One large white van sat in the parking lot of Holy Family Catholic church on that June morning. On the first day of summer the youth group was shipping off to Lewis County, Kentucky. Eleven people, including our 23 year old youth minister, 60 year old Ron the chaperone, and nine teenagers’ suitcases were being shoved into this white van.
Between stops at scenic rest stops, gas stations in the mountains, to truck stops on the high way, the whole trip went from Maryland to West Virginia, Ohio, and finally Kentucky in around six hours. We knew we were getting close to our destination, one, because we had run out of radio stations to listen to, two, our Suduko books no longer held our interest and three, there was nothing anywhere.
As we were literally coming around the mountains, over the hills and through the woods, we found ourselves taking a tour of the local neighborhoods instead of arriving at our work camp farm. We passed open fields bordered by steep mountains and ridges. We winded around creeks and cows. We also visited the only gas station with an accurate map of Lewis County.
Finally, after driving across a bridge consisting only of flimsy looking plywood planks, we spotted the big red barn and dorm house. The sign read: ‘GlenMary Farm Peace Came and Stayed”, which is exactly how my youth group felt as we began our week on the farm.
The rules of the farm were as follows: Wake up when the leaders tell you to wake up, even if it’s still dark out, cook your own meals, complete the chores your group is assigned and no electronics or make up. Simple enough, we thought. We were here to do work, so we didn’t mind having to wake up before the sun rose. Or even cooking all of our own meals together. We didn’t mind mowing the lawn or doing dishes. Living without electronics, however, was hard.
Every morning we were awakened by one of the leaders yelling through the doorway, “Good morning ladies! What a beautiful day the Lord has made!”
We would wake up and cook out own breakfast, do the chores around the farm and then carpool to different locations in Lewis County.
One day we went to Comprehend, which was a facility for adults who were unable to stay home alone during the day because of a mental disability. The next day we went to a local food pantry to clean and reorganize. Another day we traveled to the local senior center to have lunch. The best days were when we traveled to the housing developments and helped build the houses for the poor.
In our spare time we drove to a park and went hiking through the Appalachian mountains. It was hard, the air was hot, it stuck to our skin as we hiked continuously upward. The trees were huge, the caves we explored were bigger still. Back at the farm we explored the woods around the area. We were only permitted one shower a week so we frequently swam in the swimming hole. The freshwater rushed in a river down hill and into the large basin of water, swirling and cold. There we would lather up after hammering houses or fixing elderly folks’ homes.
The last day of our journey concluded with the whole group hiking up the woods in front of the big red barn and sliding down a natural waterfall hidden in the woods. Secretly made my nature and secretly enjoyed by some very hard working kids.
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