volunteer team wearing blue shirts with U.S. map in front of them

Volunteer team members from Rosedale Presbyterian Church wore their shirts for PDA Blue Tshirt Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent. — Photo by Lorraine Paffenroth

Rosedale Gardens Presbyterian Church of Livonia, Michigan, sponsored a week-long mission trip to the New Jersey shore for continued Hurricane Sandy relief.

About the call to go…

How does one know God is calling one to serve?  Does one have the desire and ability to help?

We found that these questions can be answered through prayerful discernment and allowing the power of yes to work in our spirits.  We observed that our group just went forward in faith trusting in our mission to help. 

How about, I don’t know everyone…

Don’t worry about it, just remember, “Love you neighbor as yourself,” because you will know everyone after it’s over!  Living and traveling in close quarters with everyone was truly great.  We enjoyed the 26 hours of driving - but just talking with everyone made it bearable.  At the church, the one toilet bathroom and sink further provided an opportunity for familiarity and closeness … which only now can be appreciated. 

Will my skills prove useful on the trip?

We are called as Christians to serve each other in whatever gift God has given you.  With faith in God's ability to use us and God’s grace working in us, we all found more than enough work and challenges to keep us busy from sun up to sun down, all week!

As to the unknown, we have learned to trust in God’s plan! 

Through the efforts of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and churches like Rosedale, we were able to arrive at the Jersey Shore with a refreshed spirit of hope which was very visible to the residents. They would often stop by the job sites after recognizing our blue PDA shirts to say thank you, or just to chat.  Citizens even stopped us on the streets to let us know we were appreciated.  We were taken in immediately by the Church, Point Pleasant Presbyterian, who treated us like family, and by the recipients of our help and assistance with their individual recovery efforts. 

We discovered that at the “Shore” there was what we came to know as “recovery burn-out.”  The residents explained that they and the local help organizations have been at times completely exhausted and mentally defeated by the complete destruction, and in some cases leveling of the areas, along the beach and the associated inner coastal areas.  Visually, hulking monuments of the storm were all around.  Grey ghostly wrecks of once grand homes lingered on some of the sandy ocean front dunes.  Talking with residents on the street, it was easy to recognize the freshness of the storm in their minds, as they were easily persuaded to share their own stories of the storm and the resulting floods. 

They were gracious in accepting our help, and their thanks could hardly be expressed in words at times.  It was a surprisingly emotional trip, ranging from concentration and satisfaction with the job at hand, to understanding and empathy with the people and the community of the shore. 

Finally, it proved difficult to depart on the last day of work.  It was a teary hug and thanks from the one family in Toms River, New Jersey, we helped all week; with their two babies, and their adopted dogs; including the blind dog that lived in the only bathroom we had access to.  As we presented them with their blanket and plaque, gifts from the Rosedale congregation, we found ourselves in another moment where words were difficult, but the meaning of mission could not be more clearly expressed on the faces of everyone present in that moment.  And that will be our most vivid memory of the trip.         

Thanks to Jim Davis, volunteer team member, for sharing your story, The New Jersey Shore 2014.

Thanks to Lorraine Paffenroth and Janine Uhelski for sharing the photograph and the  Rosedale team information:
"Attached is a photo taken today of our PDA group.  We have been active since Katrina in 2005. We have participated in 11 trips in ten years.  Our trips have included 3 to the Katrina area, 2 to Iowa, 2 to Nashville, Bucyrus Ohio, Joplin MO, Point Pleasant NJ, and Henryville IN.  It has been our privilege to serve the Lord in this capacity."



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