When last winter arrived, the water pipes in Teena's home in West Virginia burst, leaving her and her family without water or the means to fix them … for eight months.
This fall, missions teams through World Vision's U.S. Programs came and fixed her water system, bringing peace, a river of water, shouts of joy from her sons, and tears of joy from Teena!
This is their story.
Every now and then, Teena Freeze walks to the kitchen sink in her century-old farmhouse and turns on the tap, “just to see the water come out.”
“I don’t waste too much of it,” she says. “I just check to make sure that it’s real.”
If her reassurance ritual seems odd, consider what Teena’s family endured in 2014: “We went from the second week of January through the middle of September without running water in the house.”
Her home in Flemington, an Appalachian town of about 300 residents in northern West Virginia, is not on a water line. A pump in the basement draws in water from a reservoir. When temperatures plunged below zero in January, the pump froze and pipes burst, eventually flooding the basement.
Teena, whose youngest sons are ages 8, 6, and 3, could not afford repairs. Her finances were limited because of out-of-state therapy needed for a teenage son who struggled to cope with the death of his father, Teena’s husband, a decade earlier.
Without running water, Teena relied on a nearby creek for bucketfuls of water to flush the toilet. She filled jugs with water from her Aunt Margaret’s home for cooking and drinking. She showered at her aunt’s home, but the boys – Jacob, Caleb, and Jayden – took baths in a tub on the kitchen floor with water heated in a teakettle.
“It was an experience,” Teena says.
Two mission teams organized by World Vision’s U.S. Programs volunteered to help restore water to the home. One team cleaned and prepared the basement in April. Another team replumbed the house and installed a new pump and water heater in September.
“It’s amazing that people want to leave their own families and their own lives to do something for someone else,” Teena says. “It humbles you. I feel overjoyed. There are times I think about it, and the tears just flow. I truly believe that God put that in them to want to help others.”
Marci Swanson, whose team from Centreville Presbyterian Church in Virginia worked on Teena’s home in the spring, says the mission trip prompted volunteers to examine their own lives.
“I think I had a much greater understanding of what it means to be a blessing,” says Marci, a retiree whose husband, Brian, also was part of the team. “We all feel very blessed. We don’t have problems like a non-functioning water system. We’re able to be a blessing to someone else because we’re blessed.”
In the fall, a team from Charter Oak United Methodist Church in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, arrived to finish the work. Bryan and Ranelle Harhai joined Ralph Cigich in restoring water to the house.
Bryan had recently retired from the car dealership business and realized “what’s important in life doesn’t have a price tag on it.”
That became evident when the taps were opened. It wasn’t just water that overflowed.
“The boys were jumping up and down,” Bryan says. “They were shouting, ‘We have water, we have water!’ Teena was just bawling.”
Adds Ranelle: “Those two minutes the kids were jumping up and down made the whole trip. It puts life in perspective. Once we got home, it took me a week just to process all the emotions.”
Thinking back to that moment, Teena’s voice breaks as she remembers Bryan telling her that she shouldn’t be crying “unless it’s tears of joy.”
“I said, ‘Yes, it’s tears of joy, because nobody knows [how difficult life can be], especially when you’ve got little ones.’ You’ve got to keep things going for them,” she says.
In earlier years, other mission teams organized by World Vision painted the exterior of Teena’s house, replaced windows, built a French drain, replaced rotting porch boards, and installed a new porch roof.
“I love to get groups in all the time,” Teena says. “It’s not just for the work. Even if they just came in and sat down and talked with me.”
One mother gave Teena a suggestion for how to deal with stress: “Open up [the Bible], read a couple of the familiar scriptures, and take a few minutes for myself … and say a prayer,” Teena recounts. “She said, ‘You’ll be amazed at what it will do for you.’ And it does.”
Last July, Teena started attending Union Baptist Church in nearby Simpson. Her teenage son was baptized in the church. Her younger boys went to Vacation Bible School.
Asked what he wanted to volunteers to know, Jacob doesn’t hesitate.
“Thank you for helping to turn the water back on,” the 8-year-old boy says. “There are so many kind people out there who are willing to help you.”
In 2014, World Vision’s U.S. Programs missions worked on 70 family projects, 8 church projects, 6 community projects, and 2 others, serving 1,080 community beneficiaries. We had a total of 718 mission participants that came and volunteered in Appalachia!
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