'Mission: Possible' helps out at home in Mt. Lebanon
July 25, 2013 9:00 AM
Annie Casturo, right, assisted by Lea Ann Ostergaard, wrote Bible verses and decorated frames for them to give to residents of local senior homes.
By Harry Funk
Church missions most often involve helping people on the other side of the world. Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church's missions help people right down the street.
"We thought, We're here. Why don't we simply decide to have a summer outreach in our own community, where we can make a difference," said the Rev. Timothy Janiszewski, lead pastor.
So began Mission: Possible, which just wrapped up its sixth year with a week of service projects, primarily for the benefit of the church's South Hills neighbors. About 225 members of the congregation participated in activities, which varied from making much-needed home repairs to clipping coupons for military families.
"We're doing it because it feels like that's what God wants us to do," said Rena Ralston, who helped coordinate activities with church member Noelle Conover. "I feel like every one of these 225 people does it with joy."
Volunteers ranged from age 4 to octogenarians, with an especially strong contingent of young people.
"I walked in this morning at 8:03, and there was a full table of youths sitting there," Rev. Janiszewski said on Friday, the final full day of the outreach program.
Some traveled to their activities, while others stayed at the church to take care of business, including providing coffee and bottled water to motorists battling traffic on Washington Road, right outside the front door.
"They're not socializing. They're working," Ms. Conover said about the younger participants. "I'm so proud of them."
Among the mission projects was rehabilitating a house in Wilkinsburg, through a connection made by Green Tree-based Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh. Another involved landscaping at a Dormont home.
"You should see the 'after' pictures," Ms. Conover said. "It was overgrown and now it's beautifully landscaped."Mission: Possible participants visited local senior care facilities, providing music and giving residents handmade crafts. Other projects included:
• Collecting items for the food pantry at Brookline Presbyterian Church.
• Teaching children during the church's vacation Bible school.
• Filling backpacks with school supplies and delivering them to children attending a Head Start program.
• Picking up donations for Off the Floor Pittsburgh, a ministry that provides used furniture to disadvantaged families.
• Fulfilling hundreds of individual prayer requests.
• Conducting a blood drive at Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian.
A team of volunteers worked in the church kitchen to provide three meals a day to participants. And last Thursday, about 400 people gathered for a community picnic.
"This is the one time in our church when we can get everybody together, crossing generations," Ms. Conover said.
For many of the projects, church members will be able to follow up throughout the year, extending the impact of Mission: Possible while addressing one of the congregation's main goals.
"We want to elevate the reputation of Christ and the church in the community," Rev. Janiszewski said.