While the color red is associated with Valentine’s Day, many Presbyterian congregations will be opting for blue this year. The first Sunday in Lent (February 14) is designated by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) as “Wear Your Blue T-Shirt to Church Sunday,” a testament to one of the ways One Great Hour of Sharing is making a difference.
For communities impacted by disaster, the blue t-shirt represents thousands of PDA volunteers who serve communities impacted by natural and human caused disasters.
“These volunteers not only bring ladders and drywall for rebuilding, but the love of God,” said the Rev. Laurie Kraus, PDA coordinator. “Many disaster survivors who find themselves in the depths of despair begin to find joy when they see the love of God so evident in the lives of those who donate their time to help.”
Kraus adds that while many congregations have not earned a blue t-shirt through volunteer efforts, they have supported the ministry through financial gifts, action and prayer. Those churches are encouraged to participate in the “Blue-Out” as well.
“We want churches to be creative on the 14th,” said Kraus. “Wear blue clothing, blue hats or blue flowers. You can pass out blue tissues and ink pens for use during the service or even use blue balloons as part of your decorations.”
For churches like Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church in Livonia, Michigan, this Sunday has special meaning. The 87-year old church has an active membership of over 600 and a strong commitment to missions.
“We’ve made at least 12 trips in a row starting in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit,” said Associate Pastor Kellie Whitlock. “Two of our members, who are active in the medical field, really looked at what was happening in Mississippi after Katrina and I believe God laid it on their hearts to bring this challenge to us.”
Rosedale Gardens averages four trips a year. Youth have their trip as well as young and older adults and those working in connection with PDA.
“Participants will pay approximately $200 for a seven-to-nine-day PDA trip. The congregation pays the remainder of the cost,” said Whitlock. “We’ve raised money from the general budget but we also have quite a number of what we call angels in the congregation who want to contribute to the endeavor.”
Whitlock says it’s never too early to begin educating Presbyterians about mission work.
“Our fifth and sixth grade classes work on mission projects in class. They’ll make sandwiches for the homeless in nearby Detroit,” she said. “So this church has a heart for missions and we commission all of those mission trips in worship.
Rosedale Gardens was recently approved by PDA to become a host site for mission groups coming to Detroit. The church will begin hosting groups in May.
First Presbyterian Church of Jeffersonville, Indiana, has a long history with PDA and One Great Hour of Sharing. Youth and adults are very active in mission work across the country.
“After Hurricane Katrina, our youth group made five trips to New Orleans and adults have been there four times,” said Eric Moore, church member and former PDA National Response Team member. “The church is very passionate about mission work and we’ve sent people to various disaster sites.”
Like Rosedale Gardens, First Presbyterian is hoping to qualify as a host site.
“We are installing shower facilities at the church that will allow work teams, sponsored by PDA, to come to the region on mission trips,” said Moore.
Churches participating in the “Blue-Out” this Sunday are encouraged to send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be shared across the denomination.
Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing support disaster recovery efforts in the U.S. and around the world.