Tuesday, July 23, 2013

wild & wonderful

On June 20th, our nation's 35th state celebrated its 150th birthday.  A month later, our 25-member team from Ohio arrived for a 1.5 day outreach to the community of Webster Springs.  If you do a search on my blog for "West Virginia," you can read about all of the trips we've taken as a church group.  Each experience has had similar themes, and the people have become sweetly familiar.

We shared the grounds of a 4-H camp for our lodging, and did our charity work at a nearby mission called Mountain Marketplace Mission.  The weather was hot and humid while we were there, and several of us had a fit of a time during the week leading up to the trip.  For me, it was unexplained stomach pain for two days.  I thought I might have food poisoning, but thankfully it subsided by the morning of our main service day.

My buddy (of the holy pierogis), Geri, let me borrow her extra fan (aka "the wind tunnel"), which was a lifesaver for me and my sleep.  I took the top mattress off of my bunk and replaced it with the fan facing down.  I had a delicious amount of cool air both nights we stayed, which kept the heat down, the noise out, and the bugs off of me.  I'm telling you, God is good at every turn.  

The mission we partnered with is operated by a darling couple named Gary & Lily Melton.  They are as cute as they come, and serious about their work.  You can read more about them and their home-turned-mission here.  Gary & Lily have always been kind to us, but we noticed their warmth seemed to run deeper this time around.  They spent time with us during our ministry, and even gave us a framed certificate of appreciation before we departed.

It was a treat that so many of the residents remembered us from visits past.  A common conversation I'd have with my facial recipients (after name introductions) included:

Me: Have you ever had a facial before?
Resident: Yes, once.. from you last year!

I'd often recognize them by face first, but some had to remind me.  It was a thrill for me when that exchange took place.  We are building a relationship with this community, which is what we've hoped for all along.  Our spa team alone gave 100 treatments in 8 hours!  Our group also provided construction work, hot meals, fresh produce, free beauty and hygiene products, warehouse sorting, cleaning, landscaping, and community outreach.  Each of our team members found their place and we worked in synergy. 

Ready to give facials and sweat for Jesus!

The dormitory is really coming along!  Our construction guys helped build a deck on the backside of the building during this trip.

I think our team cooked up over 600 hamburgers/hotdogs!

Our ladies cut A LOT of hair!  The water bottle is for scale.

Karen planted a memorial garden in front of the Mission 
(in the shape of a heart)!

A local grocer gives the Mission money for their cardboard, so we spent a couple hours breaking down boxes and delivering them to the store.

One of my favorite residents is named Karen.  I wrote about her in my blog post from last year, and am so happy she came back to see us. Last summer, she was in really bad shape.  She was disheveled and withdrawn, and her skin was literally falling off of her in some areas with open wounds taking up the majority of space on her arms.  I just had so much love for her back then, and am pleased to report that she is doing much better!  Over the past year, she used the vitamin E oil that I recommended and with fabulous results!  She now sports a sassy short hairdo and has a steadier gait.  She seemed far healthier than when we first met and greeted me with her signature down-turned smile.  Her eyes were bright and her hug was strong.  

I had another sweet interaction with a child named Morgan.  She was tiny with a big personality!  When I found out it was her birthday, I had everyone sing loudly to her.  She was so embarrassed.  I held her in my chair, so she couldn't get away, which made her giggle and squirm.  We had a special connection after that, and she gave me a big hug when the facial was over.          

Often the kids in this region are raised by grandparents, because their parents are in jail for drug-related crimes.  We met several families in this situation, so I made a point to ask about the part of their reality that isn't sad.  I heard about county fairs, bonfires, riding horses and four-wheelers, trips to the mall, cupcakes, and baby kittens.  I also got to pray with a young (very pregnant) gal named Alisha.  She and her boyfriend are welcoming their baby in to a challenging family dynamic without much support or income.  I got to feel the little girl move in her belly, and pray for her to know a life of love.  They've named their sweet one Abigail Leigh.

Aside from getting lost on West Virginia's winding country roads more than once, and one major thunderstorm disrupting power, everything came together for this trip.  I was blessed to be part of the leadership team and help see many turn their hearts towards service, and love on this community as a community.

I'm going to miss this mountain town and the people in it.  Next year, I might just buy a plane ticket and crash the party.

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