Pastor Peter Conforti and the members of Full Gospel Church (AG) of Island Park, New York, were left shocked, speechless - struck to the core. When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast late in October 2012, damage was expected . . . , but this. This was much more than anyone imagined.
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With many of his congregants from the hard-hit areas of Island Park and Long Beach, Pastor Conforti suddenly found his church of 250 had almost instantly dwindled to 60 as some members had their homes totally destroyed or made at least temporarily uninhabitable. And unknown to them at the time, the area would mostly be without power - with the exception of generators - for the next three weeks or more.
The church building didn't escape the wrath of Hurricane Sandy either. Four feet of water sat in the parking lot with a foot of standing seawater inside the building. The parsonage (located in Long Beach) was also heavily damaged by the flooding.
"The church was on higher ground, so we never thought it would be flooded," Conforti says, a sense of disbelief still evident in his voice. "But the sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen, Christian education wing - all had water standing in them. When the water receded, we took out the carpet, pews . . . anything even remotely close to the floor was finished, because the sea water is so corrosive and full of bacteria, it made a mess of everything.
"One of the first things that hit me," Conforti continues, "was how inclusive the damage was - it was everybody, everybody [in the community] was under water - basements, first floors and even higher than that. Everyone was scrambling trying to find places to live, or to come back to, but for many, everything was gone."
But even as things seemed to be going from bad to worse, as freezing temperatures and a snowstorm were expected to hit the area with power still out, God was already at work.
"Convoy of Hope was here within 24 hours," Conforti says, "setting up a relief distribution center at a nearby elementary school. People also came down from the New York District office, including Chaplain Don Schneider, and churches came to help and show their support in a big way."
Yet, as Convoy of Hope began distributing emergency relief supplies, Conforti says something odd began to happen.
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SOURCE: AG News