In Matthew 5: 4, Jesus said, “Blessed are the mourners, for they shall be comforted.”
Jesus' words ring true in this story of how one disciple's decision to focus on comforting those who mourn resulted in five hundred lunches for Staten Island victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Liji Stephen Zachariah became acquainted with the devastation Hurricane Sandy imposed while being stuck at her job for three days at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Liji, a pediatric ICU nurse, reported an inundation of patients to Maimonides after hospitals in the surrounding areas closed because of an absence of generator power and lack of staff. On Thursday, Liji was finally given time off. Now, off the clock, Liji was able to take a well-deserved break from all the chaos. Rather than retire to her home and rest before the next shift, Liji decided that God wasn't finished using her to help people in need.
“It was just so heart-breaking. I couldn't sleep. Even as a nurse and seeing people die, I’ve never seen anything like this. I was so overwhelmed with emotion and was inspired to use those emotions to do something. Anything you're able to do, you should do.” remarked the young nurse who, on her Facebook page quotes Mahatma Ghandi - “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
With only two days off from work, Liji had little time to effectively “be that change.”
On Friday, November 2, she hurried to her local Costco with great purpose and an overwhelming desire to help, but no help. She only knew she wanted to buy, prepare and distribute food. She did not know how she'd accomplish such a formidable task or who would help her do the work.
There in the parking lot of Costco, she decided to pray.
Minutes later, a fellow church member, Robert Loperena called. He had been running various errands and calling members of the Staten Island church who might need help. Liji explained to Robert her plan to help the victims on Staten Island. It turns out he was calling her from the exact same Costco parking lot. Obviously, the chance- meeting was a God-ordained answer to prayer. The duo resolved to buy enough food for 500 people.
Robert utilized the church's twitter account, which is already set up to tweet most of the Staten Island disciples’ cell phones. Soon more than 20 people arrived on the scene ready to serve. With God's hand orchestrating events, Liji’s plan materialized into 500 bag lunches consisting of sandwiches, brownies, apples, bottled water and all with a hand-written note with a message of inspiration to each hungry victim. The next morning, the lunches were distributed to grateful souls.
This and so many other stories like it resulted from one disciple's desire to comfort those in mourning. Physical needs abound in Staten Island as well as all around New York City and New Jersey. As disciples, we have the opportunity to meet not only the physical needs that have surfaced due to Hurricane Sandy, but the spiritual needs that have silently existed for decades. To God be the glory.