Drive an hour northeast from Nashville and you will find the town of Westmoreland. In contrast to Nashville’s surge in population and status as an “up and coming” city, Westmoreland is still very much the same as it has always been. This is a small town with a population of 2,300. Many of its residents have called Westmoreland home for all of their lives. This area is also home to a camp that Mission Discovery purchased almost 10 years ago. Using the camp as a launch point, Mission Discovery has reached out to residents in Westmoreland who need help in a variety of ways. From senior citizens who need general housekeeping help to disabled individuals who need wheel chair ramps built, Mission Discovery has literally been reaching out to the neighbors in our own backyard.
Mr. John has called Westmoreland his home for 87 years. Like many of the people Mission Discovery serves in Westmoreland, a local church gave Mr. John’s name to us. He lives by himself and takes care of his own property. He is mostly self sufficient, but needed a little extra help. Our team spent the week building Mr. John a new deck, painting trim, and doing general yard work. While members of the team were busy checking items off the list of what to do, Mr. John would find ways to pull someone aside and simply talk to them. He would ask about their life, and share stories from his own. Conversations with Mr. John became just as much of a reason to be there as the work was. It was obvious that while Mr. John appreciated the work being done, his true joy was in simply getting to know the team.
One of our summer interns, Hannah Gregory, reflected on the week and what Mr. John meant to her…
I thought Mr. John would be just another work site at another house. I had no idea of the impact John would have on me. He has not had an easy life, he has been abandoned by loved ones, seen friends fall, his house ruined by a flood, but he always moves forward and takes care of himself. The heart he has is almost impossible for one to explain without meeting him. His smile is one that is hard to look away from, and you just always want to be near him so you don’t miss any of his stories.
Mr. John taught me many life lessons over the past few weeks, but my favorite he tells is this:
“There is always going to be a storm cloud of darkness around you, but you have to look for the silver lining and that is where you will see God.”
Mr. John has been through many seasons in his life, but he taught me that God can bring you out of your deepest winters. No matter how cold you may be, He is there, waiting to warm you up and walk with you into the next season of your life. Although changing seasons are often painful, and may seem unbearable, they are just seasons. The thing that does not change is what is coming when all our seasons end. I call Mr. John as often as possible, and every time I do he tells me that he sits on the back porch we made him until it gets dark thinking about the special people that came to his house. A week of missions to us can be a life change to others.
Hannah’s story is a great example of the amazing work being done in Westmoreland. God reveals His truth in astonishing ways on mission trips. We can’t wait to see what He reveals next summer as we return to Westmoreland and serve this beautiful community. Will you join us?