Reflections on West Virginia
Last week, an awesome team of 23 folks from Restoration went to Philippi, WV to volunteer with Appalachian Community CARE. We assisted two families and one church, and the projects included renovating two bedrooms, pouring footings for the foundation of a trailer, installing a French drain and building a storage shed. We also helped to host a cookout for people in the community and we attended two local churches on Sunday. And most importantly, we had lots of opportunities to spend time with friends in the community and encourage and learn from them.
Cathy Guiles, who was on the team, has collected some thoughts from some of the team members about the experience. Hope you enjoy them!
Imagine: All your earthly possessions going up in fire and smoke – in the middle of winter. Your car doesn’t start and you can’t drive to work, and you lose your job. A bad dream, nightmare? No, a true story for Nicky and Chuck. What to do to move forward, seeing all their hard work on their home was now blackened earth and shards of glass?
Nicky’s answer – “I went back to church and prayed.”
Chuck’s answer – “Searching the for-sale ads, we found a trailer! The seller had it moved, bulldozed the land and placed the trailer on level ground.”
Jeff Sickler’s (of Appalachian Community CARE) answer – “Have I got a team for you!”
Well, those weren’t his exact words, but we were the team who helped in the process of placing 12 footings for a “firm foundation” under the trailer and a French drain to keep it from sliding down the hillside.
A bonus of working with Nicky and Chuck: hearing their life stories … stories of hardships and victories (catching a 30-pound muskie, for one); tasting ripe, red watermelon; riding horses; mooing at the Angus cows; crowing with Salvador (the rooster); seeing the ingenuity of solving building problems; learning animal husbandry and sharing life with them. We have even been invited back!
Our team worked on the home of Dustin and Brittany. They are young — in their mid-20s — and have a 3-year-old son, Gabriel, and a newborn baby, Josiah. During our three days in Philippi, we restored a room in the trailer that had rotting carpet and an uncovered electrical box that was dangerous and holes in the floor where critters could get in. This new room will be Dustin’s and Brittany’s bedroom and allow the two boys to have their own room at the far end of the trailer.
Dustin shared that he was a security guard at the nearby. He is considering becoming a police officer, but had concerns about the training that would require him to spend three months away from his family. I asked him the usual questions I would ask if a friend of mine was trying to make a job decision: How much money would you make? What are the benefits? Would there be opportunities to move up the ladder and eventually make more money and learn new skills? Dustin replied, “Man, I don’t care about any of that stuff. When I was a kid, we were dirt poor. I had two T-shirts and one pair of jeans. We took a bath once a week. We ate pancakes three times a day, seven days a week because they were cheap and easy to make. Now, I’ve got more T-shirts than I can count and I haven’t had a pancake in years. This trailer is a mansion compared to what I had as a kid.”
Since our return to D.C., I have prayed several times to be more like Dustin. He is a devoted husband and a loving father. He has his priorities straight and works hard. He sees his parents and other siblings several times each week. He is thankful for all that he has. At one point, we asked Dustin how we could pray for him. He replied, “I don’t even know what to say. I have a great wife and two healthy boys. I feel so blessed already.”
On Sunday at Ford’s Run Church in Philippi, Pastor Geneva spoke about the trials and tribulations that Nehemiah faced as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, and how his faith carried him through. Like Nehemiah, although perhaps to a lesser degree, the Restoration group at Ford’s Run faced many challenges when building the new shed for them: running out of wood and screws at inopportune moments, conflicting directions from our site managers and rework that needed to be done, broiling heat and sun, gnats and mosquitoes, muddy bogs and holes, the tempting lure of “prayer conditioning” and soda inside the church, and sudden downpours. And yet, we retained our faith that we would (mostly) finish our shed, and that it will be used to build God’s kingdom.
In hindsight, I loved that service, when we were called up to the front to sing and play. Although Ian had warned us this might happen, I guess I was in denial. We were all terrified at first but quickly warmed up. John Westbrook played “Prince of Peace” on his guitar (accompanied on the piano by Anna), while Sam, Molly, Julie and I sang along. We gathered our courage from the strength in our numbers and grew more confident that we were pleasing God (if not the congregation) with our voices and our hearts (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — Philippians 4:13). We must not have been too bad — they asked for a second song!
On our last day of work, I was at Dustin’s home, painting a bedroom with him, Anna and Molly. I told the girls that one of my favorite Bible passages is Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I was hoping Dustin would take that to heart, but I realized that I needed to hear those verses again too. Just in case I didn’t get the message the first time, later at the picnic, Clay told me, “Don’t worry too much about it, Cathy” when I asked him how to take videos of the games. Both instances were like God hitting me square between the eyes with one of the furring strips I’d been helping hang on Dustin and Brittany’s ceilings all week.
Speaking of Bibles, I was reminded of something our West Virginia small group discussed: that Jesus addressed people’s physical as well as spiritual needs, so we should do the same. I wasn’t sure if Dustin had a Bible, so I gave him the travel-sized one I had brought with me, and he was very grateful.
This was Year No. 2 for me. Peggy and I took some time on Friday to visit Roy (aka PeeWee) whose home we put siding on last year. And while his house looked great (unbiased opinion), I think he was more thrilled to have us come visit him this year than he was with the siding. He had had a very rough year (almost died from lung complications), but he looked great. Matter of fact, he even looked healthier than the last time we saw him. Peggy and I invited PeeWee to join us for the community picnic at the Sicklers’ farm on Saturday night. He was so determined to come that he told his unexpected, out-of-town guests that he had a very important engagement so he couldn’t have dinner with them. So while the projects are important, it really is the relationships that carry currency. I have his address now and plan to send him cards and notes.
Thanks, everyone. It has been a pleasure to serve Restoration and Philippi in this way. If you haven’t ever been on the trip before, you should definitely consider it for 2014!
Here’s a quick video that will give you another view of our experience. Enjoy!
July 11, 2013 @ 6:38 pm
Amen…if you are called, you should go to wild and wonderful West Virginia, specifically Chestnut Ridge in Philippi. Get a whole new perspective on giving and receiving.