Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We were a bit of a motley crew, but we worked together like a well-oiled machine. The boys (and Lisa) hit the trails and the mountain pathways and helped make more than one person happy last week.

There were foundations to be laid and cupboards to be made. A deck was needed and a fence had to be replaced. By the end of the week, more than a few mountain boys and girls were grinning from ear to ear thanks to the grit and dogged determination of our strong and willing men (and Lisa!)

Meanwhile, I had the privilege of accompanying the other four gals to the distribution centre in town. What an eye opener. We worked at the foodbank distributing food and performing a myriad of tasks - the greatest benefit being our interaction with the locals. What an experience. What an amazing and hugely necessary ministry. After experiencing the many stories and witnessing the abject poverty that still prevails in the belly of the oft-termed affluent USA, I vowed to never complain about being hungry again. Nor would I moan and groan about having nothing to wear. I am also slightly guilt-ridden as I returned home to a new dwelling. Folks in Neon, Kentucky were over the hill grateful to have a trailer home or a simple roof over their heads. There was such a contrast in lifestyle, culture and the socio-economic deprivation was obvious.

As I took photographs of the East Letcher Ministry I made special note of the table outside the former grocery store. Piles of faded, thrice-worn clothing adorned two long tables on the sidewalk. Apparently these articles of clothing are available 24/7 to anyone in need. There is a sign asking people to be careful that items are not tossed haphazardly on the ground. I was informed that people who are too shy or embarassed to come during the day will come at all hours to sort through and take needed items of clothing.

I am ashamed to say that I have laughed at jokes about mountain people and their hillbillly ways, but to experience it first hand last week caused me to think. I also saw first hand the dirty little secret that remains virtually hidden, tucked away in this little mining community in the Appalacians - that wretched and seemingly never ending cycle of poverty.
But I was also so blessed to encounter some beautiful, faith-filled people on their own territory. Many just seemed to need someone to listen to their stories and to care about them, even if for a fleeting moment.

One girl, in particular, who came to the foodbank broke my heart. She was twenty years old. I asked her how she was. That was to be the segue to her story. Her divorce was just being finalized and she had a toddler at home who was not bearing up too well. She was on kidney dialysis and she was also just recently diagnosed with cervical cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. Because she has limited income and no benefits, she was unable to pay for her dialysis or chemotherapy which was scheduled to begin in a short while. She did say she might get a little help from Medicare but it was limited. I didn't know what to do for her. So I let her talk.

We cried together. Another gal who was with me shared in the conversation and the tears. I was wearing my survivor pin under my sweater (I wondered that morning why I felt led to wear it) so I gave it to the young mom. I told her I would pray and hope. She said her faith was strong and she relied on God each day. Then then this brave, young soul thanked us for listening and disappeared with her few bags of groceries as quickly as she appeared.

I can't get her out of my mind...

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