On the first day of summer - June 22nd, 2013, the Covenant ASP team left Springfield for Tazewell County, Virginia to participate in the Appalachia Service Project. This is our yearly effort to help “eradicate substandard housing in Central Appalachia and equip and inspire lives of Christian service”. This is also ASP's vision. And this was the 32nd year that a group of volunteers from Covenant has endeavored to do just that. 32 years. That's a long time. Why do we keep going?
First, there is still so much need. Let's look at the first part of that vision – to “eradicate substandard housing in Central Appalachia”. Just to paint a picture of what things are like in Appalachia, here are some statistics about the area where we served - Tazewell County, Virginia, which is just across the southern border of West Virginia. The number households there is just over 18000, less that ten percent of what it is here, in Delaware County. The high school graduation rate is about fifteen percent lower than here. The college graduation rate (bachelor's degree) is only forty percent of what it is here. Following suit, the median household income in Tazewell is 57 percent of what it is here – just $36,000. That's the average. ASP is working with families below this average. Well below.
The number of people living below the poverty level in Tazewell is almost twice what it is in Delaware County. These are the people we serve.
Second, let's look at the second part of that vision – to “equip and inspire lives of Christian service”. Each year, ASP coins a theme for the summer. This year's theme is “Radical Reversal”. The “Radical Reversal” comes from verses 43 through 45 in the book of Mark, chapter 10:
“But it should not be that way with you. Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must serve the rest of you like a slave. Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.”
What we see here is that Jesus is showing us a totally new way of thinking and acting. Consider our world today - most of the people we consider to be “great” are famous, or wealthy, or are CEOs, or have their own reality TV show. Jesus tells us that to truly be great means to be humble and to serve others. When we stop and say “Is there something you need?” or “How can I help?”, when we think of others before we think of ourselves, we are modeling Christ’s radical reversal. ASP helps shape us as Christians to act backwards – that to be first, we must be last.
These are some of the reasons we keep going. Perhaps you will find more reasons as you read the reflections some of our volunteers have written about what the week was like and what it meant to them.
~ Greg Corner, Team Leader
Check out the ASP 2013 Picture Album