After a nine-hour drive from Maryland, a team of skilled men from New Life Foursquare Church stepped into the mountains of Eastern Kentucky ready for their annual work in Christian Appalachian Project’s Elderly Housing Program. For these men, the long drive was worth it.
“I feel obligated to do things right here in this country,” says Rohn LeGore, the coordinator of this year’s mission trip. “I love serving with CAP because they back up what they say. When you arrive, they are ready for you to help those that have the greatest need. When you’re here, you learn a lot about poverty, but also about resilience. Participants have some skin in the game — it’s not just a handout. They tend to get in and work right alongside you. It’s great to be a part of giving hope.”
Pastor Dave Hendershot initiated New Life’s relationship with Christian Appalachian Project in 2009. “Many folks from our congregation had served in international missions, but we wanted to expand missions’ opportunities to help people close to home too.”
So, Rick Bussard and Lee Lambert, also from New Life, joined him on a tour of Christian Appalachian Project’s programs to determine if it would be a good fit. “When we left, we had the feeling that we could do this — that we need to do this!” says Pastor Dave.
Men from New Life have worked with the Housing and Elderly Services Programs on projects ranging from replacing rotting flooring and repairing cracked foundations to painting and building decks and constructing handicap-accessible ramps. Lee, who passed away in 2014, was so passionate about serving others that his son, Matthew, continues to extend the compassion his father began. “My first trip to CAP was in 2009, after I graduated from high school, but I saw it as a continuation of what I felt was a calling on my life,” says Matthew. “I had been to Mississippi twice after Hurricane Katrina and on another mission trip to Honduras. When I came to Appalachia for the first time, it was a different experience from those relief efforts and overseas missions. I loved it because it was a chance to help in a place that felt close to home.”
Matthew fondly recalls serving the people of Appalachia alongside his father. They shared many memorable moments while replacing floors and patching the roofs of elderly widows.
“After New Life groups had traveled to Eastern Kentucky to work with CAP for several years, my father had the vision for the high school students at New Life Christian School to take a mission trip here too,” says Matthew. “The experience had been eye-opening for us and my father knew it would be for the young people too. We saw poverty firsthand. My father understood the impact this would have on the lives of adults and teenagers. Now, the junior class participates in YouthFest every year during spring break.”
According to Pastor Dave, every person with whom the New Life team gets a chance to partner has a story. “There is always a story or a root cause as to why someone ends up needing a little help,” he says. “For us to be able to step up and help meet that need is very rewarding.”
He recalls a story of repairing the home of a young man attending community college. This young man asked how much the team was getting paid to come assist his family. He had trouble even fathoming why strangers would not only work for free for a week, but also actually pay to come help his family.
“I hope he understood that Christian Appalachian Project is about being Christ’s hands,” says Pastor Dave. “Like CAP’s founder said, this is a ‘project’ because it is ongoing and never-ending. We always come to serve, and whatever that looks like, we want to leave knowing participants are safe, warm, and dry. It’s heartwarming to provide real help, but also to give hope. We show up and serve and put hope in their hearts. That’s a good feeling.”