Bethany Seventh-day Adventist Church and a point of distribution site at the Tabernacle Seventh-day Adventist Church to meet the ongoing needs of the survivors. Families were able to come in private and receive desperately-needed goods. ACS team members established a retail-style store and families were able to shop for whatever was needed.
One Sabbath, a team from Florida Conference was able to talk with one of the survivors. He shared with us the story of being in bed and hearing the rest of the building collapse, waking up to find that his entire life had changed, and praising God that his wife was with their grandchildren that day. Thanks to the generous donations from members of the Florida Conference to the disaster relief fund, we were able to work with this family to help them get reestablished after losing their home of more than 30 years.
Aid for Haiti, Florida’s Food Insecurity, and How You Can Help
In the months since the Miami disaster, we have seen a major earthquake hit Haiti. As many know, Florida Conference is very diverse and has many members from Haiti or who have a proud Haitian heritage. After the initial reports began to roll in, Pastor Conrad Duncan, along with the Florida Conference Administrative Committee, put a plan in place to help raise funds for Haiti. While areas of the country have sustained significant damage, many are still able to function. The goal is to raise money and give those funds to the Adventist Church in Haiti to purchase the most needed goods. This way, most of the funds would not be used for shipping but can provide aid to those in need. Funds can be donated through any of our local churches by placing them in a tithe envelope and marking them Haiti Earthquake 2021.
As Bible-believing Christians, we know that we will see more and more disasters in the last days. Over the past three years, we have seen and provided aid during five significant disasters, such as hurricanes and a building collapse. Our goal is to encourage and train more members to provide aid in a time of need. In certain places of the United States and the world, the matter is not if there will be a disaster but rather when. Adventist Community Services and Disaster Relief serve as arms of the Gospel, reaching people in their time of need.
A new program will be launched soon as a way to continue this goal of reaching people when they need it most. A Meal for the Hungry program will allow people to support each other at some of the worst times in their lives. According to Feeding America, 1 in 8 people in Florida face food insecurity on a regular basis. This equates to over 2.5 million people who do not have enough food to eat. In Florida, 1 in 6 children will go hungry this month. In a disaster, these numbers escalate very quickly. Our goal is to not only be a resource to our community in a disaster but in an ongoing and intentional way. It is our prayer that those in the Florida Conference would partner with us by becoming trained members of the ACS family, giving not only their resources but also their time and effort. Our goal is that every church has a community services team that will meet the community’s needs every day and turn into a disaster response team when the need occurs.