Matt Fehse serves with the UCC Disaster Ministries. Previously he served as a Global Mission Intern with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. His work with Disaster Ministries is supported by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.
Natural disasters do not discriminate by nationality; it’s something where we are all at risk. A year and a half ago, while serving as a Global Mission Intern, I was able to be part of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ (UCCP) relief efforts following Typhoon Yolanda. I saw the role churches played by being both the shelter people sought during the storm as well as the source of aid and recovery after it passed. These experiences introduced me to the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministry where I’ve been serving these last six months. Relief projects are run both domestically and internationally and my time with them has taken me from participating in tornado relief in Kansas to hurricane relief in New Jersey.
In disaster relief, renters are typically the families that fall through the cracks or the last tier to receive help, despite having the same level of need. When a storm causes tenants to lose their home, they are immediately subject to the market as housing rents skyrocket to meet the influx of demand. Here in New Jersey, the state ranks in the bottom 20% with over one third of the population being renters. Hurricane Sandy caused many families to move into hotels, motels, temporary housing, or to relocate entirely and 2 ½ years later many families are still without a home.
Since being assigned here, we’ve paired up with the Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministry and a local non-profit whose objective is to provide affordable housing for low-income families. Over the last month we’ve hosted volunteer teams from all over the East coast and Midwest to work on six new homes. Working on sunny days and in blizzard conditions, volunteers put on siding, roofs, and flooring as the projects inch closer to their completion.
Your support for One Great Hour of Sharing has made my role here possible and contributes to disaster sites all over the country and getting families back in their homes.