Helping hands give hope
Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2014
Every year since 2005, a group of Methodist missionaries from two Oregonia, Ohio churches have traveled to Mississippi to help with structural damage originally caused by Hurricane Katrina, then subsequent damage by Hurricane Isaac and the Christmas Day tornado.
Olive Branch United Methodist Mission Volunteer Coordinator Judy Schaefer, is the sister of Jean Converse Rapp of Picayune.
Schaefer’s group, along with members of Faith Church United Methodist have partnered and grown very close throughout the years.
“The first year post Katrina a group from Olive Branch came and spent time on the coast. The following two years were were closer to Picayune and in 2009 we came to Picayune. We have returned annually ever since,” Schaefer said.
“The group works all year raising funds to support their trips to help,” Schaefer said. “Our church is a voting place and we serve an election-day lunch, and spaghetti dinners. We sell baked goods throughout the year as well.”
This long distance effort is even more impressive when considering the entire Olive Branch congregation consists of fewer than 70 members.
“This is a mission for this group,” said Schaefer. “Some of them volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Ohio. The hours are long when we are here, but this is truly a labor of love.”
This week’s projects included construction of a handicap ramp, roof repair and soffit work. They also worked on a few repair jobs for Habitat for Humanity houses.
“We basically just come and help,” said Schaefer. “Our time here consists of five days of hard work.”
This trip focused on the residence of Julian and Pat Stockstill, located at 100 Sones Chapel Rd. The family was hit hard with the Christmas Day tornado of 2012.
“Maybe because our damage was not as visible as some of the other homes, people thought we didn’t need the help as much as some of the others,” Pat Stockstill said. But most of our damage was in the back of the house. It was certainly there.”
The couple believes this trip has been an answer to their prayers.
“The group spent much of our time cleaning up rooms and the outside of the house,” Schaeffer said. “We gutted the house and cleaned debris. We won’t make a dent in this project but we have made progress.”
Amy Burgess, grew up Oregonia, and although she now lives in Florida, she joined the group this year to be part of her original church home’s efforts.
Pat Stockstill said, “Amy planted a flower bed for me. To see all of the damage that had been done and the beauty of the flowers that were in their place was touching.”
Some other members of the group include Jerry Boozer, a former engineer employed with GE for 33 years; recently retired steel business owners, Roger and Rose Converse; feed business owner Judy Schnecker and a Proctor and Gamble chemical engineer Kyle Jones and his wife, Sue, who was a school clinic aide.
Group members Scarlett Rowland and Aubrey Tritch are a mother and daughter team. Tritch is experiencing her first year on a mission trip. She is the mother of two, who manages a call center for Macy’s. She said that it was her New Year resolution for 2014 to embark on a mission trip.
“My goal for this year was to experience a mission trip and my mom called me three days later about this trip,” Tritch said.
“I missed my nine-year-old daughter’s birthday but celebrated with the group singing to her.”
This trip has blessed Pearl River County residents but it has also been a positive experience for Tritch and her mother Rowland. The two have bonded through their experiences and have seen each other through new eyes.
Five years ago, Rowland, a school bus driver was diagnosed with stage three melanoma cancer and was given five years to live.
“After treatment the cancer came back and then some. I prayed and took an experimental treatment at a university hospital when that happened,” Rowland said. “Two weeks later I went to the hospital, where I signed a paper that said I could die within 3 days of the treatment. I had planned my funeral and had written letters to my family.”
The next morning, when results came in, everything had receded, Rowland said.
That was nine years ago. Today, Rowland is taking a certified lay ministry course with United Methodist church, starting a ministry at Mary Haven Boys Home.
“Life doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to Him,” Rowland said. “If you waste it— that is your fault.”