Story and pictures from Lori Barmer of First United Methodist Church in Cary.
Cary, NC – The work of First United’s Appalachia Service Project (ASP) specifically focuses on homes in disrepair. For the past 26 years, First United Church Cary has sent mission teams to impoverished communities in West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Reality Check and Lots of Love
Usually, five or six teams from the church spread throughout a county in the Appalachian Mountains. But last June, they were all together in one mobile home park. It was a reality-check for the teams from Cary.
Gary Churchill, who has made the trip for six years, said, “people were living in homes that would be condemned in Wake County.”
Over thirty-three percent of the families in Martin County, Kentucky live below the poverty level.
The family Gary and his team worked with was living on $600 per month. He came to love that family, and was moved by their tremendous need. “I had a sense the entire week that I had to do more.” As Nancy Briggs, ASP veteran, put it, “No one walks away from the ASP experience unchanged.”
Since then, Gary has collected donations from Sunday school classes and groups and made two trips on his own to deliver beds, bikes, and book bags full of school supplies.
The “mitten tree” in the church’s West Templeton lobby last December was full of mittens and scarves for those families. He said, “It was the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen.”
A Servant Heart
Each year, study sessions are put together by ASP for volunteers to use in preparation for their trips.
The 2013 Study Session is “Radical Reversal – Building a Servant Heart.” Dennis Hilton, ASP Mission Team Leader says, “In many ways, having a servant heart is much like having the heart of a caregiver.”