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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    The ‘Blizzard of the Century’  Zoom gathering Part I—The devastation and God sightings

    January 9, 2023 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Héctor A. Burgos Núñez, expected 30-40 people to participate in his Jan. 6, 2023, Zoom gathering to address the impact of the Christmas 2022 weekend blizzard, identified as the “blizzard of the century.” What was expected to be a few dozen people turned into a virtual gathering of over 150 people.  The hour spent together was filled with encouraging stories of God sightings, dozens of examples of where help was needed in the Buffalo community, and ideas as to what needs to be done to better prepare for winter storms.

    Bishop Héctor started the meeting with a Bible passage that he holds close to his heart:

    “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” Psalm 46: 1-4.

    Bishop Héctor shared how decades ago, when his second child was just born, there was news of an extreme hurricane heading toward his town in Puerto Rico. He, his wife, and two children had to evacuate immediately. He only had time to gather up his family and a Bible.

    Bishop Héctor said, “I opened the Bible up to this passage. It is no coincidence that I opened to this passage. It offers words of hope for those impacted by this storm of the century and the work ahead.”

    Bishop Héctor then offered a prayer for God’s presence to encourage one another in the work ahead, to provide comfort for those who have lost loved ones, and to give strength to those dealing with the storm’s aftermath, and the people being the hands and feet of Jesus at such a time as this.

    The devastation

    The Zoom conversation allowed church leaders to come forward and describe how the storm impacted them and their church.

    The Rev. Heather Stierheim, pastor at Williamsville UMC and Wesley’s Place described her area as Ground Zero of the storm.

    She said, “We had a week…so many moments of processing what has happened. One of my parishioners was stuck in her car for days. It wasn’t that we had to shovel our own cars out; we had to shovel people out to get them to dialysis and medical appointments. We had to offer childcare. There were so many needs.”

    The Rev. Matthew Stengel was preparing a funeral for a parishioner who lost her life. She was dependent on oxygen and a resident at a senior center. The center lost power and she ran out of oxygen and died.

    Cesar Galarza, pastor at Buffalo Community Church Jehovah Jireh gave a tour of the damage at his church. He said there is half a million dollars of damage.

    Many churches had parishioners that were related to those that died in the blizzard.

    Bishop Héctor requested the address of family members of those who lost loved ones so that the Conference can send cards of support.

    God sightings

    Through the devastation, God was present.

    Pastor Kevin Slough, pastor at Grand Island UMC, said, “On the west end of our island, we were out of power for 72 hours. And there were several reports of parishioners with fireplaces taking in others. People from every walk of life were coming together, bending knees in prayer, asking for God’s deliverance.”

    The Rev. George Nicholas, pastor at Lincoln Memorial UMC, said, “The wisdom of the leaders in my church is a God sighting. We usually open the doors to our community on Tuesdays and Fridays. They saw news of the storm and decided to open the doors on Thursday instead of Friday, which is when they saw the pipes had burst. They were able to move things around so that the situation didn’t prevent them from serving the community.”

    He continued, “Seeing how people came together and do what they need to do is inspiring.”

    Bishop Héctor assured Rev. Nicholas that “we are inspired right along aside of you. It’s great that people are stepping up even when they are impacted themselves.”

    Click here to read part II of this article that addresses the work ahead and how you can help.


    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."