By Mayo Collier
FLORENCE—St. Paul United Methodist Church has been sending teams to the Red Bird Mission, near Beverly, Kentucky, since 2003.
What started out as a youth mission trip has now grown into a mission priority in which the entire congregation is involved. There have been 17 mission trips over the past 16 years.
From the beginning, our constant prayer has been that God would lead us to those He wants us to serve. He did, and He still does.
Red Bird opened our eyes to the plight of the disadvantaged. We saw the extreme level of poverty and the commitment of the Red Bird Mission, founded in 1921, to address it. Hearts were touched and efforts made to get involved to try help to break the cycle of poverty.
As we stand back and evaluate our progress, it is important to reflect on how God got this venture commissioned and how He continually leads us as we have been faithful to Him. We find that as we try to help others, God is leading and nurturing us.
St. Paul’s first Red Bird mission trip occurred May 25-31, 2003, and comprised 13 youth including Will Lindsey, Cyndi Jordan, Blake Hodges, Lawton Matthews, Whitney Walter, Tyler Clark, Amanda Martin, Daniel Hemmingson, Kirby Jordan, Caitlyn DeAngelo, Tim Saleeby, Lauren Saleeby and Jacob Sadler. The challenges this group encountered and how they addressed them laid the foundation and set the tone of the commitment for all that followed in their footsteps. On the way there, while traveling up Red Bird Mountain, the church bus carrying the boys ran off the road and turned over. It was a miracle no one was hurt.
Our work camp project was at a small cabin near a creek owned by a blind lady with three mentally challenged children. There was no front door, no water, little food and a toilet that sat in a closet and emptied straight on the ground under the house. The assigned work camp project was to repair a covered back deck.
On Monday evening, several adults went to town and procured $400 of food for the family. This was the beginning of the outreach ministry.
In 2004, the same group of youth returned with $600 for an outreach project. An elderly couple with a blind 50-year-old son, allowed the group to come and clean their home of debris. Most windows and the door in the kitchen were missing, and yard animals had full access to the home. All the bedding was wet.
The youth wore masks and spent two days emptying the house of debris. The funds were used to procure new mattresses, bedding, pillows, fly traps, mice traps, duct tape and plastic covers for the windows and doors. Both these teams worked hard, prayed often and showed the love of Christ in all they did. Their testimonials and stories motivated the adults to get involved and encouraged more outreach donations.
The youth were the trailblazers for today’s St. Paul ministry at Red Bird. Since 2003, more than 200 missioners have gone on St. Paul UMC Red Bird mission trips achieving more than 20,000 hours of volunteer time last year at the Work Camp. The Work Camp provides housing improvements to make the home safer, dryer, warmer, and more functional. A room addition providing additional bedroom space has been a trademark of our Joshua team.
Working on homes does not break the cycle of poverty. Our teams are driven to find the young mother that we can steer to early childhood development, kindergarten, day care and on to school.
Each missioner pays a fee of $400 to cover some of the material cost and housing. Red Bird values a volunteer hour at $19 and estimates that material costs for housing projects is the same. This equates to nearly $800,000 in economic impact through the work of St. Paul missioners over the years.
Also, a petition to the Board of Global Ministries in 2010 resulted in a sizable donation to help keep the school open during the recession as funds were depleted.
Funds donated to the outreach ministry totaled about $33,000 this year and $188,000 since 2003. This money was unsolicited. There has never been a fundraiser. This money has been used to address life-changing needs of individuals in the Red Bird community. Examples include dentures, glasses, hearing aids, clean water hookups, new wells, medical equipment, power hookups, clothing, bedding, stoves, coal heaters, refrigerators, etc.
Funding has been allocated for early childhood development, school scholarships, prenatal care, day care, meals on wheels, home health care, senior center, dental clinic and the medical clinic. Pots, pans, clothing, dental supplies, first-grader backpacks and Bibles were taken to Red Bird this year. God always provides the exact financial resource needed to accomplish his Will.
Forty-four missioners participated in this year’s Red Bird Mission trip April 22-28. The missioners were from the Florence area, as well as from Harrison UMC in Pineville, North Carolina. The missioners were organized into five teams named after the Old Testament characters: Noah, Joshua, Zeruabbabel, Nehemiah and Yael.
These teams completed two room additions, the inside renovations of two mobile homes and a partial renovation of a small cabin. The depth of experience enables our teams to take on substantial projects. Two of our missioners served on the Meals on Wheels team and one missioner taught Bible study at the Red Bird faith-based school and the senior center.
St. Paul UMC has contributed greatly in the effort to address the plight of the disadvantaged in the Red Bird community. Most importantly, we have been faithful to God’s calling and have shown the love of Christ and our commitment to Him as we have been called to serve. In trying to serve at Red Bird, we have been served with the love of Christ ourselves.
Please continue to pray that God will continue to lead us to those He wants us to serve.