The next St. Joseph Church Men of Faith Appalachia mission trip to Auxier KY is scheduled from Tuesday, June 4 through Saturday, June 8, 2019. Information packet for this mission trip can be found at http://www.sjparish.org/Missions. Photos from the 2018 mission trip can be viewed at https://www.fschulze.com/auxier2018. Below is an article about the 2018 trip that appeared in the July 2018 edition of the Catholic Cabin.
By Fred Schulze, St. Joseph’s Missions Committee
“Good Morning Arkansas Boys!” shouted an elderly woman from her front porch as one of the work teams walked by her house on South River Street on their way to a job site. That greeting alone made the long 13.5 hour ride from Conway AR to eastern Kentucky worth it. This was one of many gifts that the 17 men of the St. Joseph’s Men of Faith Mission group received while using their time & talents repairing homes in one of the most impoverished regions of the United States.
On Tuesday morning June 5th, the St. Joseph’s mission group left the church parking lot in Conway at 6am sharp for their 5th annual Appalachia mission, and returned home on Saturday night, June 9th. The group included Deacon Richard Papini, Don Greenland, Ray Blake and Robert Jordan from Tulsa OK, Mark Enderlin, Ron Gatto, Bob Gunther, Raymond Gunther, David Hambuchen, Don Kremer, Joe and Joseph LaRocca, Glenn McKay, Bryan Morgan, Mike Mullican, Billy York and Fred Schulze.
The mission group worked in conjunction with Hand in Hand Ministries of Auxier, Kentucky. The Hand in Hand Ministries Auxier Center is an old school building that’s been renovated to include air conditioned dormitories, family apartments and offices. This small campus, along the banks of the beautiful Levisa Fork, also contains workshops, a materials warehouse, food pantry, and a large kitchen. The staff prepared fantastic meals that were served in a dining hall which also serves as a conference room.
In beautiful mountains and hollows, Appalachia is home to generations of proud families, many dealing with extreme poverty. Hand in Hand Ministries serves these residents by building relationships and performing home repairs and doing other projects. The staff of Hand in Hand Ministry pre-qualified clients for home repairs and assigned certain jobs to the St. Joseph’s mission teams. Other groups serve with Hand in Hand Ministries throughout the year, but some of the most difficult jobs were saved for the “Arkansas Boys”. The projects on this trip included building a wheelchair ramp, replacing a roof, replacing a porch, and gutting the interior of an old mobile home - staging it for future renovations. Experience to do the needed work was not necessary; volunteers received on-the-job training by craftsmen from St. Joseph’s and Hand in Hand Ministries, including carpentry techniques and the use of various tools. In addition to the work, there was plenty of time for prayer and reflection, as well as fellowship while traveling, dining, and relaxing together.
Interacting with residents with compassion, talking to them and hearing their stories, was just as important as doing the actual repair work on their homes. The stories that were shared among the volunteers, not only about the jobs, but also about the conversations they had with residents, tugged at the heart. The work certainly built hope in the local residents, but it also transformed the lives of the St. Joseph’s volunteers. A recurring comment made during the "reflections" meeting, held during the last night in Auxier, was that the volunteers received more “gifts” than the gift of time and labor that they gave.
The next trip to Auxier is scheduled for June 4 through June 8, 2019. More information about this trip will become available sometime during March or April 2019. Information about the various work performed by the St. Joseph’s Missions Committee Ministry can be found at http://www.sjparish.org/Missions and by visiting the “St. Joseph Parish Missions Committee” page on Facebook. Information about Hand in Hand Ministries and their center in Auxier can be found at http://www.myhandinhand.org/ and on their Facebook page.