The voicemail on my home phone Jan. 14 introduced the caller as Jim White from Gardenerville, Nev. He hoped his cold call was reaching the writer of “On the (soggy) ground in New York City,” which appeared in this space Nov. 13, 2012. That story details a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance team’s initial outreach to the people on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.

We called him back: not only was White happy that he’d reached the right person (“I can be a pretty persistent digger,” he chuckled) but he was also thankful that we had highlighted the boots-on-the-ground-with-a warm-smile interaction by the PDA team with the congregation of Far Rockaway Presbyterian Church and the up-close-and-personal look at how deep in the sea Broad Channel’s Christ by the Sea Presbyterian Church had been.

White, a ruling elder at Christ Presbyterian Church, explained there was an additional, spiritual reason for his reaching out: his congregation wanted to do something for the victims of Superstorm Sandy beyond simply writing a check.

With some 3,000 miles between Garnerville and the East Coast, Christ Presbyterian decided that prayer would be their most consistent “relief effort.”

“Because we have ‘Christ’ in our name, our congregation wanted to pray for a congregation that also had ‘Christ’ in its name,” White said.

The congregation felt the timing of this connection was especially important in light of the circumstances that turned the requested $60 billion disaster relief bill into something of a political football in the House of Representatives. 

White added that, in the hour or so between his voicemail and my return call, he had reached out to the Presbytery of New York City. Through what he termed “a very helpful phone conversation” with the Rev. Thia Reggio, the presbytery’s disaster response coordinator, he was able to pass along his congregation’s thoughts to a grateful Christ by the Sea congregation.

(Editor’s note: On Jan. 15, the House passed the $50.5 billion aid package 241-180. A Senate vote is now scheduled during the week of Jan. 21, where passage is expected. This aid package will join the $9.7 billion to pay flood insurance claims signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 6.)

Jim Nedelka is a ruling elder at Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House in New York where he works for a major broadcast network. He has written for the Presbyterian News Service since 2007.