Showing the love of Christ: Volunteers return from recent trip to Red Bird Mission

FLORENCE, S.C. – From the beginning, “our constant prayer has been that God would lead us to those He wants us to serve. He did, and He still does,” Mayo Collier, a St. Paul United Methodist Church member and mission trip organizer said.

Collier, and other church members and friends, have traveled to Red Bird Mission — near Beverly, Kentucky — since 2003. What started out as a youth mission trip has grown into a mission priority for the entire congregation, he said.

During the past 16 years, volunteers have made the pilgrimage to a Kentucky community 17 times to help those less fortunate.

“Red Bird opened up our eyes to the plight of the disadvantaged,” Collier said. “We saw … the extreme level of poverty and the commitment of the Red Bird Mission to address it. Hearts were touched, and efforts were made to get involved to try help to break the cycle of poverty.”

Red Bird Mission was founded in 1921. According to its website,, the mission in the southeastern corner of Kentucky was developed to provide education and Christian evangelism ministries to residents of the area. The mission sits at the confluence of Cow Fork and the Red Bird River and seeks to help meet the needs of the people of the Southern Highlands.

When the St. Paul group took its first trip in 2003, Collier said, it was composed of 13 youth, including Will Lindsey, Cyndi Jordan, Blake Hodges, Lawton Matthews, Whitney Walter, Tyler Clark, Amanda Martin, Daniel Hemmingson, Kirby Jordan, Caitlyn DeAngelo, Tim Saleeby, Lauren Saleeby and Jacob Sadler.

“The challenges this group encountered and how they addressed them laid the foundation and set the tone of the commitment for all that followed in their footsteps,” Collier said. “On the way there, while traveling up Red Bird mountain, the church bus carrying the boys ran off the road and turned over. It was a miracle no one was hurt.”

One of the first encounters of that group was at a small cabin near a creek. The cabin was owned by a blind lady with three mentally challenged children, he said.

“There was no front door, no water, little food and a toilet that sat in a closet and emptied straight on the ground under the house,” Collier said.

The assigned project was to repair a covered back deck. Several adults went to town and bought $400 of food for the family.

“This was the beginning of the outreach ministry,” Collier said.

In 2004, the same group of youth returned with $600 for an Outreach Project.

“An elderly couple with a blind 50-year-old son allowed the group to come and clean their home of debris,” Collier said.

Because most of the home’s windows and the door in the kitchen were missing, yard animals had full access to the home, he said.

“The youth wore masks and spent two days emptying the house of debris,” Collier said. “The funds were used to procure new mattresses, bedding and pillows, fly traps, mice traps, duct tape and plastic covers for the windows and doors. Both these teams worked hard, prayed often and showed the love of Christ in all they did.”

The youth of the 2003 trip were the trailblazers for subsequent St. Paul ministry trips to Red Bird, Collier said. Since 2003, more than 200 missioners have gone on the Red Bird mission trips, achieving more than 20,000 man-hours of volunteer time at the work camp.

“Working on homes does not break the cycle of poverty,” Collier said.

The hope is that education will.

“Our teams are driven to find the young mother that we can steer to early childhood development, kindergarden, day care, and on to school,” Collier said.

Each missioner pays $400 to cover some of the material cost and housing. Funds donated to the Outreach ministry totaled a little less than $33,000 this year and $188,000 since 2003. This money, Collier said, has been unsolicited.

“There has never been a fundraiser,” Collier said. “People find out about the work, and they give.”

The money has been used to address the needs of individuals in the Red Bird community and has bought dentures, glasses, hearing aids, clean water hookups, new wells, medical equipment, school scholarships, prenatal care, day care, meals on wheels, home health care and much more. Collier said Bibles were taken this year to Red Bird.

“God always provides the exact financial resource needed to accomplish his will,” Collier said.

This year, 44 volunteers participated in the April trip. Missioners were from the Florence area as well as from Harrison UMC in Pineville, North Carolina.

“St. Paul UMC has contributed greatly in the effort to address the plight of the disadvantaged in the Red Bird community,” Collier said. “Most important, we have been faithful to God’s calling and have shown the love of Christ and our commitment to Him as we have been called to serve.”

For information about the Red Bird Mission trip, contact Collier at


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