Jeff Miller knows that the ingredients of faith really can be as simple as sugar and cinnamon.
And a sweet mission trip can start with something as unpretentious as a pie.
Miller is a committee member for the Apple Pie Mission Fundraiser at The Presbyterian Church of Fremont.
This marks the eighth year for the event in which members gather to make and sell homemade apple and cherry pies.
Proceeds are used for youth and adult mission trips to places locally and abroad.
The pies cost $12 each and are available for order by visiting the church website at presbyterianfremont.org or calling the church at 402-721-7904.
Miller said church members hope to sell 3,000 pies this year.
The pie-making work starts on Nov. 7.
Pies will be ready for pick-up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 9 at the church.
During those dessert-making days, Miller estimates that more than 200 volunteers of all ages will gather to make pies.
“We have the newest members of families and probably the oldest members of families there—and the whole range in between – who are enjoying the pie-making process,” Miller said.
Volunteers take on a host of tasks.
There will be dough makers and dough-ball rollers, butter slicers, apple peelers and corers and slicers. Volunteers will make the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
“If we sell 3,000 pies, we have to make 6,000 dough balls and roll out 3,000 pie crust bottoms and pie tops 3,000 tops,” Miller said.
Miller said 80 bushels of fresh Winesap apples are coming from DeGroot Orchards in Madison for the pies.
The pies are made using a secret recipe, which came with a stipulation – that it be used only for missions and outreach.
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Miller enjoys the fellowship of the pie-making endeavor and the opportunities it provides for local, national and even international mission trips.
In 2018, about 30 youth and adults went to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage that left people without electricity and running water for months.
Fremonters repaired roofs and windows and were involved in street evangelism in a country so harshly affected by the Category 4 hurricane — the strongest storm to hit that country in 85 years.
“One of our groups just went around a prayed with people on the streets where we were rehabbing a house,” Miller said. “We were blessing them, but they were blessing us back because they were so grateful for our presence.”
Miller notes how downhearted people in Puerto Rico had become.
“Some of the people hadn’t really received much assistance and some of the people said that when they were without power for months, they felt lost and questioned if they should live,” he said. “And when we came, it kind of helped them rejuvenate to know they’d made the right decision by fighting through.”
Those who haven’t lived in such straits can have difficulty comprehending what the people had experienced.
“It’s hard for us to realize the plight they were in,” he said. “You don’t have running water or electricity for months. They couldn’t wash their hair. They couldn’t brush their teeth until they got some water shipped in.”
Miller said he and others from the Presbyterian Church were in Puerto Rico almost a year after the hurricane and noted the recovery was slow.
“The town we were in had just had power restored the month before,” he said. “And the camp we stayed at just had power restored the week before we were there.”
He and other church members appreciated the opportunity to help.
Who would think ministry could start with a pie?
Or that sugar and butter when combined with faith can lead to something so much more endearing?
“The simple ingredients we have and the time and love that people put into these pies can lead to such profound things that we witness on our mission trips,” Miller said.
What’s in the future?
“Maybe 5,000 – pies that is,” he said.