Writer  /  Kristen Parker
Photographer  /  Contributed

When Stephanie Rohl and Andrea Bauer first volunteered in Appalachia almost two decades ago, they had no idea that the experience would eventually lead them to form their own non-profit organization for ministry there: His Hands and Feet Ministries. “About 18 years ago, a youth pastor approached us about going to Appalachia on a mission trip. In addition, as teachers, we ended up being able to spend entire summers there. We got to know the people and the area and fell in love with it,” said Andrea.

The Reason
In Floyd County, Kentucky, where His Hands and Feet focus the majority of their work, about 28 percent of households live below the poverty line. Comparatively, about 9 percent of households in Johnson County are below the poverty line. In addition, there is assistance available in Johnson County, as well as public transportation for people to receive that assistance. “There are no services in Appalachia. Historically, this part of the country has been forgotten,” said Stephanie. “And there is no bus system to take people even if there were services for them.”

In addition to the significant need in Appalachia, the ministry is drawn there for another reason. “Coming from the Center Grove area, once you’re there, you’re there. There’s no going home at night. This gets people out of their element and gives them the opportunity to see the world through a different lens without leaving the U.S.,” said Andrea. “We just want to give people the opportunity to go on a lower-cost mission trip … so they can see that extreme poverty does exist in the United States, and it is only five hours away.”

The Mission
The mission of His Hands and Feet Ministries is “to preach the Gospel of Jesus by being disciples who address the spiritual and physical needs of the communities in which we serve.” To fulfill this mission statement, they offer a variety of services, depending on the need. Most of the jobs involve making homes safe for the families who live in them. “Some of these homes you would not let your dog live in; we just go in and try to make it safe for these families,” said Andrea. Examples of projects include, but are in no way limited to, building wheelchair ramps and emergency steps, installing new doors and windows, and repairing flooring, roofs, and plumbing.

The Process
Each family must first submit an application to the ministry before any work begins. Once received, Stephanie and Andrea assess the cost estimate on the project, as well as the age of the people asking for help, their income and the safety of the site. Several times a year, Stephanie and Andrea actually travel to Appalachia to visit these potential ministry opportunities so they can match volunteer groups with appropriate work sites.

The History
His Hands and Feet Ministries officially began in 2013. Andrea and Stephanie have been leading mission trips to Appalachia for the past 12 years through Saints Francis and Clare Catholic Church. His Hands and Feet, while based within and launching teams from the Center Grove community, partner with any church or other group looking to send a mission team to Appalachia.

The Effect
This domestic opportunity for missions has a long-term effect on international missions. “What churches should understand is that if they send a group on a domestic trip, it will help with their international ministry as well. People who go to work in Appalachia will end up thinking, ‘If this poverty exists here in our country, what else is out there internationally?’” said Andrea.

The Hope
Appalachia has traditionally been wary of outsiders. Andrea and Stephanie have experienced that first hand. “It took years of us being there repeatedly before we were accepted,” said Stephanie. This is the very reason why His Hands and Feet assign groups to work at the same job site for the entire week of the trip. “The people we are working for probably won’t even come out of their house for the first few days. However, by the end, they do. It’s the realization that ‘These people paid money and gave up a week of their time to come and do this for me?’ It restores some hope in humanity,” said Andrea.

The Recruitment
They currently have two trips on their books for next summer, but are interested in leading a few more. They are also available to take one-week trips, over Spring Break or Fall Break. The cost is $330 per person, which covers the materials for the site, lodging (typically in a local church), and administrative costs. Each volunteer is responsible for his or her own transportation and food while there.

Contact information for His Hands and Feet Ministries can be found at hhfmindy.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Center Grove Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });