Exciting Updates about Gary, WV Mission Trips - 2018

During the past 4 years, starting August 2014, over 40 individuals from our church family have joined the “Jesus Jersey Crew” as they headed south to share God’s love and message to the devastated coal mine town of Gary, WV.

When we first arrived 4 years ago, we could definitely see and feel much darkness and very little hope for better times within the community. On our first trip, the ladies were assigned to paint a house for a sweet lady that had lost her coal miner husband. While the ladies worked on painting her house, the men began the huge project of restoring the nearby Little Chapel that had been abandoned years before.

The house painting went great and although we wondered if the woman, who owned the house, was really the most needy person for us to be helping. We decided that we were assigned that house and would do our best and we ended up feeling blessed just to have gotten to know her and believed we made a difference in her life. The Little Chapel rehab also went well but actually became a very big project that we have continued to work on during many trips over the past 4 years. It has become a real blessing to the children of the community. Often hungry for food and for love, the Little Chapel has been a refuge for these seriously disadvantaged children. As soon as the folks in WV can save enough money for insurance, they hope to change the basement we rebuilt into a daycare center, with fees subsidized by the state. Our church family at The Chapel in NJ has pretty much paid for the restoration of this wonderful little chapel. Thank you.

After 4 years and seeing the beginnings of hope and light, especially as related to the children, we learned that the Zera House was going to be set up in Gary, WV. The amazing thing that happened related to this is that the house the ladies painted during that first visit down there, is now in the process of becoming the first Zera House that will be opening in October. God had a plan way beyond our expectations and we actually painted the house that would become the Zera House way before we knew what was going on!

Recently we have noticed that occasional ATV riders were coming to town as they rode on some of the old coal mine roads. Since the Little Chapel was getting closer to being finished, we were thinking and praying about what was next for us to do to help the people in this town. It was decided to take a couple of the school rooms at the mission and turn them into BNB rooms hoping that the ATV riders would need a place to stay overnight and eat their meals (since there are no other places to sleep or eat in town.). What a great fundraiser for the mission!

So… as we were recently down there in July, working on those few BNB rooms, we found out some very exciting news! The ATV trails (Hatfield and McCoy Trails) are going to be extended right into Gary and there is going to be a grand opening on Labor Day Weekend. Wow! The group developing the trails is expecting 2000 riders to go through Gary on that weekend. What a difference this will make in this poor, dying little town. We are so excited because since there are no places for ATV riders to stay, eat, get groceries nearby, the School for Life, housed in the old Gary High School, is the perfect place to continue to set up bunk rooms and more BNB rooms. As the trail continues to be used, the School for Life will be able to employ some of the locals to help with the bunk rooms and BNB’s and it can become a leader in the change of the community while keeping God in the Center.

In the excitement, light and hope are now the words to describe what is happening in this community. Our greatest hope is that we follow God’s lead as he continues to show us his plans and that we remember at all times to keep God in the Center and give Him the Glory. Thank you for your prayers and support in the past four years. Many of you have been behind all the good going on there. Thank you.

Barb Duveneck


1. Sunlight Ministry  

Kids lives are changing due to The Sunlight Ministry as they hear the gospel over and over. Many of these kids are either not leaving their houses or hanging out in the streets with drug addicted parents and/or siblings and neighbors. What a bright spot in their lives when they are with Marjie and the Sunlight Ministry team!   

The Sunlight Ministry has several events and activities for the children (sometimes as many as 30 now) all the time at The Little Chapel that our group, with the support of our church, has been remodeling. They meet, hear about God's love and His gospel, connect with Christian folks who show them love and support, get fed a good meal --- all in that little church. More and more their parents or grandparents (the quiet heros in this community) are joining them too.
 On Thursday evenings the Sunlight Ministry kids go to various churches to share their songs and praise dances. In order to be able to go on these trips, they sell ice cream, have a small vending machine and sell crafts to raise money to be able to buy outfits, pay for gas, etc. They are saving money to hopefully come to NJ in December. 

2. The Little Chapel

We have been working on The Little Chapel and would like to make a big effort to move it forward during our next trip - October 6-11. We can come pretty close to finishing it up if we have the enough people join us. We will invite approximately 6 experienced builders/plumbers/ electricians to lead a group of 2 or 3 others to concentrate on certain areas so we can make a leap forward with finishing it up. We will also ask our church family for special donations to be able to buy materials since they have been involved since the beginning and we are excited that this has been our, The Chapel of Warren Valley’s, special project. Jack just had to pay a lot to have excavating done around the building to stop the moisture from coming in plus he is having a heating system installed so we hope to raise the money for this work in October.  Another church group built wonderful playground equipment and will paint the outside of the building soon.

3. Feeding elderly and children/garden

Marjie and Jack are feeding more and more elderly people stuck in their homes and children who don't often eat much in the summer - often using the produce from their community garden. When we were there, we fed (with our leftovers plus garden produce) 7 elderly folks plus invited whoever was around working at The School for Life to join us. We've become known as the group to join at dinnertime!!!!

4. Nursing home ministry

Some of our group joined Marjie at the nursing home as she gave a bible lesson and Sandi led singing while playing her flute - they love that. I heard about one lady who came in agitated and interrupted the group until Sandi started playing and the lady started singing with an amazingly beautiful voice. Praise God -- it is wonderful to help them be a little happy in their last years. We pass out many of the quilts made by the quilt makers in NJ there.

5. Gary bank building

The day before we got there, Jack was given the one time beautiful (needs lots of work now), old bank building that sits on the corner of the entrance into Gary. Our team of builders plan to get involved in the rehabilitation of this building because we believe it will be the cornerstone of much more change to the town of Gary.  

6. ‘ATVers’

ATVers are coming  from all over the country to West Virginia to ride on the Hatfield-McCoy ATV paths and have begun going through Gary to get up to Miracle Mountain. We hope the bank building can become a tourist spot -- coffee shop, little museum about the amazing history of the area, ice cream, etc. etc. with possibly the upper floor becoming a bed and breakfast or little apartments to house people that come to serve at the mission longer term. It will be Christians running it so we will have a great opportunity to share the gospel.

7. Zera House

Our new, very exciting partnership between School for Life and folks from The Chapel.

 "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1)

Our hope is to provide a safe dwelling for women, who need to experience healing after being rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Our program is Christ centered with a holistic approach involving sustainable living practices. Our prayer is that seeds are planted into the rich soils of their hearts, so they are equipped to walk out the purpose of their lives." 

Human Trafficking is a $32 billion industry. It is the enemies’ playground and we are here to share the Love, Hope and Grace of Jesus. 

Zera means "seed in Hebrew" We are established in Christ, first and foremost. Our foundation is out of Isaiah 61.  We are a nonprofit, tax exempt organization and we are thrilled to be used in the healing process of these women. We will see, "beauty for ashes"!

We have found the place we want to call home in McDowell County, West Virginia. We are so excited to partner with School for Life where we will be used to advance the Kingdom all together. There is much more information on our website; Zerahouse.org if you care to learn more. 

Ariel will be moving to West Virginia in March where she will be working full time as director for Zera House. She never thought she would be a full time missionary.... EVER!! The Lord clearly had other ideas, needless to say, she is humbled and honored to serve the King!!
"Sown in Love. Resting in Hope. Growing in Grace."
Ariel Wagner (Founder)
Katie Van Gorp (Founder)

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11

8. In Addition...

Also, the computer room continues to be used more and more for good, many mission groups of mostly young people  continue to come in and stay at the school while working on houses in the community, the School for Life now has 5 little goats that are used to help eat down the kudzu that was taking over everywhere, there is an auto repair shop now in place for young people (and old?) to learn a trade, and we are still working on helping them make and market furniture to sell in our Habitat ReStore (farm tables and possibly slab furniture coming soon).  

9. In Conclusion...

In conclusion, you can see why we are blown away by the change we are seeing and are blessed to be part of it ever since God brought us to this sad town of Gary, WV.  There was none of this when we first went down there 2 years ago. God is definitely using us as part of His bigger plan to “strengthen the frame” in this “sun-scorched land.” 

Gary started as an “ideal community” built by the coal company in God's beautiful wilderness, became one of the richest little towns in the US and then fell into devastation and incredible poverty and despair when the coal company packed up everything (stores and all) and left. Now we see God rebuilding it, not to set it up again as a wealthy, coal dependent community again but as a community wealthy in love with caring people and ALL for His Glory…

AND He is allowing us to be part of His plan– YAHOO!!!! Thank you God!              


BEAN SOUP JARS, October 2015

Like last year, some of the ladies met to fill 85 jars with beans that can be used to make a very healthy, tasty soup.  Check out the pictures!


Trip to Gary, West Virginia, July/August 2015

Nineteen people from The Chapel went to Gary, West Virginia and accomplished three primary goals. First, more work was done torenovate the Chapel building. Second, a computer lab was set up at the School of Life to provide opportunities for people, especially the youth, to learn basic computer skills, Microsoft Office, and programming. Eighteen desktop computers were donated by the Warren Hills high school for this purpose.  Robots were also used to demonstrate the potential for programming. Third, connections were made with some folks in West Virginia to establish potential ministries with the children. Here are some highlights from the trip.

Bean Soup Jars, November 2014

One of the basic needs of life is food. To help meet that need in West Virginia, some of the ladies from The Chapel met to fill 84 jars with various types of beans that can be used to make soup.  Since each jar can serve 14 people, that's a lot of food! It looks like they had fun as well!


Trip to Gary, West Virginia, August 2014

A team of people from The Chapel went to Gary, West Virginia.  One of the goals was to begin work to renovate the Chapel building. Here are some highlights from that trip.

Introductory Video

Bible School

The Chapel from the outside

The Chapel on the inside

The town of Gary

Historical Gary

The Sleepy Man Banjo Boys Concert

Around Town