Bobbie Updegraff is an advocate for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). For years, as a writer for Mission Mosaic magazine and a host of other publications,she’s witnessed and documented the incredible acts of PDA volunteers around the world.
Experiencing the positive impact of the long-term assistance Presbyterians provide to others through PDA, Bobbi felt it was important for Presbyterian youth to take part. So, she organized youth camps at volunteer villages along the Gulf Coast.Youth from 16 states took part, helping those directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.
“They don’t realize how vibrant we [Presbyterians] are in the world,” Updegraff says. “These young Presbyterians really learned about those missionaries who went out over 200 years ago to help others. They learned what it means to stand side by side and help people. And, they learned that we make a difference, not only in the United States, but around the world. They realize how active the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) really is because they’ve taken part.”
She never dreamed those in her home presbytery of Northumberland in Pennsylvania would one day be the recipients of the long-term help PDA provides. It wasn’t Hurricane Sandy, as you might suspect, that left homes and businesses in her area devastated. It was two storms many outside Pennsylvania may not even remember—Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
“A lot of church people were affected,” Updegraff says.“The rains came so hard and so fast, the bottleneck caused an extreme amount of force.Water came down the mountain and did damage that looked like a hurricane.”
PDA responded—setting up volunteer villages across the state to help the people hurting the most.
“I cannot tell you what it felt like to receive the first teams of blue shirts to my area. It was not only touching but it made me very proud to be Presbyterian.”
Many of those accepting the aid of PDA were church members who had served on teams in the Gulf Coast after Katrina. Now, they found themselves in need.
Updegraff says seeing the teams arrive changed the point of view of many Presbyterians in her area.They no longer saw giving to One Great Hour of Sharing as giving to others, but as being and acting as a Presbyterian in the world.
“Instead, it became, ‘We are PDA and we are going to support it,’” Updegraff said. “And it is really true. All Presbyterians are PDA.”
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