Spatters of afternoon sun shone through the tall panes of glass this past Sunday, and the golden light from the windows, together with the joyful smiles of the people inside preparing a meal together and singing hymns, seemed to make the room glow with an almost heavenly light.
Several members of the Mattapoisett Congregational Church were gathered together to feed each other both physically and spiritually during a “Loaves and Fishes” experience at one of their weekly meetings preparing for a special week-long mission to Appalachia on June 21.
Led by the Reverend Amy Lignitz Harken, 28 people will travel to Cherry Log, Georgia in southern Appalachia, to bring food, books, and cultural enrichment to the children of rural Appalachia.
“That’s an area of the country that has a lot of need,” said Pastor Amy. “And it’s a distance away and going to another culture, which heightens the mission experience.”
They will assist the Craddock Center in Cherry Log in establishing their “Road Show” program, aimed at engaging young people in cultural and educational activities during the summer months and also providing federally-subsidized lunches to the children of low-income communities.
“This is the first full-blown mission trip that we’ve done in several years,” said Pastor Amy. “And we’re hoping to make it an annual tradition.”
Inspired by the fishes and loaves story from the Bible, this particular meeting on March 9 was a way for the group to experience the abundance of that story, as Pastor Amy described it before joining the group, who were already seated in a circle to talk about the meaningfulness of working together.
Pastor Amy asked the group, besides traveling to Appalachia to bring books and build bookshelves, what other blessings would they be providing, and what types of blessings would they be receiving?
“These people are going to know that somebody else out there cares for them,” said Claire Keene.
Cindy Johnson recalled when she and her husband Jerry traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, calling it a life-changing experience. She remembered how it enhanced her sense of closeness with others, as well as with her husband.
“The closeness of being in a relationship,” said Johnson. “Not only with the folks … but with each other.”
Fifth-grader Maggie Berry believes that the people in Appalachia, although they are poor, after the mission “they’ll be rich.”
“Rich in spirit,” agreed Drew Nahigyan.
“That was one of the best feelings I ever had,” said Lauren Keene, remembering when he went on an adult literacy mission and helped a young man whose only wish was to be able to take his girlfriend to Friendly’s and read the menu. “And finally he was able to take his girlfriend to Friendly’s,” said Keene. “What came back to me was amazing.” He said, for the feeling he got from helping just one person, he would actually walk the whole way to Appalachia.
The congregation is trying hard to raise funding to cover the cost of the supplies and travel expenses for the trip, and have held a number of fundraisers so far to reach their goal of $15,000.
Their next fundraiser, a Bluegrass and Folk concert, will be held on March 15 at 7:00 pm at the Congregational Church Hall. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for students, and $25 for a family.
Featured will be the groups “Gravel Road” and “David Dunn, Dick Derry, and Friends,” and all proceeds will benefit the mission trip to Cherry Log. Tickets are available at the door, or can be reserved in advance by calling the Church Office at 508-758-2671 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations to the Mission Program are graciously accepted.
Going on the mission trip to Appalachia are: Pastor Amy; Freemin Bauer; Maggie and Pattie Berry; Ali Caine; David, Diana, and Griffin Dunn; Megan and Kim Field; Sue and Gary Grosart; Claire and Bruce Harken; Lori and Greg Howes; Claire and Lauren Keene; Elizabeth, Lucy, and Rebecca Milde; Drew and Nancy Nahigyan; and Suzanne and Noah Perdigao.
By Jean Perry