helping on the homefront

Over the summer, members of the Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church showed that you don’t have to jump on a plane to a far-off land to take a mission trip. From July 15 to July 22, volunteers stepped out of the pews and into the South Hills as part of the church’s Mission:Possible program, a weeklong service-oriented “mission” that aims to help the needy right here in the South Hills. “In the last five years, we’ve decided there’s just as much need in the area around our church as there is around the world,” says Noelle Conover, Mission:Possible coordinator. “We’ve chosen to do it in our backyard. We’d like to be able to provide for our community.”

Volunteers participated in 26 different projects over the course of the week. Mission:Possible ran a blood drive, organized a choir to sing at nursing homes, collected food and provided breakfast for a food pantry in Brookline, collected backpacks and school supplies for donation and repaired local homes, among other projects. The United Presbyterian Church in Brookline partnered with Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian for the program.

Approximately 300 people ranging in ages from 5 to 90 years old participated in Mission:Possible, now in its fifth year. The program has grown substantially from its first occurrence, and the church anticipates that the trend will continue. “This was our best year ever. We reached more people than ever before,” says Conover. The first time, we did 10 projects, and this year we did 26.”

The congregation opened their program to the community as well: The church hosted a picnic on Tuesday, July 17, that was free to the public. A bounce house, ice cream, face-painting, the church’s band and other activities drew a crowd — approximately 370 people attended. On Thursday, July 19, Christian singer-songwriter Shawn McDonald rewarded volunteers with a musical performance. Past musical guests for Mission:Possible include the Del McCoury Band and Grammy-winning guitarist Phil Keaggy.

“[Mission:Possible] is our way of answering the question, ‘If our church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone miss us?’” says Conover. “It’s very rewarding… and a wonderful program.”