A Mutual Transformation During an Appalachian Mission

Story & photos by Erika Kraus, Intern

A porch that is rebuilt may deteriorate over time, but the relationships built through Jesus Christ have the power to stand for eternity. Broken relationships with God and within communities can be restored.

Stephanie Hess (right) and Lori Booher (left).

Stephanie Hess (right) and Lori Booher (left).


Just ask Stephanie Hess and Lori Booher, two widows who bonded and experienced mutual transformation during a mission trip in Appalachia.

Before he died, Stephanie's husband experienced a transformation that led others to believe in salvation through Christ.

Her husband was "the one who brought me to the Lord," says Stephanie, who lives in Grafton, West Virginia. "I know that God is real; he changed his life...When he died, people got saved. Lives were touched."

She was left to raise her two young boys — James, 11, and Jadon, 8 — alone.

A mission team from First Presbyterian Church of Newport in Rhode Island made repairs to Stephanie's mobile home. Along with the Phillips/Wynne family from Justin, Texas, the volunteers painted the porch, power-washed the exterior siding, replaced multiple windows, and sealed the roof.

On the Rhode Island team were Lori and her daughters: Kelsey, 16, and Caitlyn, 11.

"Your story was inspiring and encouraging to me," Lori says to Stephanie a few days into the trip. "It made me think about my own story."

In a short period of her life, Lori had lost her husband, job, and home, leaving her alone to raise four children. At first, she tried to manage everything by herself, then learned to give her burden to God.

"There's a special place for widows in God's heart," Lori says, with a faith that shines through her eyes. She encourages women to reach out to organizations like World Vision that can help widows with children in need.

The week spent with the volunteers led Stephanie to want to return to church, starting with a midweek service with the mission teams.

"Without people like you, people may never see the love of Christ," she tells Lori.

"We're coming from all different backgrounds," Lori says. "At the end of the day, God is good, and God is faithful."


Learn more about World Vision's mission trips in Appalachia and other parts of the U.S.