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NY Church Shelters Over 100 People During Deadly Buffalo Blizzard

By Jessica Lea
pastors buffalo
A church in Buffalo, New York, led by Pastors Al and Vivian Robinson provided food and shelter to over 120 people during a devastating Christmas blizzard. (Photo via Facebook)

Pastors in Buffalo, New York, used their church building to shelter over 120 people during a blizzard that devastated the area over Christmas weekend. With the help of the community, Al and Vivian Robinson provided meals, baby formula and other resources during the historic Buffalo blizzard. 

“The one thing that stands out the most was the power that Jesus Christ gave us,” Al Robinson said in a statement to ChurchLeaders. “His love compelled us to take that additional step to reach out for that one more person in the sea, that one more life, it was incredible. I don’t even know how I was able to accomplish all of this without saying it was God [who] did it all. He really did it all.” 

The pastor said what happened was “the most supernatural event I’ve ever had in my entire life, but I can tell you one thing: it’s real, it happened and it saved people’s lives. Jesus was able to pull them [from] the clutches of death that happily waited for them. [God] had a different plan.”

Buffalo Blizzard Pummels Residents

At least 40 people have been reported dead as of this writing from a winter storm that hit Buffalo on Friday, Dec. 23. While the storm, known as “bomb cyclone,” covered more than half of the United States, it “unleashed its full fury on Buffalo, generating a historic lake-effect snow event with hurricane-force winds and whiteout conditions,” according to AccuWeather. Snow continued through the weekend, with some areas of Erie County, where Buffalo resides, receiving more than four feet. Most of the snow fell on the Friday and Saturday right before Christmas. 

The New York Times (NYT) reports that while officials had been bracing for a winter storm, they failed to anticipate how dangerous and deadly the Buffalo blizzard would be. The unusual amount of snow, generating huge drifts, was accompanied by wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour. Wind chill temperatures were -20 degrees.

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An estimated 30,000 people lost power over the weekend. Hundreds were snowed in and many were stranded in their vehicles. Emergency responders had difficulty rescuing people and were at times stranded themselves. There are stories of people perishing after being trapped in their vehicles or attempting to walk in the storm.

One woman’s mother stepped outside of her home for a moment, but did not return. Hours later, a neighbor found the mother frozen to death. He told the NYT, “It looked like she had blocks of ice on her eyelashes.”

Even when people’s power came back on, many who had taken shelter elsewhere could not go home because their pipes had frozen, leaving their houses a “disaster,” according to Pastor Al Robinson. Some residents looted grocery and convenience stores.

Al and Vivian Robinson are pastors of Spirit of Truth Urban Ministry in Buffalo. Prior to the storm, they had purchased enough food to feed themselves and their nine children for two weeks over the Christmas holiday. The couple live at their church’s campus, and when the storm hit, Vivian began posting on her Facebook page that they could help anyone who was in need of shelter. She also alerted people of others who were stranded and in need.

On Friday, Dec. 23, Vivian posted, “We tried so hard to help so many people today, and it was so impossible to get them. We couldn’t even get to my mom. The visibility was unbearable to drive. People please stay home, it’s hard for anyone to get to you. We have a truck with a plow and we couldn’t get out. Praying for safety and comfort in Jesus name over the city and the people.”

Al Robinson told Today that a friend with a snowmobile helped collect people in need during the Buffalo blizzard and bring them to the couple’s church. The Robinsons even destroyed the auto lock on their church doors so that no one would be stranded outside and freeze to death. They took in 120 people on Christmas Eve, and CNN reports that the Robinsons ended up taking in 154 people over the weekend. 

“People were elderly,” Al Robinson told Today. “We had a 92-year-old that needed oxygen. We had 9-month-olds that needed formula. We had so many things going on and every one of those needs were met.” 

Al also said the church center was full of mattresses and beds because he and his wife had just sold a rehabilitation home. “We used every one of those mattresses and beds to house all these people,” he said. “It was just crazy. I mean, it’s like all the life that we have lived before was for this one moment in time.” 

The couple received help from the community, posting that people were delivering meals and baby formula, helping with rescue efforts and sending money.

“Seems God taught us all what Christmas is really about this year,” Al posted on Christmas Day. Several days later he reflected, “Looking back, I had to of been powered by the Almighty. I did things I just can’t do. Ever.”

Yet while many were miraculously rescued, others were not. “We are still finding people in their cars that didn’t make it,” Al said in another post. “This is so terrible. So so terrible. We must search and help the living. We MUST continue forward.” 

On Dec. 26, Vivian posted, “I want to thank everyone for their amazing support, donation and love in the Blizzard of 2022. At first we were able to cook and serve over 120+ people out of our home refrigerator, two loaves and 5 fish. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Wash cloths, tooth brushes, toothpaste, body wash, comforters, sheets, pillows and more for the lords people. We just [fed] more families today before they left. I am happy in my heart that the lord trusted us with all of these lives.”

A church member has set up a GoFundMe page for the couple, who have given so much so freely. 

“Whatever God is giving you to do, you will have the power to do by His Spirit not your own,” said Al. “The very spirit of God will empower you to get His [will] done. God is so good.”

This article originally appeared at ChurchLeaders.com.

Jessica Lea is a content editor for ChurchLeaders.com and the producer of The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast. 

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4 thoughts on “NY Church Shelters Over 100 People During Deadly Buffalo Blizzard”

  1. Kimberly M Chastain

    Love this story! What a wonderful example of this family and church being the hands and feet of Christ! God is faithful!

  2. Thank you for covering this story about the Robinson’s. What an amazing juxtaposition of profound sorrow and amazing grace in one city!

  3. Such a wonderful story! I just donated to their GoFundMe page. I was saddened to see that they had not received even 10% of the state goal/need. I hope others who are able who read this might donate as well.

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