Founders' Family Deploys to Appalachia
Last week Hope Force Reservists once again brought the ministry of presence to West Virginia by giving practical assistance to the hidden poor of Appalachia. This deployment was especially meaningful for HFI co-founders Jack and Cherie Minton because their daughter Tiffany Puckett, her husband Jonathan, and the couple's three children came along. "Being missionary kids, Tiffany and Jonathan have wanted their own children to experience missions," Cherie said. "They have wanted to go to Appalachia with Hope Force for quite some time."
The Reservists were deployed to War, West Virginia, where Hope Force has a team house. As a former coal mining town, War flourished until the decline of the coal industry during the 1960's. With an unemployment rate over 10 percent and 42 percent of residents living in poverty, War is still struggling to recover from this hard hit to its economy.
"I was amazed at how a seven-hour drive led me to what felt like another world," Tiffany said. "I have traveled all over the world, and I have seen poverty. This was more than that. It felt like poverty of the spirit. A feeling of hopelessness was palpable."
During their time in War, Tiffany and HFI Reservist Amy Phillips went to visit an elderly woman named Miss Sylvia, who lives near the Hope Force team house. After the death of her daughter several months ago from a drug overdose, Miss Sylvia couldn't bear to go through her daughter's belongings, so she asked Hope Force for help. While their husbands worked on some needed repairs on Miss Sylvia's house, Tiffany and Amy found that what Miss Sylvia needed most from them was the chance to process the loss of her daughter.
"Spending time with Miss Sylvia was one of the highlights of the trip," Tiffany said. "She just needed somebody to talk to. It was an honor to hear her stories and share in her grief. I could feel Jesus there with us as we listened, and I felt that he sent us there to love on her."
In addition to bringing the ministry of presence, the team gave practical assistance to Pastor Gus, who serves War and the nearby community of Caretta. Pastor Gus lost his wife unexpectedly two years ago and now takes care of his wheelchair-bound daughter alone while battling his own progressing Multiple Sclerosis. Hope Force Reservists built a new ramp for Pastor Gus's daughter to make it easier for him to get her into the house.
"The people we met at [Pastor Gus's] church exuded joy," Tiffany said. "You could feel their determination being a light in the darkness around them. Our youngest son Jack really enjoyed helping Pastor Gus. He loved West Virginia, and he keeps asking when we're going back!"
Even with ongoing Hope Force efforts, the need for assistance in West Virginia is still enormous. In the county where War is located, there has been no new construction since the 1970's. Because of the advanced age of many of these homes, 64 percent of housing in the area is considered substandard.
"Jack and I left a part of our hearts in that beautiful area of the United States, where the scenery is breathtaking and the people are warm, genuine and welcoming," Cherie concludes. "The icing on the cake was working with our precious family. I know that much of the calendar is booked up already with teams, but if you are interested in having a chance to make a huge difference in one of the poorest areas of America, please let us know. You don't have to be a Hope Force Reservist to go, and I promise you ? it will leave an indelible mark on your heart."
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