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9/11: “A Generous Outpouring”

Thu, 14 May 2009 - 3:35 PM CST

By Dan Van Veen

In the days, weeks and months following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Assemblies of God responded not only as a national headquarters, but as churches and individuals. According to A/G General Treasurer James Bridges, over $1.7 million has been sent to Headquarters to distribute to meet the needs in Washington, D.C., New York and Pennsylvania. ìWe had a most generous response,î said Bridges. ìIt was a wonderful outpouring of compassion and concern.î

Although funds for disaster relief for these areas are now only trickling in, the work the funds have accomplished and are continuing to accomplish is vital and deeply appreciated.

ìThe needs of Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania are vastly different than the needs of New York City,î said A/G Communications Director Mike Messner, who has been working closely with the affected districtsí officials. ìAt the Pentagon, for example, the need for the church to come alongside law enforcement, military and government officials was immediate. Because there is not a lot of civilian activity in that area, it

was very lean on provisions such as food and shelter. We were able to assist, through our Potomac District, Denny Nissley [Manassas (Va.) Assembly of God] and his Christ in Action ministry team in feeding rescue and relief workers thousands of meals and ministering to their spiritual needs.î

Through the Potomac District, funds were also sent to established military relief organizations to help with the tragedy in Washington, D.C.

ìWe have received a very kind letter from Pastor Sylvia Baker of the Shanksville A/G whose church was very near the crash site of United Flight 93,î said Bridges. ìFunds were sent to help the church which was impacted from the crash. Also, expressions of

appreciation have been received from the Shanksville Fire Department for funds which were sent to assist the firefighters in their tireless work of recovery.î

New York, Messner pointed out, was an entirely different story. ìBecause of the location of the attacks, many organizations and individuals had relatively easy access to the disaster site,î Messner said. ìEarly on, the site was overrun with volunteers wanting to help, and supplies were coming in so fast, they were being stacked on the street.î

Although the A/G helped supplement trips by the Convoy of Hope to both the Washington, D.C., and New York City areas, Messner said that through meeting with district superintendents and their committees, it became quickly evident that the real niche for the church was in the long run ó when the victims needed help.

ìWe also had to redefine the term ëvictimí to not only include those killed or families with friends or loved ones killed,î said Bridges. ìNow, our definition includes a complex range of emotional and mental health needs ó for instance, dealing with those who become suicidal. Weíve sent in people who are skilled in dealing with critical incident stress.

ìThe concern for accountability [making sure funds go where they are most needed] is very definitely an important part of what we have done,î added Bridges. ìThe district superintendents have been our key liaisons for identifying and flowing money into the areas of need.î

The districts that are participating in the relief fund projects include the Potomac, New York, Penn-Del, Korean and Spanish-Eastern districts. ìThe New Jersey District is also included,î added Bridges, ìbut has not had to request funds to this date due to sufficient funds on hand from district appeals.î

Perhaps the most significant long-term, but least-known assistance the A/G has provided to New York is the funding of Dr. Richard Dobbins and his Emerge Ministries team. They were sent to New York to train pastors and layworkers in how to provide ongoing counseling and meet the needs of the emotional/psychological victims of the attacks.

ìDr. Dobbins and his team members met with local Assemblies of God pastors,î said Messner. ìMuch of the ministry going on right now [through the A/G] is as a result of what Dr. Dobbins helped establish and set up.î

Both Messner and Bridges expect that people will be dealing with the trauma and the fallout ó fear, unemployment, depression, anxiety ó of the attacks for months, if not years, to come.

Messner went on to explain that the clearing of Ground Zero is not the end of ministry opportunity. ìThe debris is being cleared away rather quickly now,î he explained, ìbut it's being taken to Staten Island where recovery workers will be sifting through the debris for [an estimated] two years. There are also people out working

12-hour shifts guarding the Ground Zero area, bridges, tunnels, and debris ó and we want to be able to offer all of these people ëa cup of cold waterí in Jesusí name.î

Although the names might not be household names, Bridges and Messner seemed to repeat key ìpoint peopleî names over and over as men making an undeniable impact upon New York City ó Carl Keyes, Mark Gregori, Nam Soo Kim, Marcus Rivera, David Auterson. ìIt would be a mistake not to mention their names,î said Bridges. ìThese men have done an incredible amount of work to make sure our ministry efforts are effective.î

Yet, thereís plenty of work left to do. ìIf you had $1 million to give to me,î Bridges commented, ìI know where we could use it right now ó the needs are truly great and ongoing.î

Finally, along with the counseling ministries, the A/G is also helping to support Convoy of Hope in the upcoming months. According to Convoy of Hope's vice president Randy Rich, in the next 17 months [the months preceding the 2003 General Council to be held in Washington, D.C., July 31-August 4, 2003], Convoy of Hope is hoping to host six major events in New York City and four in the D.C. area. ìWeíre prepared to do some other supply lines into these areas as well, supplying other ministries and working on other outreach projects with them,î said Rich. ìWeíre even

looking at placing a full-time coordinator there during that time to help with the outreach initiatives.î

The intent is to minister to all five boroughs of New York City and sections of D.C. in order to expose as many people as possible to true love and compassion ó not to mention ó the gospel.

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