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FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — A faith-based group is rallying volunteers to help fellow residents of Appalachia whose homes were destroyed by the July 2022 floods.

Deacon David Lester is spearheading a spring mission trip to help rebuild homes in Letcher County the week of March 12-17. The Ecumenical Mission Team, formed in association with the Greater Fairmont Council of Churches in 2005, needs both feet on the ground and donations to help make the mission a success.

“We always try to respond to a need that is within our reach geographically, that has adequate support on the ground in that area, and where the need is perhaps greatest. So I have surveyed a variety of disasters prior to selecting one for us to contribute our time, talent, and treasure in helping to alleviate,” Lester said. “All people of faith are welcome.”

The mission team will travel to Letcher County to focus on rebuilding efforts in and around Whitesburg one of the areas that were devastated by a 1,000-year flood that completely destroyed over 100 homes and left thousands in a six-county area unlivable.

Lester said the dates were chosen to coincide with Spring Break at West Virginia University in hopes that up to four students might be able to participate. The size of the group is being limited to 12 people. Participants must be at least 18 years of age.

Housing and accommodations will be provided by a local group known as “Save His Sheep” that is currently working out of the former elementary school in Jenkins, Kentucky, which was renovated to facilitate rebuild efforts.

“Letcher County has a Long Term Recovery Committee that will be helping with oversight and funding of the majority of building materials. The fee to participate in the trip is $100 per person and we encourage those who cannot afford this to petition their congregation to help with it,” Lester said.

Taking part in mission activity, Lester said, can offer the participant an opportunity to take stock of their station in life.

“It is easy to dismiss the sufferings that come with such disasters because there are so many of them in this age of growing climate crisis and everyone has a cross to bare. But what we discover in moving toward the suffering of our fellow men and women is that we share in blessings that unburden our own hearts, making our own struggles seem lighter and perhaps less worrisome to us,” Lester said.


He noted that Christians are called on to respond to the needs of the downtrodden and mission activities, such as the one planned for March, are a way to offer hope to others.

“We have a calling from God, through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit not merely to talk about it, but to act. In so doing we are inevitably given insight into these teachings that cause us to want to make greater sacrifices for others and in so doing expand the spiritual benefits, as well as, the practical benefits of those who are served,” Lester said.

The Greater Fairmont Council of Churches helps spread the word about the mission trip, while also helping raise funds and other forms of community awareness.

“We, as a council, have always supported Deacon David Lester in his many mission trips — some have been local but most in other states,” Greater Fairmont Council of Churches President Cathy Reed said. “It is important for different faith groups to minister to others, and to show folks that there is true kindness.”