A group of Seventh-day Adventists from the Greater New York Conference and Northeastern Conference church regions in the United States will travel some 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) west from home to assist those in need. Volunteers will be supporting the post-typhoon recovery efforts on Saipan, the largest island in the Northern Mariana Islands, in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.
The Adventist members’ trip has been made possible after Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR), the official community outreach ministry of the Adventist Church in North America, recently entered into a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States. The goal of this historic partnership is to help restore the living conditions of residents still recovering from Super Typhoon Yutu, which struck the Northern Mariana Islands and the Philippines in late October 2018.
According to weather experts, Super Typhoon Yutu was the worst storm on record to hit the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands are part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Guam-Micronesia Mission, an administrative unit of the North American Division.
ACS worked indirectly with FEMA in Saipan and Tinian immediately after the Category 5 storm struck in 2018. In April 2019, thirty ACS volunteers from the Greater New York Conference and Northeastern Conference are now officially linked with the agency’s efforts in Saipan until April 2020.
FEMA expressed interest in ACS after learning about its recovery work in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Florida and Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, both in the United States.
“We began speaking with FEMA late last year as they discussed issues they’d experienced in rebuilding Saipan and getting people back in their homes,” said W. Derrick Lea, director of the NAD’s ACS DR. ”Families are still living in crowded and uncomfortable tents because their homes are severely damaged.”
Lea said those conversations led to an official partnership that brought teams from two Adventist Church conferences to assist in Saipan. “Our teams are excited about this opportunity, and many have arranged to be able to travel and spend a minimum of two weeks assisting,” he said.
The first team conducted assessments, while the second team began replacing roofs, windows, doors, and other needed items; a third team will help finish those replacements.
“Our volunteers are incredibly dedicated. While I find myself stating this fact after each disaster response, they never cease to amaze me,” Lea said. “One of the FEMA emergency managers asked me last week, ‘Who are these people?’ To which I replied, ‘Just people who want to help their community.’”