by Paul Barker,
Director of Youth Ministry
On May 14 and 15, I traveled down to Bluefield, WV with Andy Muhl and Peter Balfe, two of our amazing team chaperons. The purpose of our trip was to meet our new hosts and to visit work sites. We were conducting this trip in response to the closing of Highland Educational Project in Welch, WV who we had been working with for 6 years.
Over that time, we had made some strong friendships with the people associated with HEP and with McDowell county, so learning of their closing was distressing. HEP will eventually reopen and I am certain that our mission work and friendships there will continue.
In the midst of this uncertainty about where the team will be realigned and who we will be working with, grew a new call. A new call but not so different. Were we going back to McDowell county? Yes! No doubt. Where would we be staying and who would host us? Last mission trip, I invited Rev. Chad Slater from Christ Church, Bluefield, to come speak to our team. Fr. Chad is the Priest-in-Charge of McDowell county, being the nearest Episcopal clergy in the region. He spoke of the troubles facing the area and the resolve of the people. He thanked us for our ministry of presence, help, care, and showing God’s Love. And through our team, Chad learned what working in McDowell county meant to us. We are going back this summer; no doubt!
Fr. Chad connected us with the First Presbyterian Church, across the street from Christ Church in Bluefield. They have wonderful facilities for hosting a mission team! Dorms, community space, a big kitchen, restrooms, showers, a courtyard! During our visit, Andy, Peter and I, met amazing people.The good people at Christ Church and First Presbyterian, and Craig Hammond with Union Mission, Linda McKinney with Loaves and Fishes,. These are the two major sites we will be working with. We drove home on May 15 feeling reassured, optimistic, strengthened. We would be continuing the good work in the region we began in 2012.
And now the final preparations are moving forward. Team members are completing their paperwork, chaperons are being trained, shopping lists are drawn up and ready to be filled, our blog is set up http://www.stpaulspgh.org/mt18-blog/ , We are conducting a food drive to help with the children’s summer break bags program at Loave and Fishes https://www.stpaulspgh.org/blog/fill-the-rectors-truck-with-beanie-weenies/ .
All is in place to ensure that our youth have another amazing and memorable mission experience. Thank you to our St. Paul’s Community for your continued support, thank you chaperons, families and friends. And BIG Thank yous to our youth; you are treasures!