LittleD, BabyD and I ventured out with a group of girls who attend their middle school and five other grownups for a week of service to the people who live in one of the nation's poorest counties.
I have much to say about what we did and saw.
The girls may add their 2 cents along the way.
But, having survived my first mission trip, I must say I have a new appreciation for how blessed my life really is.
Lots of Work To Be Done
Our hosts had quite a few work projects lined up before we arrived. A couple fell through for various reasons, so we just shifted our efforts to what we could do. Here's a look at how our To Do List ended up for the week:
- Slather 20 gallons of white wall primer on interior concrete block walls of a newly constructed church
- Paint said classroom and office walls, brown, green, blue and peach
- Construct wooden steps for a tired, but still in-use, house trailer perched on the side of a hill (that had a leaking septic system in the vicinity of the front door)
- Clear nails, glass, metal and debris from the approach to a deck and stairs that remained from a trailer that had been burned out, so they could be moved to another site
- Help organize and clean out a rather large warehouse filled with donated construction supplies, paint and tools
- Haul, sort and hang donated clothing for a second-hand shop that supplies low-cost linens and clothes to those in need in the area
- Clear branches and trash from a rec center grounds
- Help an elderly woman by fixing her doors and windows that would not close properly
- Attempt to (and ultimately give up on) restore the walls of a house trailer that was trashed by a woman's drug-addicted husband who was angered by their divorce, leaving her homeless
The list of things we could've done was much, much longer.
Honestly, I'm not sure there will ever be an end.
We were working in Lee County, KY, where the average annual household income is less than $23,000, and unemployment is higher than 12 percent. While the county did boast a country club (believe it or not), the poor visible condition of so many of the homes in the area was sad. I'm not talking about minor, cosmetic issues. I'm referring to the small houses and trailers with cardboard stapled over the broken-out windows. Or mobile homes with siding and insulation falling off the structures.
I couldn't help but wonder how these folks manage to stay warm and dry--especially when the temps dipped into the upper 20s overnight, like it did during out week there. Even the daytime highs in the mid-40s were no match for the cold drizzle that fell nearly all week long, leaving us all chilled to the bone after working outside. That led to Revelation #1:
Heat: It's a Wonderful Thing
Our living accommodations for the week were very basic. We stayed in small cabins that are part of a summer camp facility that is rarely used outside of the June-September busy season. Needless to say, the tiny wooden cabins were not insulated or heated. We brought small electric heaters to run during the night, hoping to counteract the draft coming in from the small air conditioning unit in the wall (that is undoubtedly appreciated in August!).
The first night there, BabyD actually climbed into my sleeping bag to stay warm. I was so cold, I was more than happy to share my little twin-sized bunk just for the extra body heat!
The dash to the restroom/showers in the chilly morning air only served to help wake us up. As did the lack of heat in the shower house!
That's what really got me to thinking: There are probably a lot of people in this area who live like this all the time--little or no heat, either because of the condition of their homes or because they can't afford to pay for heat. Honestly, seeking out a few minutes of warmth became an obsession by the end of the second day.
Made me grateful for what seems like one of the basics of life.