#6 | 9/20 - 11:45 AM
Dear Members and Friends of First Church,
Your prayers have been felt by all who went through the storm 10 days ago and are now involved in recovery from it. I offer you the following update of where we are at First Church and in Southwest Florida, ten days post-Irma.
CHURCH – Things are returning to normal scheduling. The women’s ministry Wednesday morning weekly gatherings resumed today, and the men’s breakfast resumes tomorrow. Some events that had been on our calendar have been canceled but others have gone forward. We will be hosting, on behalf of all of Southwest Florida, a “FEMA Town Hall Meeting” Friday at 6 PM; we hope this will be helpful to many people in getting the financial or other assistance they need. Our parking lot is getting back to normal, except for a couple light poles that are down. The ceiling of the right front of the sanctuary will need repairs from water intrusion. A ceiling a/c unit will be repaired. There are four separate renovation projects going on at the church that should have been completed by now but have been delayed by the storm: library/parlor improvements, a new meditation garden, carpeting in the sanctuary balcony and sanctuary lighting/sound improvements.
COMMUNITY RECOVERY – I was at the Bonita City Council meeting today. Governmental, non-profit and business elements of our community are working together well and without friction (great to see everyone pull together!). There are still significant issues in our area, including (1) power outages – most homes and businesses have been restored, but a few have not, especially in areas where the downed power lines are under standing water; (2) flooding – a couple hundred homes have water in them from flooding in east Bonita, on either side of I-75 and primarily north of Bonita Beach Road (though the communities west of the interstate, including Worthington, Quail West, Palmira and Village Walk are also significantly impacted); many streets are still impassable; the flooding is complicated by the debris blocking bridges over the rivers and streams that should be taking water to the Gulf, and also by the unique Florida phenomenon of “sheet flow”; (3) debris piles – primarily from downed trees but also some roof shingles and commercial signs (large-scale trash pickup is supposed to be starting soon; the debris will be hauled in dump trucks to a rural area); (4) housing displacement – including Pastor Steven Grant and a number of our church members, who can’t live in their homes due to wind or water damage and are waiting repairs from the thinly-stretched force of contractors, roofers, and electricians we have in our area; (5) pool cages and lanai screens – while most homes came through the storm very well due to the stringent Florida building codes, the portion of homes most vulnerable to strong winds is typically the screen enclosures. Many people will be unable to use their pool/lanai areas until repair or replacement can be accomplished. If you have not yet returned to our community, you will find that it looks different. Much of the damage can be repaired or will grow back. Golf courses, tennis courts, fishing areas and even the beaches have been impacted, at least for awhile.
PERSONAL NEWS – We were grieved to hear of the death of Nabeel Qureshi, the former Muslim who became a vocal advocate for Christ. Many of your heard Nabeel in person in January 2016 at the Bonita Christian Forum, or have read his books. He died within a year of diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer. Our Mission Director Trusha Barner is flying to Houston for his memorial on Thursday, representing our entire congregation. Please pray for his wife and young daughter; Nabeel was just 34. Also please be remembering in prayer one of our elders, Ken Baldwin, who had a heart attack in Pennsylvania a week ago and is scheduled for bypass surgery on Friday 9/22.
RECOVERY FUND – Churches of Bonita Springs and surrounding areas have formed a partnership to help people in our community recover from Hurricane Irma. If you would like to make a contribution, our church will be managing and distributing this fund locally (with no administrative expenses). You can send a check to First Presbyterian Church, 9751 Bonita Beach Road, 34135, with the memo “Hurricane Recovery—Irma”. Or you can give through our website. I will be sending an email to our entire database with more details. We encourage you to invite individuals or churches you know that might be motivated by compassion to help us.
For those whose return to Florida is still ahead, we look forward eagerly to seeing you. Those who are now in the Bonita/Naples/Estero area are finding it to be so helpful and encouraging to see one another. Our worship services the next four Sundays will be at 8 AM and 10 AM, and then beginning October 21 we shift to our full seasonal schedule: Saturday night (CenterPoint Praise) at 5:30 PM, and Sunday mornings at 7:30, 9 and 11 AM. Please let us know if you have any personal prayer concerns or any questions.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Doug Pratt