Our intrepid mission team left for KY last Monday aboard a brightly colored Hispanic ministry bus. Such a vehicle at first seemed overly spacious for such a small group; however, we planned to carry some of our groceries. Plus towels and bed sheets. Also pillows. And, after a quick peek at the week’s weather forecast, jackets and sweatshirts instead of Florida shorts and tank tops.
Basically, by the time we left predawn the bus looked like we were scrambling for an emergency evacuation.
Mapquest set the total driving time at 13.5 hours but Mapquest does not take into account a lunch break (Subway), supper break (Cracker Barrel, of course!), and multiple gas&potty stops. It was a long day but as the terrain gradually became mountainous and the temperatures continued to dip cooler, I was excited. I had lived in south central Kentucky for fourteen years and was seeing more and more that was familiar as we approached the state border. I was also hearing more and more that was familiar with each and every conversation at rest stops, to the point that, when we finally pulled into Irvine’s Walmart just before midnight, I walked into the store and thought: “I’m home!”
We actually still had miles to go, of course, even from Walmart. St Timothy Outreach Center sits high up on Barnes Mountain. The midnight climb up the mountain was somewhat less daunting than the next morning’s ride, when we could see how sheer the drop was below us! The first building pictured on the right was our home for the week and featured dorm style rooms with bunk beds, a large kitchen and common room. For our group, it was a comfortable base camp for meals, hot showers and lodging.
The second picture is a newer log cabin, still under construction, located behind the first building. It promises to be a beautiful house for future visiting teams.
Our host for the week was Fr Bryant Kibler, who is the Priest-In-Charge at St Timothy’s as well as serving a parish of his own and working in diocesan administration. We found Fr Bryant to be, quite honestly, rather amazing. Every morning he would gather our crew in a big truck with an even bigger van attached. After transporting us to a job site (no small feat on narrow muddy roads and driveways!), he would divvy up the various duties, keeping us all busy, teaching the less construction savvy of us the tricks of the trade, and jumping in to do the more skilled jobs as needed. During our lunch break, our team ate while Fr Bryant gave us a fascinating overview of Kentucky history and culture.
Work at St Timothy’s varies according to the time of year and the size and skills of the group. We were fortunate enough to be working inside during a week that was unseasonably rainy and cold. We were able to continue painting and flooring that had been started in a house currently occupied but without electricity or running water. We also repaired the floor and painted a room in our new friend Manfred’s house.
A community meal is served at St Timothy’s on Tuesday night. Local children gathered for games and pizza. Kids are, of course, pretty much kids wherever you go, from the vivacious, giggly preteen girls to a pair of young brothers, very shy, who would not play skittles with the rest of us but watched very closely and later went back to play the game on their own.
The trip home went more quickly and efficiently than Monday’s long ride. The people I’d met and the work we had shared have stayed with me. I carried the joy of the journey with me back into my work place this week.
“Did you have a good vacation?” I was asked.