Appalachian missionaries learn through service to those in need

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Appalachian missionaries take a break from a day filled with hard work.

Mikela Mollanazar, Multimedia News

St. Patrick’s Day was different for sixteen Academy missionaries, who began their journey to Pipestem, West Virginia, on March 17.    Instead of celebrating green, students set out for a week of service with their three chaperones in the Appalachia Mountains where many live in poverty, sickness and isolation.

The travel to Pipestem proved to be a long one, starting with the first flight landing in Charlotte, North Carolina, another flight landing in Roanoke, West Virginia, and then a two-hour car drive.  Missionaries stayed in Pipestem at the South Folk Life Center, which is known for its service projects that help the impoverished areas of Appalachia.

At the Folk Life center the students divided up into group under one of the student leaders: seniors Chandler Cartwright, Miranda Reddick, and Tyler Ruppel. The groups allowed students to divide responsibilities in order to complete work more efficiently. Responsibilities included preparing meals, organizing clean-up duty, and conducting prayer services.

Prayer services took place at the end of each da and allowed students to reflect and grow closer with their Academy sisters. Prayer services ranged from making bracelets with prayer beads to sharing circles.

The first client whom the missionaries helped was a woman who was receiving chemo therapy to treat her breast cancer. Her house was not in the best condition, and she was not capable of fixing it up herself.   AHN missionaries took action, cleaning out the home in order to paint the interior. The girls cleaned and painted the kitchen, sitting area, and hallway. When the client saw her renovated home, she shed tears of joy.

Students like Grace Withers expressed happiness from their satisfaction of making a visible difference in the life of a person in need.  “There is no greater feeling then being able to help those who truly need it and knowing you’re the reason for their smiles.”

Other missionary services during the week included repairs throughout the South Folk Center, which is responsible for providing service to those in need.  Missionaries felt it important to help the center with repairs including cleaning, painting, and replacing floors in two of the dorms. In addition, students shoveled and smoothed the drive way to repair damage from mud and rain.

Students noted that their contributions at Pipestem were just a small part of serving the needs of the Appalachian area with its hillsides of broken-down, isolated houses.  Much of the area suffers from mountain top removal in which coal mining operations strip the top surfaces of mountains to find deep veins of coal to mine.  Besides the environmental effect of deforestation, toxins released in the mining process pollute the ground water supply with carcinogens related to cancer and other diseases.

Participants like Withers agreed that the Appalachia mission trip was successful in more than one way. Not only were missionaries able to provide service to those in need and to learn about the importance of preserving the environment in this area of the country,  but also to grow closer as sisters.   “Spending a week away from home helping others and bonding with class mates is time well spent.”

Other missionaries involved in the Appalachian trip included  Kelli Cartwright, Isabella Gonzalez, Peyton Maddox, Cara Millburg, Mikela Mollanazar, Emily Musselman, Katiana Roberts, Eleeza Santos, Chloe Schaefer, Sydney Sinardi, Shae Timmons, and Courtney Vogler.  Chaperones included math teacher Mrs. Edna Swafford, parent Mrs. Denise Reddick, and  AHN President Mr.Arthur Raimo.