A condolence card led to the founding of Caring Christians Ministry at Latrobe Presbyterian Church in April 2008.
This is an outreach to offer kind words and support, and 14 years later, countless cards have been sent to members of the congregation in recognition of births, baptisms and milestone birthdays and anniversaries, and to show compassion during illness, loss and other difficult times in life.
“Sending cards for the hard times and the good times seemed like a nudge from the Lord,” said Nancy McKinnon of Unity Township, one of the ministry’s founders.
Evangelism is based on Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”
The idea was conceived after her husband Ed received a condolence card when his mother passed away. Since he was from Nevada, few people in the area knew of his loss. But a card came from Katherine Allison, who had been very active in the church in her youth. Due to her age and health problems, she no longer went to church very often.
When the couple visited her after her death, they told her son Rob how much this card meant to them. She sent it even though she didn’t know Ed McKinnon.
The son said she loved sending cards, and that’s about all she could do for the church family in her later years.
The next day, Ed McKinnon asked his wife, “What if there was a ministry in the church that just sent cards? This would be a great way for older members to get involved again.
Nancy McKinnon, Deacon Moderator at the time, brought the idea to the Deacon Board. They were not only responsive but also allocated money for supplies. She put the ad in the bulletin and the monthly bulletin, and prayed that people would respond.
The ministry was launched two weeks later. The original members included a woman in her 90s, a World War II veteran, a retired New York police officer, a widow, and the pastor’s mother at the time.
Four of the original members are still active. In addition to McKinnon, this also includes Kay Herb, Fran Kerr and Billie Stevenson.
Many of the original members were elderly and welcomed the ministry as something they could do from home. Three of them are now 94, 96 and 99 years old. Later members were more of a mix of the congregation.
Others have also helped in other ways. Some donated money for cards and an anonymous person stepped in to buy stamps. McKinnon found inexpensive Christian greeting cards online and ordered them in bulk. They all have uplifting messages and Bible verses.
“Sometimes we also have blank cards, and they work for people who want to write the messages themselves,” she said. “Some people also send cards electronically if recipients share their emails.”
McKinnon wrote an article about Caring Christians Ministry magazine for Guideposts in 2017. The inspirational post has national circulation and the article has garnered a response from several people across the country. Packets and boxes of cards came from California and the Midwest.
“A man from the Poconos wanted to start a caring Christian ministry in his church,” McKinnon said. “Another woman from Jessup, Georgia wanted to start one as well, and we stopped by to meet her on our way to Florida. It’s amazing what came out of this story in Guideposts, and it was a way of reaching out that I hadn’t expected.
Ministry members do more than send cards. McKinnon sends them a weekly announcement informing them of current needs. Everyone is asked to pray for the people on the list, and it’s up to the members if they want to send cards too.
“I ask members to please pray for all of them and send cards as the Holy Spirit leads them,” she said.
McKinnon’s weekly communications also keep members informed of illnesses or other needs they have already met.
“I wouldn’t want to bombard someone with these cards and then disappear if their spell continues,” she said. “So I want to use common sense to know when to send more cards, and I’m praying about it, asking the Lord to show me what to do.”
McKinnon is retired from the Ligonier Valley School District where she taught German, French, English and journalism.