West Virginia…. part 1
Restoration’s West Virginia team recently returned from five days in the mountain community of Philippi. Our group of 22 adults and 10 youth worked with Jeff and Lisa Sickler of Appalachian Community Care, doing various projects and, above all, building relationships. We’ve shared some of our best memories below (part 2 tomorrow!)
Looking back to our beginnings as a small group, I feel that Ali Burke and Timon Hazell did a wonderful favor by being transparent in sharing about themselves. I remember coming away realizing that we all have some cross to bear and we should “count it all joy” as it is all for our training and edification.
The missions trip itself was, in a word … wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of the 31 others in our group better. Jeff and Lisa Sickler were the ultimate host and hostess as they made us feel at home with comfortable accommodations and excellent farm-fresh cooking. Our Project Team #5 was nicknamed “the Creosote Cretins” by the Wallins, and for good reason: We cleared out the firebox for the outside campus boiler. The boiler was the largest one the manufacturer makes, and the boiler is used to pump hot water to about five separate buildings. The firebox was very dusty and dirty from flying ashes and soot. We wore masks, and when we cleared everything out of the firebox, we could see that the boiler had been over-fired and certain grates were melted and ruined. Jeff explained how this nuclear meltdown had happened and how he corrected it so that it wouldn’t happen again.
At this point, our group split into thirds. Susie, Evan and Carson Wallin cleaned the shop floor, worked on a house next door that is rented to a family of nine from Nigeria and helped harvest produce on the farm. Cathy Guiles and Kelly Shields did a beautiful job laying tile for a bathroom floor in another guest house. Mitch Wallin was a special blessing to me as he helped me focus on repairing the boiler.
At night, I slept well in the top bunk (don’t ask me why I chose a top bunk at my age) in the same large room as all of the other guys. One memorable event was waking up to Phil Burton’s signature pot o’ coffee. It was strong enough to stand my spoon up in it (j/k). It was so strong, I only took a half-cup at a time, but I liked it so well, I kept coming back for more. Another memorable event was a little girl sneaking up on me and clipping clothespins on my shirt without my knowing. I think I know who it was, and her initials are Helen Hanke. Another wild memory was playing Spoons at night in the community center. I feared for my life playing against Abigail (diving on the table to get the last spoon) and Laura Hassell (put under church discipline for saying she had four of a kind, but couldn’t prove it (j/k)).
David Hanke always gave great devotionals that were thought-provoking, and the small groups afterward resulted in some meaningful prayer times. The last night, I was in a group with a local couple name Rosie and Bill and also Ira (the beekeeper). Bill and Rosie had been married 50 years and blessed us all by what they shared about their prayer life and marriage. Ira and his wife brought food for our dinner each night and had been married 53 years.
The last memorable event was going to the service Sunday at the Ford Run Pentecostal Church. One of the teams had stained the church deck, and it looked real nice. The congregation was very appreciative and warm. They sang for us, and John Westbrook led us as we sang for them. Pastor Geneva made excellent points from Bible passages and called on the congregation so everyone participated. The two-hour service seemed like 15 minutes. Truly, West Virginia seemed to be “almost heaven’ as we tasted what it was like to serve and be served with God’s family.
With a grateful heart,