Covenant United Methodist Church

Changing Lives with Jesus

Reflections of our 2015 Appalachia Service Project Mission Trip

posted:
July 12, 2015

This is 34th year that Covenant church has participated in the Appalachia Service Project. In impressive fact in and of itself. And before I go any further, I would like to thank the people of Covenant church and the surrounding communities for your unending and generous support, without which ASP could never have thrived as it has. Yes, every summer for the past 34 years, volunteers from Covenant and our community have ventured into Central Appalachia to, as you often hear us say, make homes warmer safer and drier. Each summer we spend a week helping to repair homes for families who live there. We continue this effort each year because the need persists.

Two weeks ago, we traveled over 600 miles to arrive in Harlan County Kentucky. Harlan County is on Kentucky's southeast border – just above the western point of Virginia – deep in Central Appalachia. ASP sends volunteers to Harlan County because almost a third of the people there live below the poverty line. The average household income is under $26,000, while here in DelCo it's over $64,000. That's a difference of more than 60%. Harlan suffers from much the same problems as most other counties in Central Appalachia – lack of industry. Mining was the primary industry early in the 20th century. Coal production in Harlan County fell throughout the 1950s, hitting a near 50-year low in 1960. The drop in production meant a big drop in jobs and population as well. Employment in Kentucky's underground mines fell 70 percent from 1950 to 1965; in Harlan County, mining employment dropped from almost 14,000 to just under 2,500 in that time. There were just 1,780 people employed in mining in 2009.

Many of the people we help still live there, or have even returned after living elsewhere in the country, mainly because it's home –it's where they're from – it's where their family is.

You'll find people who, in addition to living with poverty, live in poor health – often the effect of working in or living near the mines. Due to these financial and health problems, many are left unable to maintain their homes.

This is why we go to Harlan County. But helping to repair homes in really not the biggest goal. It's bigger than that.

There's a message that goes along with our trip this year:

“Becoming: Walking like Christ”

And there's a scripture verse that deepens that message:

“the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked”

- 1 John 2:6

So, why would ASP wrap the summer mission program in a message like this? It's because it isn't just about the home repair work. Yes, fixing homes is absolutely a vital part of the mission, but it's really the vehicle by which some really important work can be done.

Each trip to Appalachia affords everyone involved – the volunteers, the homeowners, and the staff – the opportunity to grow closer to God. God wants to have a deep relationship with us. How can this happen? It happens when we walk the way Jesus walked. No, we're not going to be able to walk on water. Think about it – how many people walked the path Jesus did? – Walked just as he did? Only Jesus. We can't possibly replicate that. We can however, strive to get as close as possible. The word used here is “becoming”. “Becoming” means to “begin to be”. We can begin to be like Christ – by doing as He did when He walked the earth – by listening to God; by showing grace; by forgiving others; by serving others; and by loving one another.

Of course, this is not easy. It's not the way most of this world works. It has been said: “Don't think you're on the right road just because it's a well-beaten path.” When people participate in the Appalachia Service Project, we really put ourselves out there. We – volunteers, staff, and families alike – often allow our weaknesses to be exposed – allow ourselves to be seen as human beings – as equals – as children of God. What we find out is that we are there for each other. That through the volunteers, families find hope and worth and love; and through the families, volunteers find the same things – hope and worth and love. We give each other purpose. We are amazed when we show others – people we have never met before – compassion and love, that we receive the very same thing in return. Is this not what God wants of us and for us? Is this not one way to begin to walk like Jesus?

It's all about living the way Jesus lived – not for this world, but for God – by loving one another. Look for echos of these messages in reflections from some of our volunteers of our week in Harlan County. The challenge will then be to continue to try to walk as Jesus did – not just during an ASP trip, but each and every day.

~ Greg Corner, Team Leader

 

Good morning. My name is Dave Petz and this is my first year with ASP. It was not my intent to participate. My daughter Amanda wanted to join and I accompanied her at the first meeting back in September. After listening to the details about the program and watching some video of past years trips I thought that I might be able to help. I joined the group in November and began my journey to Becoming and Walking like Christ.

Becoming: Walking like ChristCheck out the ASP 2015 Picture Album

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