Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church Kentucky mission trip a success -

Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church Kentucky mission trip a success

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 | 11:44 AM

Twenty Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church members left on Father’s Day for a memorable week-long central Appalachian retreat.

The group traveled to Chavies, Ky., to partner with Appalachia Service Project (ASP), a Christian ministry repairing low-income families’ homes to make them “warmer, safer and drier.” ASP has centers in parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

This is the seventh year that Bethlehem Lutheran in Glenshaw has participated with ASP.

Church member and mission trip coordinator Joe Ulrich said that it’s nice to leave Pittsburgh for a week to concentrate on the project and strengthen ties with his fellow church members.

“You’re with them 24/7 for a whole week … it adds a whole ‘nother level of commitment.”

Cara Nagy Schoettes, ASP marketing and communications manager, said that ASP sees a great need for its services in the areas it serves.

“There’s a couple of different reasons why substandard housing is so prevalent in Appalachia — a lot of it due to economic reasons, some environmental reasons. It’s also a part of our region and a part of our country that I think a lot of people don’t know a lot about and don’t always pay a ton of mind to. And so, getting high school students and adult volunteers to engage with the culture of Appalachia, you know, it’s something that’s happening in their own backyard and they don’t have to travel across the world just to serve.”

The Bethlehem group ranged in age from 15 to 60s,

Ulrich said. Experience levels also varied.

“Part of the mission when you go down there is to try to connect with the people you are helping, so if you have someone who is not quite as handy, they can do the connecting with the family you are working for. They can make sure that the people that are working have water and something to eat and, you know, hand them tools and you always need a set of hands and they don’t have to be the most set of skilled hands,” he said.

The group divided into four teams to work on different projects.

“The project that my team worked on was the people’s floor was sagging in their living room, like, kitchen combination, and our task was to replace the floor in the kitchen. Well, once we ripped the two layers of floor that were there, we found out that all the joists and cross joists and rim joists and everything were all rotted out and termite-infested,” Ulrich said. His team replaced the joists and subflooring. He anticipated a different team installing the top layer of flooring this week.

Another team removed a small addition and steep ramp from a home and replaced it with a deck. In upcoming weeks, teams will construct a 30-foot ramp, said Becky Frese, Chavies center director. These volunteers also installed downspouts on the home’s gutters.

Meanwhile, a different group constructed a “hug system” for a trailer with an improved framework, insulation, siding and roof that ASP has found can lower heating bills by 30 to 50%.

Finally, a crew replaced a house’s water-damaged exterior wall. They installed a new window, sheathing and weather-resistant barrier.

Ulrich said that, as Christians, he and the members of his church feel called to serve others, whether locally or on a mission trip.

“This is just one more piece of the puzzle by going down to Appalachia and serving the people down there and helping them and showing our love for Jesus and doing his work.”