Written by Audrey Moore
How did the West Virginia Mission Trip draw me closer to Jesus? Well, I knew from the beginning that using a hammer or drill wasn’t exactly where I had any real strengths. I had NO idea how to go about building a porch or anything for that matter. I was a little anxious about starting something new. “Will I look stupid or unqualified? Can I catch on quickly?” I also knew from the beginning that people were and are my passion. I love nothing more than learning about people and hearing their stories. When I heard that children lived on one of the work sites, I secretly wished that that was where I would get placed…and I did.
The dance of meeting someone is always fascinating to me. Both parties test the waters and want to know one thing, “Can I trust this person?” It takes time to develop such trust. And it’s especially hard to develop relationships knowing that a time will come when both people have to say goodbye. Each day that passed, I was picturing the idea of flowers in bloom. Personalities come out fully when trust is established and things become more beautiful, more real, and more raw. My way to avoid that uncomfortable feeling was to work on the porch.
The first day, I gained confidence over some power tools. But, that was in NO way the REASON that I was there. The next day, I did some porch work, but less than before and with help from my new found friends the Martin children. The third day, the porch work was only in the back of my mind as the relationships I was forming became more glaringly important.
I found Jesus saying to me, “Isn’t that the way that anything has meaning—through relationships?” One of my professors used to say that the three things necessary for growth in counseling were, “Relationship. Relationship. Relationship.” The same is true for serving. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I wanted those children to feel valued, included, nurtured, and loved. During those few days it was what I wanted more than anything else.
Just as my spirit predicted would happen, being intentionally relational made for a painful separation on Thursday. As my family took our car away from the lot, I saw sweet Corey wave her hands for us to stop. Those big blues eyes with her freckles and curly strawberry blonde hair came to my window with a look of both hope and sadness.
She handed me a tiny tin box with princesses on it. It had been used as a tin to carry puzzle pieces but they were not there, but that didn’t matter. We both said we loved each other and as we drove off I wept. I had loved and it hurt. The Healer and Comforter whom I know and love would always be with those children too and I was merely a privileged vessel to have lived with those precious faces in their world. The same One who loves me fiercely at my worst and best was there before I showed up and I’m resting in that.
Henri Nouwen sums this up best: "Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving… if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking."
In only 1 week, the mission team of 19 people from Forest Hills was able to start and finish 4 projects for people in need in Cabin Creek, WV! Below are descriptions and pictures from each of those projects.
Project #1 - Connie's New Porch
Written by Mary Alice Ferguson
On the first day of work our, group split into 2 teams. One of those teams worked on a porch at home of a grandmother, Connie, and her five grandchildren.
The original porch was demolished. New posts were placed and the framing took shape. New planks were installed. Nancy, Sue, and Marilyn checked that each post was plumb and level before securing it into place. Ron, Marilyn, and Jim tackled many heavy loads together. Lucy mastered the use of the table saw. Audrey and Liza were a joy as they worked with everyone. I found my niche as the remover of scrap and trash. Our supervisor, Tim, explained and trained all of us on the proper use of the electrical equipment. Sue securely screwed each board in place. This site was alive with activity. The music of a family cockatoo blended with the chatter of the children and family dogs.
The children were wonderful, despite very poor living conditions. Buddy/Roy wanted to help with everything. When he was behaving he was called Buddy, but when naughty he was addressed as Roy. Emily, Courtney, and Corey were beautiful young girls that helped their grandmother. Audrey and Liza became mentors and friends to the children. They created a "school spot" in the shade of a tree where reading, numbers, conversation, and talks of Jesus became an important part of our mission. The family dogs were held and petted. Soon the children brought fingernail polish outside and several of us got our nails painted.
On the porch, the finished steps and handrails stood sturdy and strong. Goodbye and tears were exchanged as we left a completed project. Prayers for each child filled our hearts. The children built a wooden cross with a single red flower for us to take back to FHPC.
Project #2 - Nadine's New Roof
Written by Bradley Long
When I first heard we were doing a roof again this year I have to admit that I was a little worried. Last year we had done a roof that took the whole week and was quite challenging (I had to throw away a tar-covered pair of jeans when I got home!)
Thankfully this year's roof, for a lovely lady named Nadine, was much easier! We worked to install a bright red metal roof over the shingles, many of which had become worn. Despite some occasional banter and disagreement about how to proceed (there were 2 pastors in this group - myself and Bob Button!), we were able to finish the project in two days.
Nadine was very thankful and also very gracious. On the first day, she brought out an almost empty bag of Milky Ways to offer to us only to exclaim, "My goodness! I didn't realize there were so many of you!" Nadine shared with us about her work as treasurer at the church she attends. She also is a collector of dolls and insisted that any of us who had young girls in our families take a doll home with us.
This project was a true blessing to those of us who worked on it, especially because we could see Jesus in our new friend Nadine.
Project #3 - Goldie's New Deck
Written by Bradley Long and Marcy Heffinger
Goldie is a lady who lives by herself in a small trailer that is just off a busy road that sees non-stop trucks hauling coal on it every day. Her back deck was in severe disrepair and we were able to replace it over the span of 2 days. First, we dismantled the old deck and then set about building the new one under the direction of our site supervisors Art and Tyler.
What was so special about this deck was the way the youth took the lead in the work we were doing and saw the project through to the end. Their confidence shown through, using the skills they had learned all week, so much so that no one gave a second thought to Emilee using a miter saw or any of the boys measuring and leveling the railing. Jim continued his roof routine by sealing Goldie's roof from a ladder.
Both of us (Bradley and Marcy) feel so blessed to have seen God changing lives, especially the lives of our young people, through the service we did.
Project #4 - Silvia's New Deck
Written by Sue Lyford
This mission trip was a great experience for me as I have never been on one of this nature before.
My second project with my team was to help fix a deck/porch that was already built but needed some extra support and stability. This deck was for a woman by the name of Silvia who had the most beautiful view of the mountains from every side of her property. Although her trailer looked as if it had been around for quite a while you could tell that she cared about it. Her yard was well kept with flowers growing in pots around her home. Silvia was a very sweet woman, soft spoken, and quiet. She came out to talk to us when we were finished with the project. She praised us for the work we had done and looked very pleased with the way it turned out. She gave Audrey, Liza and I a hug before leaving her to enjoy her new improved porch. I cannot remember her exact words but she did express what a blessing our coming had been to her.
Although it had been our last day of work and we were all feeling a little weary and wanting to be through for the day we were blessed to have extra hands come to help us finish the project that day! It felt really good to be able to go on this mission trip and be a part of a great group of people helping others no matter what shape or form our help took. In the end we all received a little extra support and stability so to speak (emotionally, spiritually, and physically) by interacting with new people as well as those we already knew!
Written by Lucy Moore
Scraps of wood
A screaming grandma
Wandering friendly dogs
A woman sharing her treasures
Sleeping on couches
Cabinets filled with china and punch cups
Rusty mining shafts
Fluffy cats in cars
The whirring of saws
The face of Christ
Kids climbing trees
Singing Happy Birthday
Children eager to love and learn
Tall mountains lush with trees and wildlife
Dirty dusty skin
A hot soothing shower
Squawking pet birds
Empty flower pots
Clear blue sky
A stolen jacket
Creased blue jeans
Speeding trucks filled with coal
A teenager staring downward
The smell of waste and decay
The shout of a train whistle
A winding mountain descent
Dusty punch bowls
Cheap paper plates
Filling slower pots
Written by Mary Alice Ferguson
The mission trip to Montgomery, West Virginia began as the Forest Hills Presbyterian Church members met in the parking lot for a 2 pm departure. Bedrolls, crockpots, work boots, hammers, tape measure, and shampoo were loaded into cars. West Virginia mountains welcomed us with green mountains flowing streams and CSX coal cars. Our church destination had a chapel with blue stained glass windows and vaulted wooden ceilings.
We, however, moved into the upper level of the church that provided two bedrooms, two showers, two bathrooms, and a communal gathering room. The basement area had a large kitchen and dining area. Quickly, Lucy and Marcy organized the kitchen and delicious aromas filled the basement. Each day a gourmet meal greeted the hungry workers. The coffee was so delicious that we could have put Starbucks out of business. All the FHPC members helped to keep the kitchen and eating areas clean and functional.
After two days the women's bedroom of 8 bunk beds looked like a refugee camp. Towels, shoes, clothes, and hammers were an organized chaos that looked homey and welcoming. On Monday the groups divided so that we could work at two sites. One group went to complete a red metal roof of a lovely woman's home. The second group arrived at the home of a grandmother and five grandchildren.
Each evening we sang as Jim and Bradley played on the guitar. A bible selection was read and discussion followed. Our blessings and bummers (a chance for each member of the mission team to share something difficult and something great!) finished the day. Many of the group played games while others climbed into their sleeping bags.
At the end of the week we had completed reinforcing a trailer's porch, two new porches, a red metal roof, and tarred the roof of a mobile home.
On the last day each of us cleaned our hosts church and packed for the return trip to Martinsville. It was a wonderful experience and we were all drawn together by the fellowship of helping others and feeling that we were truly serving Jesus as we did!