WHERE ARE WE?
We are in the mountains of West Virginia, working in a very rural area. The town is called Richwood, and it is surrounded by such beautiful mountains. A long time ago, this was a very desirable place to live. They boasted that they had the biggest clothes pin factory in the world. There was also a large tannery in the area, and of course there was a big coal mine. Now, all of these things are gone, along with most of the people in Richwood. Its population was 10,000 plus, and now there are less that 2,000 people there.
All of the jobs are gone. The area is very economically depressed. When we drove down Main Street yesterday, all of us noticed there were no open stores. Various displays filled the windows in place of merchandise. The windows reminded people of better days, but they also showed that people were still proud to live in Richwood.
I’ve noticed some difference in the people we have been meeting. They are much more willing to talk to total strangers for long periods of time than most Americans. So many people just want someone to see them, to hear them. More, everyone who visits me from overseas always comments how we as Americans do not like to walk anywhere. We always drive, but more than half of the people who came to our shows walked. Most houses appear to need a lot of work, at least on the outside. I can only imagine that there are many more things that need fixing on the inside.
No one here has spoken to me about a financial need, though I am very sure that they have many needs. These people are proud and independent, and seem determined to find a way to deal with their problems. Through the years, I have heard of many mission trips to West Virginia that were focused on repairing homes in this state. Though these projects are certainly needed, I am seeing people desperately hungry for a different kind of help. They want to hear about Jesus. They are hungry for the hope that only the Son of God can give.
Yesterday, people walked to one of our shows, and then walked to the next two shows. Please remember that we do puppet shows, and though these young people are excellent puppeteers, I was surprised that people wanted to come to all three programs. I do not believe they were motivated to attend all three shows because of their deep love of puppets, or their love for chalk pictures. They came because we were talking about Jesus, His forgiveness, His hope, His light.
HOW DID THEY RESPOND?
We are seeing God do some amazing things in people’s lives. One lady prayed to receive Christ at the puppet show last night. She was joined by other adults and children who also trusted in Jesus. However, her response to her new faith was so precious. I want you to hear what she said. She spoke of escaping from big problems in another state, and how she had come to West Virginia to escape. I saw the tears on her face, she was overwhelmed by God’s gift of love to her. She told a friend, "I have never believed, but I believe now."
We are working with a team from Subligna Baptist Church, which is located two miles south of my home in Georgia. They went door to door in this town and invited everyone to come to these shows. As they knocked on people’s doors, they talked to them about Jesus and how He could change their lives. One young woman in her twenties told them that she was not interested in anything the church had to say. She said that when she was fifteen and pregnant, the church turned their back on her. My friend Pastor Charles explained to her that Jesus had always been there for her. He was simply waiting for her to see His love. She asked Jesus to be her Savior.
So many children came up to me at the different shows and thanked me for the story. They were so happy with everything they were seeing and hearing. Many of the adults were just as grateful as the children, which is somewhat unusual. One father asked me for the pictures I had drawn so he could put them in his little girl’s room. Many people had conversations with children and adults after we finished the program. All were very interested in hearing more about Jesus.
I encourage those of you who are in America and are reading these emails to consider working in West Virginia. Please put the Gospel first in whatever you choose to do in this place, because these people’s greatest need is Jesus. They are very hungry to learn more about God and His plan in their lives.
Please pray for the block party that we are doing today. We will have hot dogs, cotton candy, balloons, and many more treats. We are doing one short puppet show and one long one. We are praying that the whole town will attend this event. We want to see and hear many many children put their trust in Jesus!
Please pray for us as we start traveling toward Massachusetts tomorrow. We will not actually arrive until Saturday. On Sunday we will be sharing at a Congregationalist church. Please pray for our time with our friends in Massachusetts. Please ask that the Lord make us a blessing.
Linda for Billy, Kelsey, Jaimie, Leslie, Drake, and Joe