Most faiths recognize the importance of saving lives. Houses of worship will emphasize that today through Sunday as they observe National Donor Sabbath Weekend.
Clergy in Blair County will be talking to their congregations about the importance of adding the donor designation to their driver's license, learner's permit or state identification card.
Lew Button, pastor of Martinsburg Church of God, will show a video Sunday about Jason Ray, a mascot for the University of North Carolina basketball team who was killed in an automobile accident. He said about 50 people benefited from Ray's organs and tissues, including his heart, kidneys and corneas.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Sharon Johnson of Altoona and the Rev. Paul Johnson, volunteers with CORE, chat at?Eighteenth Street Community Church. Sharon’s deceased husband, Robert, and the Rev. Johnson were brothers and recipients of kidneys. Robert also became a donor after his death.
Button is a member of the CORE clergy team that has been encouraging pastors to get the word out on saving lives through organ donations.
CORE or the Center for Organ Recovery and Education is the call center and intermediary for the organ recovery and allocation process in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York.
Button said most people are for organ donation but are reluctant to add it to their licenses because of fears of the process.
"They think, 'will they keep me alive just to get my organs or will they let me die just to get my organs,'" he said. "It is not a medical issue, it is a personal one."
Button, who is writing a paper for his denomination on taking a position on organ donation, said two portions of Scriptures come to mind concerning organ donation.
He said in Genesis, Adam donated a rib so Eve could be created and the Gospel of John talks about Christian love and laying down one's life for a brother.
A pastor who has experienced that love firsthand is the Rev. Paul Johnson, pastor of Eighteenth Street Community Church. Johnson has had two kidney transplants, the second one donated by his niece, Angela Hogans Rennick of Columbus, Ohio.
"Without telling me, she went to Pittsburgh and had all the necessary testing. She was a perfect match for me. On April 25, 2005, she became a living donor for me. She is my hero," he said.
Johnson, who suffers from a hereditary kidney disease, received his first kidney in 1984 from a fireman in Pittsburgh who was killed in an accident.
Johnson said the kidney was expected to last three years, but it lasted 20 years.
Before that, he was on dialysis for two years.
"The transplant was critical because my veins and arteries were breaking down from the dialysis," he said.
Johnson is not the only one in his family that has suffered from kidney disease. His father and two brothers, all deceased, also had it.
His brother, Robert, was given a kidney, too, but died Nov. 2, 2002, from a heart attack.
His widow, Sharon, remembers the difficult days before his transplant. She said when Robert was on dialysis, he would have body cramps and during treatment, he would get cold or hot.
The kidney transplant gave him five more years of life.
She said he liked auto racing and would go to different tracks and announce the races.
"He also did a lot of camping, fishing. He was an outdoors person," she said.
And when he died, he gave quality of life to others.
Sharon Johnson said her husband's skin, bones, cartilage, bone marrow, vessels, tendons and tissue benefited people in need.
She said Robert had been given life, and he wanted to give back to someone else.
The Rev. Paul Johnson and Sharon Johnson are volunteers for CORE, and the Rev. Johnson served on the Governor's Commission for Organ Donation and Education for six years.
He said the major religions in the United States support organ donations and individuals who have concerns should talk to their spiritual leader and learn about what it involves.
To become an organ donor, visit www.donatelife-pa.org.