“This is called the hands and feet of God working through His people in the field.” -Deb Kile
With all of the negative “news” happening in the world around us, it sure is a breath of fresh air to focus our energies on finding and sharing the best positive happenings out there. Since the launch of the Life on Life Initiative a little over a year ago, many new and tear-jerking stories have made their way into our hearts and minds; and after about 8 months of planning and prepping, the grandest undertaking yet—the PA Project—has just come to fruition. Because of this initiative, Life Leadership Members from all across the globe have been able to catch a glimpse of the power that a community can have when it comes together for a common purpose. The complete outlined story is below, but if you would like to get any more details from the blog articles that were written throughout the duration of the project, check out these links: 1) Life Leadership Launches the First-Ever Life on Life Push-Up Contest! 2) Life Leadership and the Life on Life Push-Up Contest! 3) Life Leadership Shares Results of the Life on Life Push-Up Contest! 4) Life Leadership Update on the Life on Life PA Project!!
Despite numerous battles in their lives, Deb and Myron Kile have always kept their heads up and dedicated themselves to serving other people. At 10 years old, Deb unexpectedly beat a form of cancer very rarely found in children called Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A little over 20 years later–after an unfortunate divorce and many other health problems–she found out that she had breast cancer. When she was diagnosed, she tried breaking up with her at-the-time-boyfriend, Myron, saying that she didn’t want to make him suffer through the disease, as well. As a complete surprise to her, he rejected the idea and asked her to marry him. Not long after, while in surgery to get both of her breasts removed, Deb’s heart stopped. Time and again, the doctors haven’t had the words to explain Deb’s incredible comebacks; and after beating breast cancer, she also dealt with mercury poisoning and bone cancer among other illnesses.
As mentioned above, Deb has always found a way to get the spotlight off of her own problems and focus on helping someone else. Although going through chemotherapy and suffering from many health issues have kept her from getting pregnant, Deb’s dream has always been to have children. As a professional nanny, she’s been able to care for other people’s children for the last couple of decades; but when the dust settled after her latest illness, Deb and Myron decided to build their 2,300-square-foot dream home next to their 800-square-foot trailer so that they would be able to either foster or adopt some children of their own. Myron is pretty handy in all aspects of the word, so he got to work and began construction.
In the first couple of years of building, however, two more major occurrences took place and put the project on hold. A handicapped little girl that the couple had helped with in the past lost her mother to a deadly disease; and because there were no other options as far as family was concerned, Deb and Myron had already decided to go through the long and tedious process of getting legal guardianship. Not long after, unfortunately, the child had to be institutionalized with her own serious issues; and Deb and Myron have been the only constant support and love in her life since then. When things didn’t look like they could get any busier, Deb’s mom, Carol Chyko, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). After a couple of years of making the long drives to help her mother at her own home, Deb and Myron decided to move Carol into their office space in their trailer to be able to care for her better as the disease progressed. Carol was not supposed to make it very long; but because of all of the natural remedies and their undeniable faith in God, Carol is still alive today. Even though her muscles are deteriorating and she cannot talk or walk or even move very much on her own, Carol still has an incredible spirit inside of her and moves anyone that gets to be around her. She communicates through an eye-machine and cannot stop thanking Deb for her unwavering love and care. The problem is obviously the space, and because of the small doorways and little room to turn, Carol has not been able to take a real shower since she moved in with them. Unfortunately, because Deb has been so intentional about finding the best ways to take care of her mom naturally, the insurance doesn’t always cover the cost either–and Deb and Myron end up paying the bills. Since Deb’s hours were reduced because she needed to be there for her mom, Myron started his own custom concrete business on the side to supplement the income that he was making from his full-time job as a supervisor at a nearby factory.
The Birth of the PA Project
Enter Life Leadership Member, Lexi Lukonen. Apart from being nannied by Deb along with her three siblings, Zach, Levi and Haley Frey, Lexi has also been trained by Deb and the nurses on how to take care of Carol when others aren’t around. She has witnessed much of the struggle that this family has gone through on a very personal level, and has always tried to keep Deb’s dream alive by randomly taking her online to browse pictures and talking to her in depth about of all of the things that she wants to have in her dream home “someday”. While Lexi was sitting with Myron in the trailer one afternoon in 2015, she asked, “So really Myron, what all needs done to get you guys into the new house?” Myron explained that the studs were in and the roof was on, but that was pretty much it.
Lexi realized that this reality was still a long way off, and it wasn’t until hearing about the new Life on Life Initiative at the 2015 Life Leadership Summer Convention that she was inspired to figure out a way to make this family’s dream come true. She and her husband, Levi, shared the idea with her parents, Dean and Teresa Frey, along with the rest of her family and teammates. After getting a quick video interview of Deb together and sending it out to the Founders of Life Leadership, as well as AGO Spokesman Chris Swanson, the proposal was accepted and the PA Project was born.
The first major decision made was that Deb and her mom, Carol, would not be told what was going to happen. Since the new house sits right next to the trailer, Deb was told that a couple of people got a hold of the video interview that she had done for “an ALS awareness campaign” and decided to donate some supplies to get some of the core of the house jump-started again. Deb was banned from going in at all, as well as prohibited from asking any questions.
Myron, on the other hand, was told right when the plan was accepted and became a part of the process from day one. At Deb’s surprise 50th birthday party, Myron “gifted” her a 7-day vacation to the beach in Virginia–their first vacation together in 10 years. This 7-day time slot was meant to get Deb away from the property for the last and most complete phase of the project.
After understanding the magnitude of this task, Chris Swanson came up with Life Leadership’s first-ever Life on Life Push-Up Contest to raise pledges across all of Life Leadership’s markets to make it happen. He announced the competition and the awards at the 2015 Life Leadership Fall Convention in October. The goal was to raise over $100,000 in the 24 hours that the activity took place, and at Life Leadership’s 2016 New Year’s Summit, we did just that! Over $122,000 was pledged thanks to over 800 participants–including 9-month-pregnant Life Leadership Member, Lindsey Spiewak, who raised over $15,000 herself by doing 4 push-ups on stage! Life Leadership Members, Haley Frey and Joe Tullis, came in first in the female and male divisions overall to win a free mission trip to Chile with Chris Swanson in June 2016.
Throughout the months of December, January, February, March, April and May, volunteers from all over the continent from every different kind of background flew or drove in to help in any way that they could. Deb got to meet many of these heroes without even knowing the true extent of what they were doing. Life Leadership Members, Teresa Frey and Lexi Lukonen, brought in general contractors to find out exactly what needed to be done–and then organized the efforts of hundreds of committed helpers. Since the house had set unfinished for almost a decade, a lot of the raised money went into reestablishing the structure before anything else could be done. The local Life Leadership community in Pennsylvania was majorly involved every step of the way, and without them, none of this would have been possible. There were only a couple of instances where the work needed to be contracted out, but the majority of what was done was by local, national, and international volunteers.
On Sunday, May 8, 2016, after Deb was reassured time and again that her mother would be well taken care of while they were gone, the couple headed out for their well-deserved vacation–and the real bustle began. Over the next 7 days, between 300 and 400 people came in to transform a house that was barely drywalled into a completely finished home with decorations and all. There wasn’t a day that people didn’t work all through the night to complete their designated projects. From the smallest details to the largest jobs, the most encouraging part of this “construction site” was the incredible attitude of service and love.
Sparked by an idea that Myron and Deb’s church had implemented, all of the volunteers over the last 8 months were encouraged to grab a permanent marker, find a spot that wasn’t finished yet, and write their favorite Bible verse on the inside of the home itself. As you can see in the slideshow above, over 100 verses were etched into the structure of Myron and Deb’s new home underneath the tile, vinyl, dryvit, drywall and carpet. Some local angels were in charge of all of the food and babysitting so that everyone else could focus 100% on finishing their portion of the home. Nurses worked around the clock to keep Carol in the best of health, families from all over the Northeast donated meals and drinks (we even had one family set up their expresso catering business to provide hot drinks for everyone), a business came in from West Virginia to take care of all of the landscaping, a Pennsylvania crew spent a couple of days outside in the rain to completely finish the decks and front door ramp, electricians worked together to get everything working, a local business brought all of their big equipment, leveled out the yard, dug the water line, and put it in, people were tiling, laying floors, cleaning, hanging lights, assembling furniture, connecting appliances, painting doors, cutting trim, and so much more, gophers were flying in every different direction to pick up supplies, tools, or simply some more sugar and caffeine. 🙂 Laborers, professionals, students, kids, and senior citizens from all walks of life came together and offered whatever they could–and even sometimes things that they didn’t know they could. Some stayed for days…others could only come for a few hours…but every single person picked their dent to make–and made it to the best of their ability.
The Dream Come True
Right before Myron and Deb got back from their vacation, Lexi and two of the nurses brought Carol out on her wheelchair and told her about everything that had happened. They took her up her new ramp into the finished home and showed her what this incredible team of people had done for her. Carol was overwhelmed and sobbed happy tears–which ruined every single sleep-deprived, emotional person within hearing distance. 🙂
As the hour of their return got closer and closer, supporters showed up from all over. One of the local news stations, as well as the local newspaper, caught wind of the story and came to feature some of the work being done and then Deb’s reaction to her finished home. Life Leadership Public Relations Coordinators, Kristen Seidl and Zach Frey, were also both on-site for the reveal. While driving back from the beach, Myron received a couple of calls telling him to “take his time”, as bedroom floors were still being laid, closet doors were still being hung, and paint touch-ups were still being brushed on! Finally, at around 6pm on Sunday, May 15, 2016, Deb and Myron drove up their driveway to find around 180 people lining the path to their beautiful home. Deb was weak in the knees as she pulled herself out of her car and started to cry. All she could get out was, “Thank you!…Thank you so much!”
After she caught her breath, Deb said, “As I glance around, I know some faces, and some I don’t know; but I feel like you’re all family already…Look at all of the kids!!…Thank you so much! I can’t express…my heart is pounding…my knees are shaking…and this is beautiful…you’re all beautiful! And I want to hug everybody…” The couple was escorted through all of the outstretched hands and smiling faces up the ramp to the front door, where Lexi handed Deb the keys to the house and told her to open it. As she swung the door open for the first time in months, the song, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, was accompanied by tons of cheers and clapping hands. Deb looked on in disbelief at the beautifully finished entryway. She reached out for Teresa & Dean, Levi & Lexi, Haley and the many familiar faces that were inside awaiting her arrival.
“Never in a million years could I imagine God’s love so much like this!…I love your family so much. I love our God so much!”
A couple of moments later, Deb caught a glimpse of her mom, who was patiently waiting for her in the living room of the new house. The following embrace was so special and impactful. Deb continued to echo, “Thank you! Thank you so much!” and after kissing and hugging Carol, she finally took a look around the room and was again brought to tears. Myron grabbed her hand and Lexi hugged her.
“I have paint…I have flooring…I have furniture…I have you all to love me…Oh my gosh, thank you so much! Lexi, it’s so beautiful!”
And so the tour began…As Deb rounded the corner to see her kitchen for the first time, she let out a gasp and was speechless. The drop-down counter top on the island was designed perfectly to allow them to pull Carol’s wheelchair right up to the table to be included in their meals. After laying eyes on all that there was to see in the kitchen, Deb called all of the Frey children to her…“I love you all so much! You are the hands and feet of God. I have something to say to you…And I know you know it, but I want to say this to you: I prayed for children so hard; and when I didn’t think I was going to have any, God said, ‘Oh yes, you will’. And He gave me you all…I’ve loved every minute of getting to be the ‘other mother’, and I don’t let go of any of these memories with you. You have blessed me so much with all you’ve done to give me this…God gave me exactly what He wanted to give me. He wanted to give me you all.”
“I want everyone to hear me…No matter what you’re going through; no matter what you’re praying for…Never cease in praying! Never give up! Our God is so faithful! And He blesses in His timing and in His ways. And He makes everything right…”
Once the warm embrace was over, Deb and Myron were guided room-by-room through their entire home. Myron–having been there just a week earlier–exclaimed a few times, “Man! You guys were BUSY!” 🙂 After viewing all of the upstairs, WBRE Eyewitness News interviewed Myron and Deb:
Reporter: “How are you feeling?”
Deb: “I’m overwhelmed by the immense love that pours out of people through God. They are the workmen in His field. And I’m getting to experience that…And everyone here, I pray, gets the blessing and that they experience how God is moving. He is moving through everyone’s lives. And to never give up. And to have Faith, Hope and Love and persevere in all things.”
Reporter: “So from what I understand, this has been 10 years in the making. Tell me about that, and tell me what it’s like to finally have your dream house come true.”
Deb: “Ten years in the making of our dream home and the trials in life. Life happens to all of us and we all have a story. And in the story, you have to stay persistent. And you have to stay faithful, and you have to stay strong, and you have to prioritize what’s the most important thing in life. And through Faith, Hope and Love, we persevere through our trials; and Myron and I have trudged through many adversities that have come into our path with consistently growing in our faith. And then watching the people all around us that know that we’re trying to do what God would want us to do; and then they come into fruition of wanting to give a blessing…which is just as much of a blessing for them to give as it is for us to receive. And to have my mom have a home with more room, and more room for more people to come and minister to her and tend to her needs, and be more a part of our lives in our day-to-day life is an overwhelming blessing that I can’t even put into words.” …
Reporter: “Is there anything you want to say to the volunteers who helped make this all happen?”
Deb: “The words, Thank you, don’t feel like it’s enough; but I want to just thank everyone. And I know that Myron and I have been praying for everyone for some time now, and I know that God will pour out a double portion of blessing upon each and every one of them. And I know they won’t miss it. I know they’ll feel Him and they’ll see His presence and they’ll know His glory. And I give God all the glory for all of this!”
Walking downstairs after the tour of their finished dream house, Myron and Deb were finally able to take the time to hug and talk to all of the amazing people that could be there for the reveal. One company brought a huge party tent to use, so everyone went out to the tent to grab a hot drink, have lunch together and welcome the couple home.
Life Leadership is so proud to have been a part of the huge blessing poured out on this deserving family. The Life on Life Initiative is alive and well, and this is only the beginning. A HUGE “Thank you” goes out to the thousands of people that made this project possible: