At 4 pm on Thursday, September 13, over-pressurized natural gas lines caused dozens of explosions and house fires across the Merrimack Valley in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts. Thousands of people evacuated as fires smoldered and raged unattended, the smell of natural gas permeated the air, and people tried to figure out what to do.
Members of the Merrimack Valley Sector of the Northeast Region of the Boston Church of Christ fled for safety to family members, other disciples, and hotels until the all clear was sounded on Sunday. Electricity was cut to the affected area, so many returned to homes and refrigerators filled with spoiled food.
On Saturday when the crisis started to settle, the disciples were grateful to find that no disciples were hurt and all of their property was safe. As a result of the crisis, 10 households of disciples are currently without heat and/or hot water as the temperatures start to drop as the leaves change with the fall season into winter. Some neighborhoods might not get their heat back until December. The local gas company is in the process replacing 46 miles of underground gas pipeline before turning gas on to 6,000 meters affecting 10,000 households.
It is great to see how disciples banded together the help each other and their neighbors. At the Sunday service following the event, the church took up a free-will offering to help the brothers and sisters restock their refrigerators. It was a great time of reuniting after days of trying to make sure all the brothers and sisters along with their family and friends were accounted for. Many disciples volunteered at the Lawrence Senior Center, where donations were collected and distributed, as well as at Debbie’s Treasure Chest, which was overwhelmed by donations. Singles from the South Cities Region took up a collection as well to help with needs.
At the following midweeks and sector services, disciples brought electric cooking devices: crock pots, electric stove tops, Foreman grills, hot pots and other devices to share with our brothers and sisters who now have no way to cook. We hope to expand this service to family, friends, and the materially poor in our community. It is great to see how the body bands together in times like these.
We solicit your prayers as government and business officials work out the details of repairing the broken gas distribution system so that thousands of households including those of our brothers and sisters will have heat and hot water as the average nightly temperature in the Merrimack Valley declines by ten degrees per month until it reaches the freezing point in December. We have established an oversight team who continues to monitor the needs of our family and community. Some disciples have moved out of their homes and are staying in hotels provided by the company until heat returns. As you see news of this massive move of people into temporary shelter, know that your brothers and sisters are well cared for. Please pray that we can be a light to the community as we face this challenge with them.