Published: March 27th 2012March 27th 2012
Starting the Week Off.
The whole group with Father Beiting after our "orientation" of the Mission Cente.r
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Ghandi
It's been a week since I got back from my mission trip to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky. I can't believe it. What a week it was, to submerge myself into a whole new world, even though I was in the United States. This was FOCUS's first mission to Appalachia, so our group kind was kind of guinea pigs with a new place and mission. We were blessed to work with the Father Beiting Appalachia Mission Center in Louisa. The mission center is a place that works with some of the poorest people, who have always relyed on farming, coal mining, and logging. They give volunteers the experience to do hands-on projects often side by side with Appalachian residences who are very grateful.
Father Beiting has been a priest for 63 years, and 62 of those has been in the Eastern Kentucky area. He is 88-years-old and still works like he is 21. He has a huge heart, and I was blessed to spend time with him and get to know him. As a background, the state
Use those muscles!
Team Awesome, with Father Beiting's help, taking off the old wood from the side of the Beauty Thrift Store.
of Kentucky is 10 percent Catholic, and the Diocese of Lexington is 25 years old, so we were working with in a very young diocese. There are two counties in Louisa, Lawrence and Martin, the largest one having 800 people in it. Father has four different parishes in those two counties and the main one is St. Jude's parish, with 80 members. In 2005, Fr. Beiting had the idea to start the mission center, and it has now been open for the past three years. If Father leaves, the new priest does not have to continue outreach which might end up being bad because so many people depend on the mission center. As far as growth plans, the mission center hopes to have satelite units in both counties. The biggest thing, however, is that they need more longterm volunteers, where they are hoping to have communal living where people can discern and where they can help build a good process. The mission center "headquarters" has a building, offices, a warehouse where all major donations come in through, as well as two other warehouses/thrift stores in Inez and Louisa. The area where they are is a very God-centered and there is
We aren't in Kansas anymore.
Tornado damage. Part of it at least.
one percent of Catholics in these cities. Many people who work and volunteer for the mission center ask themselves, "What can we do for the people aside from home repairs?" They usually have $300/house budget to use towards what is the most important, being a new floor, air conditioning, sheet rock, etc. The Mission Center also has provided a place called Point of Hope, a one-year long recovery center that provides apartment homes, counseling, teaching on life skills, and gives people the opportunity to start new and fresh.
Our trip had four missionaries (myself included) and ten students from across the United States. We were blessed from the very beginning to get along so well... we became a little family. *YIP YIP* (That was our calling to each other when we were excited or needed something.) Each missionary was in charge of a different project/group of students for the week. My group (we called ourselves TEAM AWESOME) was me, Jersey Mike from Montclair University and "Minnesota" Amy from North Dakota State. We mainly worked alongside Father Beiting himself and did some things for the thrift stores and apartment homes where people would move into. Monday, while Amy and Mike
St. Stephen of Hungary, Pray for us!
This is where our group stayed for the week we were in Kentucky. The top part is the volunteer quarters and the bottom is the thrift store in Inez.
took off warped wood siding from the outside of the Beauty thrift store, I got to drive Father Beiting around in this 1990's big, white 15-passenger van. There were no seats in the back and it was just Father and I. I learned a lot about him, however, and how his heart is huge for their mission, helping others, and how he has always had a solid, faithful background. I also felt really "mom-ish" driving him and his horse and buggy walker. :) On Tuesday, we installed some styrophoam and wood panels in one of the apartments to soundproof it from the next door neighbor. To make a long story short, we measured some walls and panels about ten times and we still were off by an inch. When Father showed up un-announced, he asked what was wrong and we told him. His response was, "That's why you need to measure 11 times." On Wednesday, we had just a half day. One of the projects we were supposed to do got cancelled, so we just finished our wall installations and then went on a nice walk through town and stopped at the Dairy Inn for one of the best milkshakes
Taking a break for a milkshake always makes a hot day better!
I have ever had in my entire life. Not kidding. Thursday, it rained, so we installed sheetrock in the ceiling at the Beauty thrift store. The main person who works there, Debbie, is the sweetest lady ever. She is a huge Kentucky basketball fan and when I told her that I was a big KU fan, she said, "Well hopefully we don't play each other so I can still like you." Almost all the other groups came to join us at the thrift store and to help us install, which was really fun. On Friday, we went back to the thrift store and dug some new holes for the sign that people kept knocking over with their cars. The sign was for the thrift store and food pantry, which feeds about 60 families every month. As we were leaving, Debbie definitely shed some tears because she had never met as many kind and caring people as us, and although she and her family lead a very successful life, she asked us to pray for those who aren't as lucky. After we were done at the thrift store, we headed towards the other groups who were cleaning up tornado damage and
Gospel singing on Wednesdays is the place to be! Free admission!
debris from the recent tornado three weeks ago. This tornado made a huge impact on most of us. You see, I am from Kansas and we have lots of tornado activity all the time, however, I have never seen tornado damage like this. A few houses in this one area were just completely gone. The debris, installation, and memories of people's lives were all over the trees, grass, and dirt. It was a blessing to be there and to work alongside everyone on the mission trip, as we didn't really get to all work together.
Each night after our jobs, we made dinner, had holy hour, a talk that each missionary did and then fellowship/fun. Pat, missionary at Montclair, gave his testimony and talked about letting go and being open. Theresa, missionary at Colorado School of Mines, talked about planned parenthood and abortion. Andy, missionary at Bradley University, talked about Mary and we had an amazing discussion as a group about her! I talked about poverty one night, which led a beautiful segway into our last night after we cleaned up the tornado. The little things we did, too, were so much fun, and it was beautiful to see each
How many people does it take to put up sheet rock?
Installing sheet rock into the ceiling at the Beauty thrift store. The store used to be a popular gas station/restaurant at one time.
student work as hard as they could and get out of their comfort zones. I still have a lot to process about the trip, but I know that regardless, I was meant to go on it to learn something. I have learned to not take life for granted. I am blessed to be able to get a good education, to have family and friends who support me, and to have an amazing work and faith community who can help bring me back up when I am falling. The material things are just material things, but it is the faith and spiritual things that I think matter most. Oh, how I truly need to rely on our Lord in times of hardship and ask Him and His mama, Mary, to intercede for me and show me to be a better person.
As a side note, and to end this, the BEST part of the week was when we all went to listen to this group of 70+ year-olds who play guitar, banjo, and sing all country gospel songs. They have done this every Wednesday for the past ten years or so. They usually have a big crowd that comes to
Where's your sign?
A group pic, with mud on our faces, as we proudly show off our hard work.
listen, and what a beautiful way it was to experience the community down there!
Thank you, all, for reading this long entry, however, I owed you one like a month ago. Also, please continue to pray for FOCUS as we look to hire more missionaries and work to expand to new campuses next year. We have two more interview weekends left in April, and I am excited to see where the Lord takes us. Your support means so much to me! :)
Until next time,
There are more photos below