Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, tornadoes throughout the Midwest, flooding across Iowa—the list could go on and on. If you have found yourself on the receiving end of a major weather catastrophe or other natural disaster in the U.S., you probably learned quickly that a blue shirt means help has arrived. For years, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been identified with the blue T-shirts worn by volunteers who come and work to repair damaged homes and provide comfort to those whose lives have been disrupted by a disaster.
The blue shirts that proclaim “Out of Chaos, Hope” have become a beacon in communities rocked to the core by disaster. Volunteers have shared stories about people approaching them to ask about the shirts. For some volunteers, the have become a source of evangelism.
“We did not randomly select blue as the color of the T-shirts—there was a reason behind it,” says Laurie Kraus, coordinator for PDA. “The color was taken from the blue tarps used to provide temporary shelter in disasters, protecting people and their possessions.”
Kraus and her team believe their presence has meant more than emergency funds. It has given communities a reason to hope, to rebuild.
The first Sunday in Lent (Feb. 22) has been designated as “Wear your blue T-shirt to church Sunday,” a testament to one of the ways One Great Hour of Sharing makes a difference.
“In the past nine years, more than 70,000 volunteer missions have been served in the U.S. Gulf coast, Iowa, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey, New York and other places where disasters have occurred,” says Kraus. “Volunteers have put on the blue PDA T-shirts and worked shoulder-to-shoulder to live out Christ’s call to serve their neighbors in need.”
The First Presbyterian Church of South Boston, Virginia, has been faithful in disaster service. Volunteers have served in New Orleans, Nashville and New Jersey. Last year, mission team members wore their PDA T-shirts on the first Sunday in Lent.
“It was particularly fitting that we wore our jeans and T-shirts on that day, as we already had a project planned to make wooden crosses before and after our worship services on this day,” says Kim Albert, a church member. “The crosses and the T-shirts served as visible reminders of those who have endured suffering.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is urging all congregations to set aside February 22 as a “Blue-out,” encouraging volunteers to wear their blue T-shirts to church. PDA leaders recognize that some have not had an opportunity to “earn” a T-shirt as part of a work team but have supported the work of PDA in other crucial ways, such as making Gift of the Heart kits, sharing their financial blessing or upholding work groups in prayer. Those who do not have PDA volunteer T-shirts are encouraged to join in by wearing blue that Sunday.
Won’t your team wear their shirts on February 22? Share your photo so that the story goes on.