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Appalachia: Church Youth Groups Bring Hope and Joy to a Community in Need

A World Vision-sponsored summer mission trip to Barbour County, W.Va., gives Christian youth an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love in a region where unemployment and poverty run high.

November 2007


Youth participating last summer in World Vision's Appalachia Summer Mission Trip in Barbour County, W.Va., had the opportunity to demonstrate Christ's love through community improvement initiatives, such as the roofing project shown here. Two participants said the mission trip enabled "transformations of heart, of building, and of a community." © 2007/World Vision staff
Churches throughout the United States are learning that the mission trip of a lifetime doesn't require a passport. Instead, dozens of congregations are discovering new cultural experiences and building lasting relationships in one of the most beautiful yet challenged regions of the country: West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains.

Serving in one of West Virginia's poorest areas was an "awesome privilege," said Dee Reid, who led a team of young Christian girls on the Appalachia Summer Mission Trip. "There were so many miracles that I don't even have time to tell about all of them."

Major Challenges

World Vision's Appalachia Summer Mission Trip is designed to provide church youth groups and families the opportunity to engage with the people of Barbour County, one of the poorest counties in one of the nation's poorest states. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, West Virginia has the sixth-highest poverty level among the 50 states. One in four children there live below the poverty line, ranking the state seventh in child poverty.

World Vision is serving in areas of West Virginia most in need, working alongside often-isolated communities to find solutions to chronic challenges. Among these under-resourced areas is Barbour County in the northern part of the state, which for years relied heavily on coal mining for employment. While most living in this area are descended from strong, independent, hardworking families, many lost their jobs when local coal mines began closing and mechanizing in the 1960s. Soon, low-income residents plummeted even further into poverty, as they were left with no jobs and few resources.

Service, Ministry, and Fellowship

World Vision Appalachia Mission Trip

Watch a slideshow depicting youth who traveled on a mission trip to Barbour County, West Virginia, to serve communities in need and demonstrate Christ's love for this economically challenged region.

Yet today, hope is rekindled each summer as hundreds of Christians arrive in Appalachia to be incarnational witnesses to the love Christ has for them. During the weeklong Summer Mission Trip, participants work alongside local residents to build relationships and improve the community. All that's required is a willing heart and a little muscle to perform jobs such as painting, hammering, cleaning, framing, masonry, and roofing.

Team members also help reach and teach children from the community through Vacation Bible School activities. Each day ends with worship. Visitors are invited to join in evening Bible studies at local churches and enjoy a community cookout with Bluegrass music. There's also time for relaxing activities, including canoe rides down rivers that flow between lush mountains.

'It Changed Us Completely'


Last year, the visiting teams ministered to people like Linda, who lived in a sagging trailer with her mother. Holes were completely worn through the floor, letting the frigid temperatures into the house during harsh winters. Both Linda and her mother struggle with multiple health issues — Linda is on constant oxygen, and her mother suffered a heart attack last year.

So when a team of middle school youth pulled up in front of the decaying home last summer, the women were delighted. "It changed us completely," Linda recalls. Soon the floors were replaced, the house cleaned, the trailer's exterior painted, and the landscape tidied. "I have everything," she says, adding that the youth brought so much joy into their home during the short visit that she didn't want them to leave.

'More Than Just a Trip'


Linda and her mother are just one example of the many lives that are changed each year during this Appalachian outreach. Caitlin McPherson and Kristin McGunnigle, who helped with last summer's Appalachia Summer Mission Trip, also were touched. "The past week in Wallace, W.Va., has changed the lives of so many — transformations of heart, of building, and of a community," they wrote.

"It's more than just a trip," said Johnny Whitehair, World Vision's Appalachia Mission Trip Director. "This is an opportunity to not only help, but to be transformed yourself."

Learn More


>> Read more about World Vision's Appalachia Summer Mission Trip.

Ways You Can Help

>> Please pray for the low-income children and families of Barbour County, W.Va. Pray that World Vision’s Appalachia Summer Mission Trip would help bring hope and light to communities that struggle with unemployment and financial instability, and that mission trip participants would effectively convey God’s great love for these people.
>> Make a reservation to participate in next year's Appalachia Summer Mission Trip.

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