A narrative non-fiction story about a young woman ministering to the poor in the rugged Appalchian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. Her efforts founded the well-respected Mission of Hope, an organization that not only tends to daily needs but provides college scholarships and mentoring programs.
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There Is No Hope Here is a true story, marked by humor and sadness as a glimpse is offered into the eyes and souls of Appalachian poverty. It is the story of a young woman bringing food, clothing and love to hopeless families; it is the story of her walk with God as He upholds her through the darkness of discouragement and sickness. The story is set in one of the most challenging and beautiful places in America.
The book is available at amazon and you can read an extended excerpt at richardbiggsliterary.com.
These are the things John remembered as he rode with Julie. And these are the things she will never forget. The snow that had fallen a few days earlier had left the roads treacherous, water spilling off the hills and turning to ice, a reminder that care should be taken, not only when approaching strangers, for John had cautioned her about that, but while driving as well. As they traveled deep into the hills the land seemed to sink toward the forest, peppered with many varieties of small shacks, most of them little more than tar paper buildings held together by will. The sagging roofs seemed destined to fail under any rain. It was rare to see a telephone or electrical pole. Most of the houses had an outdoor bathroom, usually a small structure with a curtain for a door. The fronts of the houses were decorated with relics of old cars, washing machines or some other item that would be there until rust finally decayed it into nothing. It was like seeing a movie of a third world country. John said there were many places much worse.
On a spit of land stuck barely below a road that carried massive coal trucks to and from the mines, deep into a stand of trees diseased from man’s careless treatment of the earth, sat the home of Milton Cox. They eased the truck down the muddy road and pulled to a stop on a grassless piece of ground so hard that even weeds would have difficulty bearing fruit.
Milton used to be a coal miner and also worked in the rock quarries before age and cancer caught up with him. His bad luck continued when his house burned down and forced him to rent where he’s now living. While the rent was just a pittance, it was a pittance he couldn’t afford.
The house itself had a front porch filled with buckets and wash basins, a bench where Mrs. Cox was sitting, and various other items that appeared to be random collections. A stove pipe protruded from the center of the house.
Mrs. Cox watched intently as Julie and John stepped from the truck. She didn’t speak and seemed to gaze past them to above the mountain where the sun had ducked behind a cloud. She turned her head slightly to speak toward the house and in a moment a man in a plaid shirt appeared. He squinted toward the truck before seeing John and saying, “What brings you here?” He was wearing overalls and his shoes were old and dirty. With his openly hostile eyes he presented the image of one not kind to strangers and who desired visitors not at all.
John in a quiet voice, forcing Milton to listen attentively, explained about Julie and what she wanted to do. Milton furrowed his brow and grunted something, before asking what was in the truck. He was in his mid-seventies and walked with a slight hunching of the shoulders. John carried a box of food and dropped it on the porch as though to say, this is what’s in the truck. While Mrs. Cox, who had yet to speak, went through the box as Milton began to talk about the way things were. The sight of the food had loosened his tongue and now he seemed eager for John to understand that as bad as they were when he was a boy, they were even worse now. He said you couldn’t buy a job if your life depended on it and he had no earthly idea what’s going to happen. His voice was filled with resignation because he seemed to know that his time was running out. His wife slowly nodded her head. She made a slight motion as though about to speak, but she just continued nodding. As she looked through the box, she smiled at Julie.
“I hope it will help,” Julie said.
“It’ll come in real handy,” Mrs. Cox said, her first words.
Julie began to talk about her purpose for being in the mountains and what she was looking for, and they relaxed a little toward her, giving her a little more trust, but she knew it would take more than one visit to get it fully. Far too many bad things had visited over the years, so trust was hard to get.
Mrs. Cox had returned to her own thoughts and said nothing until reaching over to take the box. “Reckon this needs to be inside.” But Julie beat her to it and followed her through the small door. It had been raining and the floor was wet from the leaky, tarpaper roof. The walls, a collection of cardboard and wood, were stained from age and moisture. The stove sat in the middle of the room.
“It ain’t much,” Mrs. Cox said, “but it’s better than nothing, I guess.”