Hello Friends and Family!
Tomorrow marks a week since our return from West Virginia! I think it is safe to say that the trip met and exceeded our expectations. Each team member will have their own unique stories of things that touched them. I will try to highlight a few things in this letter, and please write or ask any of us in person if you want to hear more…
Thank you for praying for good community to be formed on our team. We had a great time together. In addition to collaborating together and serving one another on the worksites, we had so much fun at our community times of meals, daily debriefs, and unstructured evening hang out time.
The World Servants staff and volunteers who led us were wonderful. They did an excellent job of orienting us to the culture of Philippi, helping us understand some of the core motivating values of the area, and helping us see differences between “normal” for us and “normal” for rural Appalachia in light of those values. They were open to all of our questions, were side-by-side with us directing our work on the sites, and were continually serving and looking out for us. Please join me in thanking God for the staff and volunteers: Stephanie, Jeff and Lisa, Gail, Eddie, and Pattie.
One overarching theme was repeated to us over and over by our World Servants leaders. They wanted to be sure we understood that the people of Philippi and the surrounding areas were the most important part of our trip. Taking time to listen, share stories, and build bridges of relationships was our first priority. The actual work we did was important, they said, but not above the importance of building relationships. As you can imagine, this approach changed how we viewed the work, re-oriented our focus from tasks to relationships, and in the end helped us all experience the blessing of getting to know one another and the folks we went to West Virginia to serve.
We heard descriptions on the first night of what the three work projects would be. With a little information about the project sites, we self-divided based on the skills we brought to the table, our interests, and the needs we had in terms of young children. It is amazing to look back and see how God was completely in charge of how we divided up. The mix of each team–personalities, kid-needs, site-needs, connections with the families we served–was just what it needed to be.
The original structure of the Philippi Community Center was built in 1954. It burned and has been rebuilt, with several additions over the years. This building is where our entire team stayed, ate breakfast and dinner, and had all of our team meetings. The children had free run of the basketball court and the youth areas in the basement. Part of our team stayed there at the center to do work each day. Some of the projects they completed were power-washing and staining the outdoor pavilion, building bat-houses for the bats that were re-located away from the pavilion, painting outside doors, and general grounds keeping. As one team member said, “It was a joy to serve the World Servants staff by doing projects around the community center so that they could be free to do work with the people of Philippi.” The team who worked at the community center also connected with a community member named Chris, building that relationship and helping him with some work on his property nearby.
A second site was working with a family in order to make an existing structure into a livable home for them. The family was staying nearby at another house. Our team who went there did general cleanup, painting, flooring thru the entire structure, and roofing over the structure to stop some leaks and water damage. In addition, they spent countless hours listening, talking, hugging and playing with the family they served.
The third project was to make progress on the renovation of a local pastor’s home. The site was an hour from the community center, so a lot of the experience was in the travel to and from, with team members getting to know one another better in the car. The pastor and his family worked alongside the team to clean out and fill a dump-trailer with rubble that was produced when the original structure was gutted for renovation, finish the roof, seal the foundation of the house, tack insulation around the exterior so that it was ready for siding, lay insulation inside the house, hang drywall, and put up ceiling joists. The pastor’s three children played many games of kickball with the kids we brought to the worksite. Again, working side by side and building relationships with the family was the highlight of the time.
Thank you for praying for the community-wide Back to School Bash. We were able to come alongside another organization to host a pool party for the school-age kids of the community. We helped set up and grill food, ran games throughout the night, and hung out with the kids who came. At the end of the night every child took home a school backpack stuffed with school supplies. Thanks to all the donations we received, there were plenty of extra backpacks for other community-sponsored events throughout the area. I would venture to say that this was one of the highlights of the week for all our kids, getting to join in the pool fun and the games.
Thank you, also for praying for the 17 kids on our team. They had so much fun together, and built close bonds with one another. They each were involved in meaningful work every day at the worksites. Thank God for the patience of every adult on the team, willing to take longer for tasks for the sake of involving the kids.
The World Servants motto on the t-shirts we took home says, “Serving Changes Everything. Lead the Way.” Please continue to pray for each of us in our sphere of relating at home. Pray that we would apply the lessons of service we learned to our daily lives. Please also pray for God to continue to bless and further the good work that World Servants is doing in Philippi, WV.
If you are able, please join us at The Falls Church on the evening of Thursday, October 22, from 7-9 pm. Our team will have a chance to share stories and pictures for about 30 minutes. We will also hear from a few other short term teams during the evening. We’d love to see you there!
Thank you so much for your generous support and faithful prayers for us. I am confident that your prayers had everything to do with this trip being such a success. We look forward to connecting with each of you more personally and sharing our own favorite story of God’s faithfulness to us in West Virginia.
Laurel Hanke, for the team