April is National Volunteer Month. We are celebrating our volunteers by telling their stories!
Kathy and Ken Wall worked with other volunteers to fill emergency food orders on a January afternoon in the food pantry at Lebanon County Christian Ministries.
While the married couple are relatively newer volunteers, they bring 20 years’ experience of adventurous missionary work and dedicated volunteerism to LCCM.
And since the beginning, they say God has drawn them toward working in crisis situations and humanitarian aid. So, it was a natural step when they began volunteering at LCCM, a ministry that provides emergency food, clothing and shelter, during the pandemic.
Their love of volunteerism and mission work began when Kathy went on a missions trip through their church to Haiti in 2001. Both she and Ken began fundraising each year that she planned to return to Haiti. While living in Manheim, Lancaster County, they held a yard sale, plant sale and bake sale that made over $4,000 in under five hours.
While they loved the missions work in Haiti, an opportunity presented itself for the couple to do missions work in Guatemala.
“Our church asked if we would be interested. They said, ‘we know you have a heart for Haiti, but would you consider going to Guatemala?”
The work would be intense. They would oversee a warehouse for Orphan Resources International for three years, which meant they’d have to sell their home in Manheim. It was a major commitment, but one that they knew had God’s blessing.
“We didn’t even have our house on the market and it sold,” Ken said. “It just sold and we didn’t even have it listed! It was just amazing how it all worked out and everything just fell into place.”
Their son was just about to graduate high school, so friends offered to take care of him until he graduated so they could move and get trained in Guatamala. After his graduation, their son joined them for two years.
A large part of their responsibility was purchasing food, receiving donations that came from the United States, sorting food and finally delivering it to 50 orphanages.
But they always knew there was very real danger.
“There was a lot of drug cartels and so forth,” Ken said. “We had known other missionary friends there…we knew a few people who were either shot or stabbed or robbed or something of that nature.”
There were armed guards at most stores and, as a driver, Ken would have to visit areas with high crime rates.
“Our Guatemalan friends would ask us not to go there,” Kathy said. “Our response to them was if we could trust that God would protect us here (United Stats), why wouldn’t he protect us there? We have to believe he will protect us everywhere we go.”
The beauty of Guatemala outweighed fear.
They remember stopping at one orphanage and where a teen girl with down syndrome loved swinging, but did not have access to one at the orphanage where she resided.
Ken drew up the plans to create a bench swing and enlisted his friends to help pre-cut the pieces. When they arrived at the orphanage, they set the pieces on the ground as they got ready to assemble it.
“I had the bench part made and we sat that on the ground,” he said. “She was so excited about this swing that she went over and sat on the bench while it was on the ground.”
Kathy added, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It was so beautiful.”
The couple eventually moved to Melbourne, Florida after their time in Guatemala ended. Their next mission was yet another God moment, Kathy said. And it all started with a pumpkin sale at their church.
It was an unusually hot for autumn in Florida and the church’s pumpkins were starting to rot. Instead of letting the pumpkins go to waste, they instead donated them to a monkey sanctuary.
Later, there were pictures of these monkeys eating and playing on the pumpkins hanging on the church wall. As Kathy looked at the pictures, she couldn’t help but notice a flyer for Daily Bread, Inc. a nonprofit that provides emergency food and shelter. She and Ken decided to volunteer in the warehouse.
“When we would go to the warehouse, we felt like we were in Guatemala,” they said. “The street wasn’t paved, it was full of potholes. We thought, ‘wow, we’re in Guatemala again!”
When they moved back to Pennsylvania, they decided to settle in Lebanon County.
They knew they were following God’s calling again when they contacted LCCM.
“it just seems like every time we tried to do something, it’s just like God blessed it and I think that really is the lesson in life, for us. Don’t be afraid to do something,” Kathy said. “To set out and do something good. It’s always an adventure.”