Over the next few weeks, these missionaries will be featured — giving our readers a little peek of the experiences they have encountered.
Most of the world learned about the “hollers” and poverty in eastern Kentucky from Loretta Lynn’s famous song Coal Miner’s Daughter that was released in 1970. Metropolis Postmaster and native Greg Rednour has experienced that poverty firsthand through his participation in God’s Appalachian Partnership (GAP) ministries with Heartland Worship Center in Paducah.
The church sends mission groups through GAP three times per year, and Rednour is usually on two of those trips. Before their first trip, the church gave out lumps of coal with pictures of children from eastern Kentucky where they would be ministering to members and the community to build awareness of their upcoming mission trip. The group from Heartland will usually have 12 to 25 participants volunteer for the trip who will meet other groups in Kentucky.
Rednour says he has traveled to Floyd County, Ky. eight or nine times. He was scheduled to go in late April, but do to local issues, the trip has been postponed until July. The United States Census Bureau states the poverty level for the nation is 14.9 percent, while the poverty level of Floyd County is 27.1 percent. The majority of those poverty stricken reside in the hollers outside of McDowell, Ky. GAP ministries focuses its efforts specifically on 22 miles of State Route 122 between the towns of Martin and Wheelwright.
The county is known for coal mining and produces 2702 tons per year of the coal that is mined in Kentucky. Pike County is the largest with 15,065 tons per year. The increase of using explosive methods for mining and the decrease in the demand for high sulfur coal over the past four decades due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations in power plants throughout the United States has caused massive layoffs and mine shutdowns resulting in unemployment and increased poverty.
After the shutdowns, the coal companies gave the coal miners the housing they were living in, but over time, the residents have not been able to keep up with the maintenance on their homes. Rednour estimates that most of the housing was built in the 1930s and were built quickly during that time period. He even guesses some of the houses have the original roofs on them.
GAP ministries focus on community development, children’s ministries and home repairs. “My favorite part of the trip is dealing with the children,” Rednour said. “We do Bible schools in the park with them and play basketball and football with them and fix them meals. A lot of the time, they end up just playing with each other because that’s what kids do.”
On one of their first trips, he remembers only one child having a bicycle to ride. While at the park, the children would take turns riding that one bike. “When it was their turn to ride, they would get so excited and run and leave you playing basketball by yourself,” Rednour said.
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