Making Meaning Out of the Mountains

There was a time when I thought missions was strictly of one’s own choosing. There was a time when I thought missions was for someone and most definitely anybody else, except me. During this time, I would deliberately and decisively choose no. But, in the form of a “shoulder tap” in January from one of our student pastors, I had a sneaking suspicion that God was about to say, “Come follow me.” But, could this be right?

I can say with certainty that I had preconceived notions that were formed regarding missions. The very impression that I determined made me unsuitable. But, God was about to introduce me to those with adequate experience. The invitation was to the Appalachian Mountains. I was quite unsure what all was to be found in the mountains. For me, God had some lessons He needed to teach and He deemed they needed to be learned in Prestonsburg, KY.

In my attempt to make meaning, I have to start with the team he assembled together. He wasn’t just sending me. In this case, God was about to mobilize a teasing team of high schoolers and leaders. To learn that someone had prayed ahead for this crew of Christians is proof positive that He goes before us. We weren’t going to be left to our own devices. Crossroads Missions came prepared to both lead and walk alongside us in our mountain experience. It was so beautifully expressed that in the mission field is where we’re living the most like Jesus. Lesson one.

As leaders, we were trained and equipped by those who have gone before us a time or two, and in so doing, encouraged us to assure this was a prayerful trip for those on our team. John 15:5 carried us through. “Yes, I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who remain in me, I will remain in them. Apart from me you can do nothing.” What a relief that we weren’t about to do anything alone. Our prayer was to follow where He led. Lesson two. He went well before us.

On day one, a fenced in play yard, monkey bars, swings, basketball court, and a volleyball net called out in the “holler” of Maytown to come have some neighborhood fun with these new folks in town. Our door to door invitations might have helped. We climbed and dangled with the daring and shot hoops with the skilled school-aged children. Lesson three. “I will show you how to fish for people.”

Our work was scheduled ahead of us. They called it a home in the Appalachian Mountains. Others might call it a shed. This was a structure where electricity was drawn by streams of connected extension cords secured with electrical tape from one adjoining house to another. A small team with strength and stamina dug a trench to bury safely the electrical work that would otherwise continue to pose foreseen dangers. For one team, appreciation was found by the homeowner in porch-stoop conversations. The building of unforeseen relationships was lesson four.

The other team was sent to a home of a disabled gentleman who no longer could freely access his deck with his wheelchair. This team moved in to chop-saw, jig-saw, hammer, power-drill, dig, nail, nail, and nail, to level a deck. This man and his wife, who for past years knew the needs of others in the community and extended their own help, found themselves in need. Emotional about the reality of his failing health, this homeowner was fully aware and articulated clearly that it was God who sent us. “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell about me everywhere.” That’s what he did. Acts 1 became lesson five.

Over the course of the week, our established theme was to follow. Our prayers were to remain in Him. Our lessons of discipleship were daily. There is meaning to be found in the mountains.

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