Summer is almost here, and while many are planning vacations, preparing their pools, and looking forward to relaxing in the warm sunshine, others are dusting off their tool belts for a week making homes warmer, safer, and drier with Appalachia Service Project.
Why you might ask? Why are some choosing a week in West Virginia instead of a week in the tropics? Why are these people perfecting their use of a power drill or circular saw when they could be not working at all or at most just working on their tan? Why on earth would a teenager choose early mornings that turn into long days ending with blistered fingers and mud caked knees, over the alternative of sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and surfing the internet? Why you ask?
John & Elizabeth Muir can tell you why. They could start explaining that during the week they get back more than they ever give, then go on to share about how much they learn, and finally finish explaining what a blast they have in the midst of the work. However, when it comes down to it, the most important “whys” have a name. Why do they spend a week of their summer making homes warmer, safer, and drier? Here’s what they had to say…
We do it….
1. Because of David
We have met so many wonderful homeowners over the years. The first home we worked on was a family with a 16 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. Our son Sam was just 14 on that trip and struck up a friendship with the son, David. The differences in their lives melted away and they were just children. David wanted to help as much as possible in the repair of his home and we used him. He and Sam were put under the house to put in insulation! By the end of the project, we all felt that we had really helped them to be warmer the next winter.
2. Because of Stanley
During our second trip, our homeowner’s father Stanley invited us to join him at his family’s 4th of July Celebration. Our team members followed Stanley out to Cleveland, Virgina, a little town with a population of 128. However, that small town was overflowing with fun! We were shown an amazing evening of local pride, blue grass music and fireworks. Stanley introduced us to everyone we came near and was so proud to show us a good time. We were astounded and humbled at the hospitality and fellowship that we were given. After a day of festivities, John remarked on the drive back that it was truly a night none of us would ever forget. We still receive Christmas cards from those homeowners.
3. Because of Bennie
Our homeowner last year was Bennie. Bennie was a 60 year old bachelor who had not had schooling past 5th grade. It was an eye opening experience for our youth to learn that he was illiterate. Coming from an area where educational opportunities abound, our students saw a different life experience. Together, we were able to not only get to learn from Bennie, but to fix his leaking shower and toilet that had rotted the bathroom floor. After all our work was through, he was so moved that he could not thank us enough. We felt the same.
David, Stanley, and Bennie are just a few of the reasons why people like John and Elizabeth choose to spend a week of their summer working with an organization like ASP. There are countless others whose lives have been mutually impacted.
The students who have been participating in ASP with the Muir over the years return each summer with skills that they have learned. It is so rewarding to know that these skills will be with them for the rest of their lives. Watching them come into a project without knowing how to complete it and then seeing the finished product is amazing! Similarly, the adults who make the trip also can be a surprise. On the final night of the trip, at the center where volunteers stay for the week, they are all asked to share their favorite God moment of the week. The adults in the group, in particular the big, strong, men more often than not cannot make it through their thoughts without choking and tearing up. It is a powerful week, full of life changing moments and memories that change you to the core.
God, we thank you and praise you that you are at work in the world and that you give us the opportunity to participate in that work with our own two hands.
Special thanks to John & Elizabeth Muir for sharing their ASP stories! John & Elizabeth are long time members of Saint Luke and are especially active with ASP. If you are interested in joining a future trip, feel free to chat with them. They are happy to share about their experiences!