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Henderson Settlement - vacation with a purpose

Henderson Settlement is a Methodist mission founded nearly 90 years ago.
Henderson Settlement is a Methodist mission founded nearly 90 years ago.
C. Hensley

Nestled in a remote valley in Southeast Kentucky sits a nearly 90-year old Methodist mission called Henderson Settlement. This collection of simple buildings sits on a hill in the shadow of Pine Mountain, a 125-mile long barrier that runs from Jellico, TN to the Breaks at the Kentucky/Virginia state line.

In the early part of the 20th century, violence in the community caught the attention of a Methodist minister in Pineville named Hiram Frakes. He decided to start a mission there with a school and a church. Today, the mission has greatly expanded to help people in this impoverished community with a variety of services and programs for all ages. The community was named Frakes, in honor of the man who founded this decades old mission.

Throughout the year, people from all over the country come to the Henderson Settlement for a very different kind of vacation. These "volunteers in mission" come to repair homes well beyond the grounds of the Settlement which is one of the most impoverished areas in the region.

While this may not seem like a great vacation idea there are certainly aspects to a trip here that will leave you feeling renewed. First of all, the surroundings are spectacular. Henderson Settlement encompasses more than 1500 acres, most of which stretch out from the farm at the bottom of the valley to the top of the steep slope of Pine Mountain. It is difficult to stand on the hill at the center of it all and not be in awe of the wonders of God's creation.

Most volunteers come to this mission in teams, but volunteer groups of all sizes are needed. There are also small houses and a lodge where you can unwind while still staying connected to the outside world. (Most cell service doesn't work here, but Henderson Settlement does have wi-fi).

About 20 minutes away across the Tennessee state line you will find White Oak, a small extension of Henderson Settlement. Both locations have a Thrift Store which is a good place to find unusual treasures. The drive between the two takes you through coal country, complete with steep narrow roads where there are no guard rails and meeting a coal truck becomes an adventure unto itself.

While Frakes and the surrounding communities are remote, they are in the heart of region rich in both natural beauty and culture. Henderson Settlement runs a craft shop known far and wide and places like Cumberland Falls State Park and Pine Mountain State Park aren't too far away.

While you can take a vacation to just get away from it all, why not come back with a real sense of accomplishment, knowing you have spent a little time helping improve the lives of others. For more information on Henderson Settlement and ways you can help this mountain mission click here.

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