Today, I'm sitting on my balcony overlooking the mountains enjoying a quiet, relaxing 4th of July. From up here, I can see for miles, even into another state. It's often a place I sit and think. It's easy to get lost in how big God is up here when you can look out and see so much of his beauty, all at one time.
As I reflect on yesterday's trip into West Virginia, I cannot help but have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and thankfulness. As many of you know, I have been serving in the Appalachian Mountains since my first trip in 2009. The people of these mountains are some of the most genuine, kind humans on the face of the earth. Since my first time meeting them, I was hooked. There was something in me that connected with them instantly. I could see their pain and I knew I had to do something about it.
In my extensive travels through the mountains, I have seen a lot. I have witnessed dirt floors in homes. I have met families who live daily life with no power, air conditioning or running water - much like a third world country. I have known of children living in a tent in the middle of winter, because their parents were nowhere to be found. Somehow, after seeing all of this, I was not prepared for what I would experience at the home of Curtis, a kid in our sponsorship program, yesterday.
Last weekend, we found out their mobile home burned. They had already been working on a new 'home' right next to their trailer. They had even moved some of their items into the new home, but in the fire, the lost almost everything they had. Their new home, which they are very happy to have, has no bathroom. No shower or toilet or sink - they have to use a neighbors. They funnel their drinking water in from an old coal mine just up the mountains from their home. The flow stops nearly daily and they have to walk up the mountain (in the rain, snow and heat) to start the flow again. There are several chickens running around the property. They told me stories of how they use those chickens for their meals on a regular basis. The size of the home is about the size of a storage building a lot of families have behind their house to put the mower and a few extra yard tools in.
I could not stop the flow of tears going down my face as they told me the story of how they lost everything when their home burned down at 4 in the morning. Had the grandfather not been awake to see the flames, it would have probably burned their new dwelling while they were all sleeping inside.
For a family, who had hardly anything to start with, to tell you they lost everything, they truly lost everything. With the generous support of people from all over the country and locally here in Wilkes County, we were able to deliver a brand new refrigerator, clothes, appliances and other household goods. They were so happy!
Often, when we do a delivery like this, I can't help but think... I get to pull out of this driveway and go back to my air-conditioned home with a fridge full of food and a comfortable, safe place to sleep - and these sweet people have to stay in this shack, where most would probably not stay for any amount of money. It's eye opening.. it's life-changing.. I have seen years worth of hard living conditions, even growing up myself not having a lot of things others had, but I can never protect myself from feeling overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow for them. They live such hard lives.. Truly hard lives.. The kind of hard life that makes you want to stay in the bed in the morning instead of getting up to face everything when you know it is going to take so much effort, just to survive through the day. I think that is why a lot of the families turn to drugs and alcohol. It helps them escape for a short while. It's sad, but it is all too real in these mountains.
However, I'm so thankful God chose me. Out of all the people on this planet He could have gotten to do this work for His kingdom, He chose me. I didn't earn it. I certainly didn't deserve it. I feel a high sense of responsibility to do my very best for these families. To go the extra mile. To do it, even if it is hard or inconvenient. It's an honor to get to serve them.
There are times when I feel a sense of hopelessness - because I know of so many families who need extreme help and I cannot get to all of them at once. But God provides. There are also times of extreme joy, seeing the face of a family when you know you provided something for them they could have never done on their own. God has blessed this ministry to mightily.
We certainly cannot do it without everyone who is involved in this program. First, we wouldn't have even known Curtis had it not been for the sponsorship program where we met him. Even still, without he generosity of those who follow our ministry on Facebook and through the television broadcast, we simply could not bless as many families as we are able to bless if it wasn't for you guys! THANK YOU! Not only are you making it better for the people of the mountains, but you are helping me to fulfill my dream of ministering the Gospel of Christ to thousands of families each year while we provide life-sustaining supplies to them.
God bless you, keep praying for this ministry, we love you!!!