NEW YORK (BP) -- Hurricane Sandy was a tragedy in the Northeast, but God used the life-altering superstorm to change the hearts of people in Rockaway Beach, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, from totally disinterested in the Gospel to yearning for spiritual guidance.
A couple of years ago, Larry Holcomb, director of Urban Impact, a ministry connected with a Southern Baptist congregation in New York, arranged for the purchase of a large old house in a rough part of Rockaway Beach, not fathoming what God would do next.
After renovating the beach house, Holcomb moved in bunk beds to house short-term mission teams coming to New York to help Urban Impact reach immigrants in the city through language and job training classes.
With a goal of launching Beach Church in the summer of 2013, Holcomb and others this past summer handed out about 5,000 invitations to Bible studies in Rockaway Beach.
"We went door-to-door, handing them out to people," Holcomb, a former North American Mission Board church planter, told Baptist Press. "We got less than a dozen responses. Through that, from the surrounding community, maybe five people had come to Bible study. So that was a ratio of 5 to 5,000. We knew it was a hard neighborhood. People don't have the time or the interest in spiritual things.
"But after the tragedy, we've handed out thousands of tracts and Bibles, and people eagerly say, 'Can I have this?' 'Can you please give me this? I need this guidance.' They're asking us for prayer and saying, 'Can you please come to my house?'
"It has really turned around the spiritual openness of the neighborhood, and where before we were slaving away to find someone who had any interest, now the problem is, How can we possibly have time to address these hundreds and hundreds who are asking us to help them understand the Bible and get closer to God?" Holcomb said. Read More