children and adults assembling kits around a table

— Rita Boyer

"Prospect Presbyterian Church is located in Maplewood, New Jersey, one of the many places that was forever changed by Hurricane Sandy. As you might suspect in a town named Maplewood, beautiful old trees are plentiful, and many of them were unable to withstand the forceful winds of the storm. 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 this community challenging in the weeks following Sandy.

"Prospect’s November 4 worship service was cancelled due to the power outage. On our first Sunday back at Prospect, all ages were scheduled to meet for a monthly intergenerational 'Sensational Sunday' instead of attending age segregated Sunday school classes. As the Director of Education in this lectionary-based church, I wanted to plan an event that invited us to both hear the Good News of our text and respond to the realities of the storm experience.

"Our lectionary focus text for the day was Mark 12:38-44, the story of the widow who gave her two small coins to the offering in the temple. Hers was a gift of the heart. It seemed only right that participants should have the opportunity to share gifts of the heart as well, and the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance webpage gave us the information we needed to do just that!

"I quickly sent an email to the Prospect Church family, requesting that Sensational Sunday participants bring a contribution for Gift of the Heart Hygiene Kits. Items were assigned according to the first letter of a person’s last name. Knowing that people were just getting power back and trying to re-stock their refrigerators, I couldn’t predict what kind of response we would get.

"The response was yet another example of a community coming together in a positive way as a result of this disaster. People who could not be present sent their donations by other means. People who had not attended Sensational Sundays in the past walked in with their contributions in hand. Following the story of the widow’s gift, all ages enthusiastically formed an assembly line to make the kits. Kits that were short particular items were completed by a generous volunteer the following day. In all, 59 hygiene kits were mailed, and extra items were set aside in order to make additional kits in the future.

"Instead of two small coins, we brought toothbrushes, combs, and washcloths. Yes, we gave out of our abundance; but we also gave out of our own experiences of vulnerability, of lives that had been disrupted, even if only temporarily. As such, they truly were Gifts of the Heart."

Thank you to the Maplewood congregation for reaching out with Christ's love, even in the days following a disaster in your own community.

Story and photo by Rita Boyer


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