This piece was written by Rev. Jason Stump, pastor of Zion Blue Mountain UCC in Strausstown.
Several years ago, while I was the Pastor of St. Peter’s UCC in Pine Grove, I witnessed an outpouring of love from churches across the PSEC region in the wake of flooding in the Tremont and Pine Grove area. It was felt…deeply. To this day, that movement you made in my heart and in others is real.
On one occasion a woman came with a trunk and rear seat full of disaster cleanup buckets from “over the mountain.” A gift of hope from the people of Zion Blue Mountain UCC. That woman is now my co-worker as the office secretary of Zion Blue Mountain UCC, where I now serve God as pastor. Just about a year ago Zion Blue Mountain UCC had another collection for disaster cleanup buckets. This time we stored what we collected so that they could be distributed wherever and whenever needed.
A few weeks ago, when an earthquake devastated Haiti, we took up an impromptu collection during the worship immediately following, asked for donations at a free community meal; and the week after that, another collection so we could support the specific call for Haiti and the general efforts of UCC Disaster Ministries.
When the potential for flooding loomed over our region again last week. I knew what to do. I knew who to contact. I knew that we as a church could do something almost immediately. I knew also that help would be there if needed. Thankfully, for my general area, our worst fears did not come to fruition. However, I know that isn’t true for all of our conference, and Hurricane Ida certainly devastated communities in various regions of the country. I know this because of relationships formed and trust built.
In the end we distributed 13 cleanup buckets from Tremont to Bernville. It seems small, but that is more than just cleaning supplies. It is also 13 personal connections to people in need of a sign from “outside” that they are cared for. We also refreshed ties and connections with local fire companies, county emergency management personnel, ecumenical partners, and The Salvation Army. Because of those connections we now have more cleanup buckets that we started with and will be helping get them even “deeper” into our region by setting up other distribution points using past relationships, and creating new ones.
My friends, I’m not saying this to brag about Zion Blue Mountain UCC, though I am very proud of their work. No doubt, there is a list of churches in our region, possibly even yours, who does “more.”
What I am asking you to consider is to do something, or some new thing, in support of UCC Disaster Ministries. If you don’t know how, just ask our beloved Rev. Karl Jones. He’s always got an idea. Even if it is simply forming relationships and building trust beyond your walls. When we take actions like impromptu, or budgeted, financial support of UCC Disaster Ministries, collect disaster kits, and forming relationships with other organizations; it creates hope, brings love into desperate lives, and follows Christ’s commandment to love our neighbors. When we can’t do that, we have no real purpose beyond what any other organization can do. When we actually do that, we have no real failures.
Peace be with you!
Rev. Jason Stump