Our team (comprised of Krista Keil, Dominic Gialdini, and Elizabeth Vishnefske) have been serving in Harlan County, KY for the past three weeks and are preparing to start our fourth and final week here. Thus far we have hosted groups of teens from Illinois, Maryland, and North Carolina. Each group has had its own unique personality, and we enjoyed learning how best to work with each according to their needs.
The southern charm of Harlan County is notable but not enough overshadow its many instances of striking poverty, a poverty that we tend to forget exists in the United States. With high rates of unemployment, it makes sense that many of the houses reflect the economic ills of the region in that residents are unable to make repairs where they are needed — and this is where our ministry comes into play. We have been blessed to build several ramps and porches and paint houses for homeowners in desperate need of a helping hand. As mission leaders, we have been greatly inspired by how loving and hard-working the groups of teens have been. Their willingness to serve elevates our spirits daily and motivates us to keep our focus on the goal of our mission: to love the people of Harlan County, to minister to them, and to help them in whatever way we can. Sometimes, this help may be through corporal works, as is the case with the construction projects undertaken that have enabled our new friends to enter and exit safely into their homes, and sometimes it is simply by listening to the residents and sharing stories and laughter. We and the teens have built strong bonds with several of the families here and it will be sad to say goodbye.
The community here in Harlan has taken notice of our service and has been extremely welcoming. Many locals have been curious and have asked us where we’re from and what our mission is. These conversations have led to many great opportunities to share Jesus’ love and joy with others, and we have felt so much love returned to us through the beautiful residents of Kentucky.
As we move into our fourth week here, we are eager to see what God has in store for us, and we thank you for your prayers and support.
Krista, Dominic, and Liz