by Missions Team on August 02, 2022
Appalachia Mission Trip, Jolo, West Virginia
(18-25 June, 2022)
Sometime late last year I received an invitation to join a mission team to Appalachia that would take place in June 2022. Several things in the invite caught my eye and piqued my interest. First, Rob Saucerman would be the Team Leader. I know and have a lot of respect for Rob, and I would probably learn a lot from working with him. Second, Appalachia has always been an area of note in the back of my mind. I am a long time supporter of World Vision. From my interactions with World Vision, I know that their only active outreach inside the United States is in Appalachia. So I’ve always considered that area a place of great need. Third, I love our Missions office here at Timberline Church, and I try to give them a hand whenever I can. Finally, and most importantly, a chance for me to go on a mission trip is a chance for me to put feet to my faith and show the Lord by my action the deep gratitude I have for all that He has done for me!
Six months of preparation gave the team plenty of time to meet and get to know each other. This trip was to be a joint effort between Timberline Church, the Family Worship Center church in Appalachia, and the Convoy of Hope ministry that was already operating in the area. Convoy of Hope proved to be a great resource in preparing for the trip. The team would be fairly small, only six people from Timberline going, but ultimately that would result in a more tightly knit group and allowed us to get to know each other better. A few weeks before the trip I started to question myself: “Can I still do this?” “What if they have some equipment I know nothing about?” It always seemed to happen. It would have been easy to let the “opposition” talk me out of going, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I renewed my purpose in my heart: I would do this trip, stepping out in faith, trusting in Divine Providence, for God always comes through!
The purpose of the trip was to come alongside the local church, the Family Worship Center, and assist in its outreach of encouragement, equipping, and empowering the local community. To accomplish this, the local church with the aid of visiting mission teams is currently building housing for widows. In addition, the church reaches out to help with local individual needs such as: building wheelchair ramps for the elderly, assisting with critical repairs to homes, food pantry, clothing distribution, periodic medical screening, and GED and literacy classes.
The Need – Why Appalachia?
In the late 1950s, coal was at its peak in the energy market. Since that time, coal jobs have steadily declined resulting in the following impact:
- Over 90 percent of the population have left the area
- Of the people remaining, 50 percent are unemployed
- Of those employed, 35 percent earn income below the poverty line
- $21,000 is the median income for the area (national average is $60,000)
- Teen pregnancy is three times the national average
- 25 percent of the children live below the poverty line
- 50 percent of the children of single moms live below the poverty line
- Most housing is in very poor rundown condition; many houses are vacant, falling down, burned out
- Most people we met are older, retired, and probably cannot afford to relocate
Shortly after our arrival, we met the pastor of Family Worship Center, pastor Charlie Rose, a very engaging, friendly man with much experience in the area and a real heart for the people of the community. Our mission would be to finish the flooring in one of the widow’s cottages. There also needed to be some electrical work completed in the nursery in the church. So, I was glad to hear that I would be able to help with some electrical issues. I don’t know much about flooring (whew!) In walking through the nursery project, pastor Charlie wanted new lighting installed in the ceiling and two way switching installed so that the lights could be operated from either of the room’s entrances. One of the team members was a young man of 12 years who had come on the trip with his parents. He was assigned to help me with the electrical work; his name was “CJ”. As it turned out, CJ was a big help, and he learned quickly how to cut through drywall. Much of our mission on this project was to find out where the old wiring went and then make it work the way pastor Charlie requested. Figuring out the old wiring was a bit of a challenge. Each new section of drywall we removed from the ceiling seemed to be a new revelation from on high (pun intended), revealing work that had been done in years past. Though my electrical experience is industrial, not residential, the electrons don’t know the difference and they all act the same way. Thus my industrial experience crosses over to residential application without too much excitement. I was trained in Aviation Electronics, worked my career in industrial automation systems, and now most of my volunteering is residential work. The goodness of the Lord has taught me to be flexible and adaptable in all things electrical.
At the end of the job, I am exceedingly thankful and grateful to not only have had the opportunity to help those in need, but also to find out that I am still mentally capable and physically able to accomplish the task. I have found that being idle breeds self-doubt and I lose confidence in my abilities. I am indeed blessed by my heavenly Father. I cannot sit on my blessings; I must share it.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”