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Peanut brittle helps woman fund mission trips

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kathy Skiles never used to like peanut brittle.

"I didn't until I tasted this recipe," she said. "It's like it almost has air in the middle of it. It's not real hard. It's just different."

But the sweet taste isn't the only reason Skiles, of South Charleston, likes the peanut brittle recipe she found online. It's helped her raise more than $16,000 for overseas mission trips in the past four years.

"My first trip was December 2010 and I had to raise $4,000 before then," Skiles said. "So I probably started maybe April 2010. [I] sent out letters [asking for support]. And we got this recipe and it just snowballed after that."

Skiles will make her fourth trip overseas in November with Knoxville, Tenn.-based ministry Anna's Gate. She'll be in India for a third time. She's also traveled to Israel with the ministry.

For each trip, Skiles raises support by making and selling peanut brittle.

Skiles makes two batches of the recipe most weekdays. The recipe makes enough for three bags, which she sells for at least $5 each. Still, many people want to give more, she said.

Skiles once set up a table with the candy at her church, Maranatha Fellowship in St. Albans.

In less than 10 minutes, she sold 80 bags and raised more than $800 for her trip, she said.

"It's like people are really excited to give," Skiles said. "I'll have them ask me at work, 'Do you have any peanut brittle?'"

Anna's Gate reaches out to widows and orphans in India. Among other things, the ministry has opened five sewing centers where Indian women can learn a trade and become tailors, founder CarolMarie Smith said. Then the women have an income to support themselves with.

"We connect them with a church family so that they're not alone," Smith said. "A lot of them are just living in the streets. They have a purpose - not just sewing but God hears their prayers and they can change their nation."

Skiles said she has a renewed sense of purpose because of her work in India.

She'd been through a rough time when she was divorced and her children were growing up.

"I just needed a purpose," Skiles said. "I didn't feel like I had one."

In the Hebrew language, widow means "without a covering," Skiles explained. So a widow isn't only someone who has lost a spouse to death. Divorce or abandonment can also leave a person widowed, she said.

"So I got a hold of this message and I said, 'Ah, I have a purpose,'" Skiles said.

Skiles grew up singing in church, but singing without accompaniment in front of 5,000 people in India was a completely new experience.

"I had never sang a cappella," Skiles said. "But I get over there and there's no music or anything. So God really helped."

She's not typically a hugger, either, but she had to get over that on a trip to India.

"[CarolMarie] said the widows in India will get out of line for food to get a hug," she said. "And I'm like, 'I can give a hug.'"

"They'll dissolve in her arms," Smith said. "Some of them haven't had a hug in 20 years and they're blamed for the death of their husbands, no matter how he died."

Kathy said there's a verse she loves in the Bible - James 1:27.

"It says if you take care of the fatherless and the widow, it's pure worship and it will keep you unspotted for the world," Skiles said. "I love that."

Skiles is going to India again this November and she still needs to raise money for that trip.

To help or to find out how to buy peanut brittle, email her at Kathy@annasgate.org or leave a message on her cellphone at 304-389-1104.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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