Christian Student Fellowship members stop to have lunch outside Big Creek Mission. Forty-seven students and sponsors spent a week in one of the poorest counties in the nation to help families who live there.
Four vans, 47 people, 2,647 miles and 342 cups of coffee crammed into spring break to share hope through a mission founded in Appalachia.
Students from Christian Student Fellowship arrived Sunday afternoon, March 19 at Big Creek Mission after 18 hours in vans on the way to Leslie County, Ky.
On Monday, the volunteers got together in groups right away to do community service work, construction or work in the schools.
Jordan Hughett, a freshman organizational communication major from Aurora, Colo., worked in the high school and middle school in Leslie County, one of the poorest counties in the nation. “I went into a classroom in the math department, and the substitute teacher didn’t know what she was doing,” Hughett said. “So I ended up teaching geometry on the first day, and I taught the next class after that.”
CSF first went to Big Creek Mission in 2009 because the usual location, Mexico, was in a travel warning. “Big Creek Mission knows to change the county you have to start with the kids, the future of Leslie County,” Hughett said.
Kevin Rogers founded Big Creek Mission in 2004 and moved in an elementary school that closed in 2007 and has been transforming classrooms into bedrooms with bunk beds and turning the gym into a sanctuary and a storage place for mission groups. Rogers is from Knoxville, Tenn. and is enthusiastic about helping the community.
Hughett said during one class he passed out markers and had students do math examples on the board and then explain them to the class. He said one student was mad because he had to go in front of the class.
The student stared at the board complaining that he didn’t know what he was doing. Hughett helped work the problem out on the board, and then the student explained to the class what they did. “You could tell he really understood it at that point, and it was cool to see him get it,” Hughett said.
The next day Hughett helped in the English department. “I waited for the teacher for a while, but then someone came in and said they didn’t know where the teacher was,” Hughett said. “The class was supposed to write an essay on ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ So to get the students attention, I recited the prologue from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from memory, and then they wrote their essays.”
Hughett wanted to meet the principal of the school because he was impressed at the improvement made with the school. “Two years ago the high school was the fourth worst high school in the state,” Hughett said. “Within two years he turned the school around, and it is now the 65th best in the state. He moved the school up 150 levels in two years. I wanted to meet him and tell him how impressed I was.”
Near the end of the week, CSF members could tell students were excited to see them by the high-fives they received in the hallway. “I went into a classroom, and they were really excited to see me,” Hughett said. “’Jordan, Jordan!’ they all yelled. It was cool to see I had made a difference in a short time.”
Though Hughett worked in the school, students saw poverty just driving through the county. “There were places where the poverty was really bad,” Hughett said. “The cars were really nice because people see you in your car and not your house. If you have an expensive car then it looks like you have it all together, but the houses were a mess.”
Other CSF members built ramps and decks for people who couldn’t afford them. Community groups went to nursing homes and talked to people who lived there and other students went to the elementary schools and built relationships with kids.
During the trip Hughett strengthened friendships and learned important lessons. “I learned about the community and how much help they need down there,” Hughett said. “A lot of people don’t understand that. I’m considering going back this summer.”