G.U.M. mission trip back from Kentucky

This article submitted by Aaron Ziemer on 8/11/99.

Grace church group The Grace United Methodist Church returned from a mission trip to Red Bird Mission in southeastern Kentucky.

The church's director of youth and family ministries, Linda Jensen, led the group on the trip.

There were 16 youth that went from Grace United Methodist Church, along with seven adults.

"The kids worked so hard in the extreme conditions," said Jensen.

While the kids were at the mission in Kentucky temperatures were hitting record highs.

"There were days when the temperature was over 100 degrees in the shade," Jensen added.

The group left Paynesville on Friday night, July 23. They arrived at Red Bird Mission on Sunday, and stayed to work through Saturday July 30.

While on the way to Kentucky the group encountered their first problem. The air conditioner in the back of one of the vans stopped working, making the trip almost unbearable. Once the group arrived at Red Bird, Steve Stelling and Art Voss were able to fix the air conditioner to make it work again for the trip home.

The main purpose of the trip was to show the love of God through work. The trip also allowed the kids to see what life was like in this part of the country.

While they were at Red Bird the group worked on a home for a family and a school that was in the area of the mission.

House When working on the home they roofed the house, repaired two ceilings, finished a porch, and repaired the siding on the house.

"The family was very open and a friendly, elderly couple," said Jensen. "They were very open and friendly, and they were very eager to learn our names and about our families."

The other big project the group worked on at Red Bird was the school building.

While the group worked on the school they painted bathrooms, painted doors, built a wall, added a door to make an office, laid tile, worked on bleechers, and built a railing in the gymnasium. They also did work in the band room.

"By the end of a day we were all tired enough to sleep just fine, despite the heat and bugs," said Jensen.

The sleeping quarters at the mission were a little rough. The group had to walk up over 100 steps to reach their cabins. There was no air conditioning to save them from the heat. There were also many bugs that were able to find their way into the cabins. According to Jensen they were able to see through the cracks in the floor.

"We had to walk 104 steps up a mountain to get to the cabin," said G.U.M. youth member Kari Frank.

In that part of Kentucky they live a very different lifestyle than the kids were used to in Minnesota.

"They work at a much slower pace, they are more relaxed," said Joe Lingl, a member of the group that attended the mission.

Jensen also said there was a church just down the road from the house they worked on that used rattle snakes during their worship service.

Many people that live in the area are forced to live off small government subsidies. She also said many of the people that have work done to their homes only get the work done by the mission, or other volunteers.

"The area was near the Cumberland Gap, most of the people that live there were coal miners," said Jensen.

When the coal mines closed the people who worked in the mines became unemployed and never received any type of pension.

Jensen said there were towns that were about a 40-minute drive from the area, but that people didn't get jobs there because the jobs only paid minimum wage and it wasn't even worth the gas to go and work.

The group stopped to see Cumberland Gap and Cumberland Falls, while they were in that part of Kentucky.

"One of the goals of the mission school that we worked on was to help people prepare for life in a city or town," said Jensen.

The mission school has its own work camp, fire department, child care classes, and its own dormitory for students that need to stay overnight for classes.

The mission serves many of the area branches, or places where the people live, with fire protection and education.

"The mission school is very proud of the fact that 75-80 percent of their students go on to a higher education," said Jensen.

There were other groups that worked at the camp while they were there. There were groups from Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio. Jensen said overall there were more adults there then students to work.

On the trip back from Kentucky they stopped at King's Island and the zoo in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The youth that went were; Kandice Bengtson, Rachel Koehn, Joe Lingl, Jesse Rien, Amy Schoenherr, Lisa Teicher, Stephanie Thomsen, J.T. Koehn, Ryan Frank, T.J. Schultz, Brian Stelling, David Wilder, Heidi Wilder, Kari Frank, Brad Schultz, and Jeff Voss.

The adults who went on the mission trip were Art and Berniece Voss, Steve Stelling, Deb Bengtson, Vicky Frank, and Linda Jensen.

"It was a great experience," said Frank. "There are so many people I didn't know about, it was good learning about their lifestyles."

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