By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The brochure reads: "Red Bird Mission, guided by Jesus Christ." But churches such as Christ's Community United Methodist Church of Joplin play a big part, too.
The Methodist-backed mission, which serves poverty-stricken families in three southeast Kentucky counties, will send a truckload of handmade crafts -- made by many of the needy families -- to the church next week. The purpose will be to sell the crafts in order to raise money for more than 14,000 families in those three counties.
The Appalachian Craft Fair will feature cornshuck flowers, dolls and angels, woven rugs, jewelry and toys, to name a few. Crafts will be set up on as many as 30 tables in the auditorium of the Joplin church, at 2700 E. 44th St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Whatever remains will be on sale the following day to the church's congregation.
Bonnie Yetter organized the Red Bird Mission team from Christ's Community, which has supported the mission for many years.
Last year was the first time for the church to send a team of volunteers to Beverly, Ky., where the mission is located. The 12 members of the team spent a week on the mission campus armed with paint brushes.
"Although that was a huge job for us last year, most of the groups who go to the mission actually go out into the community and work on people's homes," Yetter said. "The mission coordinates all that, and they have volunteers coming to help from April until the fall."
In fact, the mission houses and feeds up to 150 volunteer workers from around the United States each week. Although most are from Methodist churches, other denominations help out, too.
Red Bird Mission began as a Christian school in 1921 and continues to provide education today for kindergartners through 12th-graders.
The ministry today, however, extends much further than a school and preschool. The campus also has a hospital and dental clinic, community store, housing for the elderly as well as a senior center, transitional housing for the homeless, food and clothing assistance (much like Crosslines Churches of Joplin), and offers many areas for improvement, such as GED classes and job training and placement.
Coal mining is the main industry in Clay, Bell and Leslie counties, but that's not so much a good thing.
"The government shut down the coal mines and then there were all these people with zero income because there were no jobs," said Preston White, a member of the church's team. "The income is below poverty level, but the people live there because that is their community."
Residents from the three counties, which are within a 60-mile radius of Beverly, make the crafts, which are featured at national and regional craft shows as well as sponsoring churches. The mission markets them to provide many of the residents with their only income.
Yetter said that the mission serves the people well in the little area. It was nearly 30 years ago when she saw the mission for the first time, and there is a noticeable difference today.
"Back then I saw horrible poverty," she said. "I saw shacks on the sides of the streets, with outhouses practically right on the streets. Last year when we went, we saw running water, and it did not look like anyone had any outhouses. I did not see any trash piled up in yards like before. The area has improved, and I think the mission has played a big part in that."
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more
More information on the mission, which is one of the largest of the U.S. Methodist churches, may be obtained by visiting the website www.rbmission.org, calling the mission at 606-598-3155 or contacting Christ's Community United Methodist Church at 417-781-8701.