Mission Team Trip 2017
On the evening of July 27, eighteen people from Friedens and three folks from Faith Lutheran loaded into two vans and a pickup truck pulling a trailer with our building supplies and luggage and headed to Richwood, West Virginia. This multi-generational group included teenagers to eighty somethings, and everyone was anxious to share the various gifts and skills that they have been blessed with. Thanks to our drivers, Doug Ream, Dan Halverson and Dave Pugh for getting us safely to our destination, despite the rain, fog, darkness and curvy roads.
When we arrived in Richwood, we soon discovered that God has not moved out of Richwood. Last summer on June 23, ten inches of rain fell in less than twelve hours, causing the river to overflow and flood low lying areas. Additionally, water rushed down the steep hills, and homes that were built on the sides of these hills were washed away. The small town was left with destruction, death, and heartache. The county declared a state of emergency. The high school and middle school were condemned, and many homes were destroyed.
At one point, Richwood was thriving in the coal and lumber business, and two gentlemen from the Holy Family Catholic Church (who graciously provided housing for us in a three-story building that was once a school and had a whopping 38 steps between the bathrooms on the ground level and our sleeping quarters on the 3rd floor!) shared lots of interesting stories about the “good times” in Richwood. One of these fellows even worked in the clothespin factory, which was the first and largest clothespin factory in the world.
Currently, 29% of the population of Richwood lives below the poverty line, and many struggle with unemployment and drug addiction. After the floods, many residents abandoned their already blighted properties and moved elsewhere. Our wonderful cooks, Barb Berkley and Nancy Shaffer, provided food to a homeless woman who came inside the building where we were staying and was looking for something to eat. She lives in a van parked in the church parking lot. By the way, if you want some really, really good meatloaf, talk to these two talented cooks!
The Mission Team divided into groups each of the two days and did service projects for the people of Richwood, including sanding and painting the ceiling and walls of a church basement, putting railing and spindles on a ramp and deck, insulating and other construction work in a very small house constructed for a gentleman who has been living in a camping trailer that has been taken over by mold since the flooding. The group also did drywalling, sanding and painting in the brand new concession stand at the town’s sport complex, which is something the town is very proud of and gives them a sense of returning to normalcy. Additionally, members of the Mission Team cleaned and washed dishes for a lady who has multiple health problems, while another group did babysitting, flooring, cleaning and other household tasks for a fifty something great-grandma who recently lost her husband, and whose house was overpopulated with family members who came to stay with her after the floods. We also shared leftover meals with some of the families we worked with and delivered food to some of the homes in the neighborhood of the church. We left all of our unused food items at the church to help fill the depleted shelves of their food pantry. Thanks goes out to Rick Barron for sharing his tools and also for going from site to site to assist each group with construction questions.
Mallory Bowser did an excellent blog covering each day of the trip. If you haven’t already done so, check it out at flcmissionteam.wordpress.com. Also, plan to come at 9:15 a.m. on September 17 to watch a slide show and hear personal stories of “God sightings” from people on the Mission Team. And stay tuned… there may be another mini trip to West Virginia this fall.
It was a real blessing working together to spread God’s love to those with very little hope. It was also very valuable creating new friendships with people from our own congregation. The devotion time each evening gave us the opportunity to share, pray, sing, and laugh together.
Because of the ongoing support of the people of Friedens, through gifts to the Community Ministry Center Fund, as well as providing food items for our various fundraisers, we were able to make generous monetary donations to Holy Family Catholic Church and the West Virginia Methodist Conference led by Buck Edwards, our site coordinator. Grant money from Thrivent was used to cover the cost of our food.