Last week I told you about Lynch, Kentucky. This week I am adding a second part to my story.
It all started one Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Umatilla, Florida. One of our Sunday School members announced that a group from our church would be going on a mission trip to Lynch in July 2018 and invited anyone to go and experience life in Harlan County.
My husband, Fred, and I had never been on a Christian mission trip before so we jumped at the chance to put our love of helping people to use, and we signed up.
As I explained last week, the Lynch area is one of the poorest parts of the United States. Having US Steel leave left them with no jobs and no means of support. Most of people in Lynch have lived there all their lives and are actually too poor to leave the area.
So, of course, the children in these families are destined to spend their lives there and the generational poveryy begins.
The main objective of this trip was to go and help, in some manner, the sponsors, Meridzo Ministries, fulfill the needs of the people who live in this depressed area. Lonnie and Belinda Riley are the founders of this non-profit organization.
The Rileys have been involved with this ministry for 20 years. He was a pastor of several churches and felt a calling to leave a comfortable life to move to Lynch and start a ministry program. They did not wait around for God to provide details on what they were to do or how they were supposed to accomplish what they believed was the type of mission that God sent them to do.
Instead they sold everything they had and simply went on this great project. Belinda had lived in Lynch many years before returning to be start the Meridzo project, so she knew the region and what an undertaking was ahead for them.
Now they needed help to maintain this new ministry. Soon the help came in the way of volunteers from all over the US. That’s where Fred and I along with about 30 other volunteers from Florida stepped in forming a group on a “mission.”
In mid-July we headed off to Kentucky with no known projects to complete. We arrived at our housing, Solomon’s Porch, where we had an orientation on what we would be doing during the week.
Solomon’s Porch was at one time Lynch’s four-story hospital which was now set up to house up to 102 people. Some of the rooms are “dorm-style” and others more of a “hotel-style” with private baths. The third floor also housed the kitchen and dining room where volunteers prepared two meals daily.
Our schedule while staying there was pretty much the same each day: Up at 6:30, breakfast at 7:30 and we were off to our jobs where lunch was brought to the work area . We worked until about 5:00, cleaned up and we headed to dinner at 6:00. Devotions and then its off to our room, where we collapsed in bed around 8:00.
There were many jobs to be completed in the next five days. The major one was construction at the stables, painting and even a week-long Bible school program to set up.
Since I had been advised that there was some sewing that needed to be done, I brought my sewing machine with me. So, with two other ladies in tow, we were off to the sewing room and where several pair of curtains were made.
There was tons of material to choose from, but only a small selection of large pieces that could be used for the curtains we were making.
Sewing curtains is rather boring, but when we saw their eyes light up when they were hung up, it was worth it.
Our other sewing project was making three shepherds’ costumes for the Christmas program. The remaining women in our group either painted fences or worked in the kitchen.
Two other buildings and businesses associated with Meridzo Ministries is Black Mountain Exchange, which is the only place in Lynch to purchase gas and groceries. Lamp House Coffee Shop is a favorite with tourists. (Yes, Lynch has many visitors who came to tour the famous mine, Portal 31, and the beautiful mountains and terrain in this region.
In May of 2015 Dr. Kelly and Debbie Bradford arrived from Umatilla, Florida to help the Rileys build the ministry’s equine program. Kelly, a veterinarian, arrived with one horse, and today the program has grown to 21 horses.
The Stables at Creekside Glen was born and each summer has camps for various groups including programs for disadvantaged and handicapped children.
The stables were built with the help of many volunteers who came to help the Riley’s accomplish their dream of a Christian-based equine program. The stables consist of four buildings, one of which houses a classroom which used by the Meridzo Center and guests.
Some of the men volunteers from our group had a tough job for them during the week we were there. The construction job itself was hard work, but was complicated by temperatures in the 90s. The classroom and office buildings had been flooded three out of the last four years during heavy rains.
So this spring, they decided to solve the problem — they raised the buildings five feet off the ground! Other volunteers had taken care of this and soon the two buildings were sitting on concrete block piers sufficiently above the flood level.
The tough job was to enhance the look of the buildings. The men installed 2×4 cross bracing between the deck posts and covered these with preformed metal siding that matched the rest of the buildings. What an improvement!
All in all our week was not only successful, but gave us a deep appreciation for the gifts that we have been blessed with and the rewards we receive from helping others.
Next July, our Florida church will be returning to Lynch for a week and I can assure you that Fred and I will be joining the group on this mission again.
I know all of you are waiting for the weekly recipe, so here it is. It is blueberry season and for the first time blueberries are at a price that we can all afford. Walmart has them (just under a quart) for around $6.
Here is a recipe for Blueberry Buckle which is similar to a cobbler but has eggs in it giving it a different texture. Enjoy!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar, divided
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2-3 cups fresh blueberries, washed/drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter
Beat 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with a mixture until creamy; gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating the mixture well Add egg and beat well.
Combine 1 1/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter and sugar mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Pour batter in an 8” square greased baking dish. Top evenly with blueberries.
Combine remaining sugar with remaining flour. Add cinnamon. Cut in 1/4 cup butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over blueberries.
Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.
Sheryl Sollars, a Clinton County native, is an accomplished cook and homemaker. She contributes her column “Welcome to My Kitchen” out of her love of homemaking and of sharing her thoughts with her readers. If you have cooking questions or a recipe you want to share, please contact Sheryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.