Recently, 21 volunteers from Minnesota and Nebraska travelled 1,000 miles to Greenville, Miss. with their journey starting March 4 and with all returning home by March 16 where they completed remodeling on two houses.
This mission started in 1965 when a Methodist pastor from North Dakota travelled to Greenville, Miss. to help register black voters, and assisting in this community has continued since that time.
In 1999, Pastor Harvey Pederson from the Storden area took over the project, and volunteers began working on homes in the city who had no other hope of repairs to their homes except for the Mission to Mississippi teams.
In the 21 years since “Mission to Mississippi” has been operating, there have been 350 individuals participating in the work who have helped 17 families with home repairs. The city of Greenville was established in 1824, and it is located next to the Mississippi River.
The city was burned down during the Civil War. It was later rebuilt and had a population of 45,000 in the 1990s. Now it has a population of about 30,000. Massive flood damage occurred in 1927, and flooding has occurred many times before a levee was built which has helped to divert some of the floodwaters through the years.
Cotton was king at one time and is still grown. Rice, corn and beans are also grown there, as is livestock.
The population is 80 percent black, with about 30 percent of residents living below the poverty level. The unemployment level became higher than average when some companies relocated to other cities.
Minnesota volunteers led by Paul Huls of Jeffers came from Lamberton, Jeffers, Walnut Grove, Wabasso, Westbrook, Currie, Storden, Fairfax and Kasson.
Also, volunteers came from Columbus and Osceola, Neb. More than 20 Lutheran and Methodist churches from this area, plus North Dakota and Nebraska, have raised funds each year to purchase building materials to work on these projects. This year a house for a wheelchair bound owner had a steel roof installed, new plank flooring was installed in most rooms, walls, ceilings and kitchen cabinets were painted as well as new curtains and blinds were installed.
Also, a new wheelchair kitchen table counter was built and a new gas stove was also installed.
The exterior of the “bunk house” was completed this year with the roof ends extended and covered with steel. New windows were installed, and the remaining exterior walls were re-sided. This is the house that will be used by volunteers in the future when it is finished.
The house is close to Revels Methodist Church where the gym and upstairs rooms are now used for sleeping and eating areas for visiting volunteers. New plumbing was installed as well, as were new stud walls.
Unfortunately, after the third day of work some tools were stolen, but new tools were purchased to keep the work going. Houses that are selected to be repaired are put on a list and then each listing is reviewed. Individuals who are in need and do not have the means of getting the repairs done are a priority on the list.
Pastor Davis, from the Revels Methodist Church in Greenville mentioned that he drives from 100 miles away to serve this congregation each week. Since Pastor Davis also farms with his brother he said planting his bean crop would begin in early April.
Davis also mentioned his family grew up in the same area as country music singer Charlie Pride, and their parents were once good friends. One of the positive things during the mission trip was the limited access to TV and radio, so little was heard about the coverage of the coronavirus, except for what some people saw on their cell phones or talking with family members back home.
The question has been asked is why go all the way to Mississippi when there are projects that could be worked on close to home?
Of course there are needs close to home, such as food shelf usage, plus other relief projects are done on a regular basis. When driving through the city to the house project site, many houses are in tough shape, boarded up with roofs caving in and abandoned.
Volunteers on the mission are too far away from their homes to return each day. There is a real push to get things done, as there is a short time window to get the project finished.
A big positive for this mission project is that it brings hope to those who are helped, and that is something everyone needs no matter where they live.