four volunteers working with drywall

— Photo by Springfield Presbyterian Church, Sykesville MD

The week of August 3rd to August 9th 2014 could not have been more ideal for a beach vacation.  Five very warm, very sunny weekdays and a location only a block from the New Jersey shore!  Yep – sun, surf, and…drywall dust. Lots and LOTS of drywall dust.

Luckily, it turned out there were a few other things that were present in even greater quantity: spirit (amply fueled by The Spirit), enthusiasm, camaraderie, teamwork, and a real desire to make some difference – however small – on behalf of those impacted by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy

As you might recall, Sandy killed nearly 300 people in the U.S. and six other countries, and caused over $68 billion in damage – the second costliest hurricane in terms of property damage in U.S. history, only behind 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.  So it was that with the support of our congregation, SPC’s “intrepid” five-person mission team of Linda and Laurel Black, Linda Caviglia, Pastor Carol Davis, and Ron Holmes traveled to New Jersey.

The Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) website states that PDA “enables congregations and mission partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) to witness to the healing love of Christ through caring for communities adversely affected by crisis and catastrophic events.” What it doesn’t state is how taking part in a PDA mission also helps participants to discover a little more about themselves and to develop in their own faith. 

All the mission trip participants reacted at first with a bit of the same knee-jerk reaction upon discovering that the project for the week was to be three small beach rental units on one property.  Really? – we’re not going to help some family or person in obvious deep need get back into their only home, the home from which they have been displaced for almost two years?  Yes – we definitely found some of our expectations challenged and our biases confronted. But as we found out more about Team Jersey – the organization that coordinates the recovery work at the Jersey shore – and came to better understand that things are not always as they might appear, we also grew in our understanding of God’s care for all – without condition.  Among other things, these units provide important income for a retired woman, and a place where her elderly mother can relax and spend valued time with her daughter.

An added bonus of this mission trip, just as during SPC’s PDA mission trip to Mississippi after Katrina, was that the participants got to know each other a little better, despite that most had already known each other for several years.  And we did make a real dent in our project.  We took some spaces that were in very rough condition when we arrived, and only through complete team effort (everybody worked hard no matter how monotonous the task), transformed them into rooms where someone can find the self-respect due all God’s children. Oh – as for the question in the title: no, we’re not even close: there’s still a long way to go…

Story by Ron Holmes, team member from Springfield Presbyterian Church, Sykesville, Maryland


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