"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus ..."
— Colossians 3:17
Stories of hope
Responding when people are in need is a way of putting Christ’s love into action. Volunteers with many talents and abilities provide valuable assistance to a community affected by a disaster. The work of volunteers — putting their faith and love into action — helps turn the chaos of disaster into an image of hope.
This page includes stories from volunteers that have served in disaster response and stories from disaster survivors, communities, mid-councils, and others who have been touched by the service of volunteers or the generosity of God’s people reaching out through the ministry of disaster response. Each story is a witness to God’s transformational power.
It was too cold to wear short sleeves at First Presbyterian Church in Battle Creek, Michigan, on February 17th. But Kathy Baker shares how the congregation used their PDA t-shirts creatively:
"Hi - I received a note from you in January about wearing our PDA shirts on this first Sunday in Lent. Unfortunately, I am too cold blooded to even think about wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt in Michigan in February - so I came up with a Plan B - and a a way to show our church's involvement since 2006. A bonus - it also turned out to be a recruiting tool, as I had two people express interest in a spring trip. I will keep the shirts up in a visible spot in our building until dedication of our One Great Hour of Sharing.
We're looking forward to helping this spring."
New Jersey congregation in Sandy-affected town reaches out to offer hope to others
Prospect Presbyterian Church is in Maplewood, New Jersey, one of many places forever changed by Hurricane Sandy. Property damage, widespread power outages lasting more than a week, a gas shortage, debris in the roads and on the sidewalks, and snowfall from a nor’easter all made life in the community challenging in the weeks following Sandy.
On their first Sunday back at Prospect, all ages met for a monthly intergenerational “Sensational Sunday.” They focused on the story of the widow in Mark 12 who gave her gift from the heart. This congregation took the opportunity to share gifts of the heart as well.
Members of this congregation in a recovering community took time to reach out to others. Read their story of participation in the Gifts of the Heart Kits mission and other stories of groups who have shared in the ministry.
A Warm Church
Louanne Christie, 78, is an elder at First Presbyterian Church at Tower Hill in Red Banks, New Jersey. She is also, in her own words, "a survivor," having outlived her daughter and three husbands. She lives alone in a senior condo complex and often checks on "the older folks there." She also stays active in her church. This week, though — day 10 of Hurricane Sandy and no power — she has spent most of every day at the church. "It is cold, dark, and lonely at home," she says. "The church has electricity and has offered members and neighbors a warm place to spend the day, a kitchen and hot coffee, even a shower or laundry for people who need it. Today she has brought her bank statements and calculator and has settled in to reconcile her check records. She'll go home late in the afternoon and go to bed soon after dark.
Others at the church, we're told, bring food to cook in the kitchen and have enjoyed impromptu suppers before heading home to chilly homes. Soon after I speak with Louanne, three other guests arrive to power up their computers.
This story was sent to PDA by Sue Renault, National Response Team member serving in the Presbytery of Monmouth and the Presbytery of New Brunswick as part of the Hurricane Sandy response. Thanks to Sue for the story and photo of Louanne.
A volunteer work team comprised of 13 volunteers from six Pennsylvania congregations served in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, this summer. In late July the team of members from Old Union Presbyterian Church (Mars), Crestview Community Presbyterian Church (Callery), Paris Presbyterian Church (Burgettstown), and three other congregations traveled to Montoursville to serve in 2011 flood recovery. Pastor DeVries from Old Union Presbyterian Church shares, “The team was hosted by the Montoursville Presbyterian Church and spent the week rehabilitating a home that had been devastated by the flood. Our work included completion of gutting the house, reconstruction of room partitions, re-wiring, installing insulation, roof patching, and dry-walling.”
Thanks to Old Union Presbyterian Church for leading the team and sharing their photos with us.
The Eastern Oregon Presbytery is a dynamic group of churches, located in vastness of the far eastern side of Oregon. Most of our fifteen member team drove at least four hours to reach the Portland airport to fly to Birmingham. We looked forward to sharing Christ's love as His hands and feet at our Habitat site replacing a home destroyed by the 2011 tornado. Our team quickly coalesced into a supportive, sharing group as we prepared meals together, worked at the job site, and performed all the miscellaneous unanticipated chores that arose.
Our labor on the Habitat house was not an abstract task. Rather, it was exceptionally personal as we met Mary. She was born, raised, and married all within about a quarter mile of this house we were rebuilding for her. Her joy, gratitude, and life story deepened our sense of purpose and opened our eyes to the multiple ways the Lord blesses all of us.
Thirteen volunteers from Blackhawk Presbytery (northern Illinois) went on a disaster recovery mission trip to Joplin, Missouri, May 13-18, 2012. Ken Mozingo provided this this photo of the team and he shares, “An EF5-rated tornado touched down on May 22, 2011 and destroyed one third of Joplin. Winds at 225 mile-per-hour caused complete destruction in its path that was one mile wide and seven miles long. 162 people were killed. 8,000 homes were destroyed. An eight-story concrete hospital was twisted 4 ½ inches on its foundation. People were literally blown out of its windows. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) in Joplin linked this group of 13 to work with "Hammers and Hearts", a relief organization dedicated to using volunteers to help financially-strapped tornado victims rebuild badly damaged or destroyed homes. First Presbyterian Church of Joplin provided lodging for the group.”
Northwood Presbyterian Church of San Antonio, TX, served through Faith Village in Texas. Alan Ford, chair of the Mission Presbytery Long Term Recovery Team, wrote that the team was “an example of the hard work, and perhaps even more important, the loving care brought to Bastrop County by our neighbors from around the country. It means so much to the folks who endured this catastrophe, and it’s a real gift for all of us involved in Faith Village just to help facilitate visits such as yours.” Read Northwood’s story. Thanks to Northwood PC team members for the photo.
First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro, Georgia, served in tornado recovery in Sheffield, Alabama. “Our mission is about helping to rebuild lives as well as houses.” Featured in the photograph are some members of the FPC tornado recovery team, the Alabama family with whom they served, and the job site coordinator. Read the FPC blog and watch a slideshow to learn more about their mission.
“We went to Joplin, worked really hard, and had a great time. Our church is over 100 years old and this was the first mission trip ever! Very exciting.” Holly Smith of First United Presbyterian Church of Atlantic, Iowa, shared this photo and reflection with PDA. The team helped with tornado recovery efforts in Joplin, Missouri, in July 2012.
"A once in a lifetime experience. That is what I would call the mission trip. If there is one thing I will always remember it would be the smiles we got from Glen and his son and granddaughters. I found it so amazing how just one week has just changed me. The new people I worked with everyday weren’t just my “church friends” anymore. They became my real friends and a family to me.” This is part of Jay’s reflection following the flood recovery mission trip of Old Pine Presbyterian Church to Huntingdon, West Virginia, in the summer of 2011. Read more and see photos of Jay, other team members, and Fred the chicken on the OPPC blog. West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW) hosts numerous teams annually, including youth teams. Volunteers help with home repairs and flood mitigation efforts.
Disaster recovery mission teams from First Presbyterian Church of Pontiac, Michigan, have served multiple times over the past few years. Featured in the photo are the volunteers who served in Louisiana in April 2011. The congregation has sent at least four additional teams since that time. Thanks to team member Julie Smith for the photo.