Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that Covenant wouldn't get to ASP until October? Covid-19 has upended many plans and many lives this year, and the Appalachia Service Project was no different. They had to cancel their entire summer program - the one in which somewhere around 15,000 volunteers journey to Central Appalachia to bring home repair and hope to hundreds of families. ASP was finally able to host volunteers at the end of September. So, as Covenant has since 1982, we wanted to go.
Of course, this time it would be much different. It was the last week of October, not the first week of July. By October, the volunteers who would have gone were back in school, back to work, or still understandably hesitant due to coronavirus. Instead of 25 or 30 volunteers, our team was just two - my wife Lori, and me. We headed down to Unicoi County, Tennessee to try to do what our team usually does - make homes warmer, safer, and drier and bring the love of Christ to others. We sorely missed the rest of the team, their positive energy and almost constant commotion nowhere to be found. But it was also the first time since we first went on ASP together that we were on the same crew (we were the crew). So, we set out to do what we could.
The Covid-19 pandemic had imposed all sorts of new protocols for daily activities. We had to be thoughtful about what we were doing every step of the way: masks on whenever inside or around others, sanitizing things after use, keeping our social distance. And all of the work being done was outside. That's nice when it's 70 degrees and sunny, not so nice when it's 50 degrees and raining!
Our first project was to finish new siding and soffit for Karen. She wanted so desperately to convey her appreciation and gratitude. Every day she did the most that she could to say thank you. She brought us treats to keep us energized. One day, warm home-made fudge! Mmmmm, sugar overload. How thoughtful of Karen. She gave from the little she had to make sure we were nourished (and almost bouncing off the walls). We finished Karen's project and moved on to Lakeyn's place. She and her daughter were having insulation and siding installed around their trailer. Previous crews had finished most of it and we worked Thursday with a wonderful crew from Georgia, then finished on Friday when it became colder. Lakeyn was thoughtful enough to bring us hot coffee to keep us warm. Again, Lakeyn was thoughtful enough to gave from the little she had to make sure we were warm.
All of this brings me to my favorite day of the week. You see, we usually have a theme for each day of our service week. This week went like this: 'Merica Monday, Twin Tuesday, Western Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, Frightful Friday. On Thoughtful Thursday, Lori gave a morning devotion in which she offered some insights from Owen Fitzpatrick who writes about the lost art of thoughtfulness. "Thoughtfulness means spending time putting yourself in other people’s shoes. It means considering what is in the best interests of others." This is what ASP is built on. Even as we were there trying to be thoughtful of Karen and Lakeyn, they were being just as thoughtful of us. How often do we think about what it's like for someone else to live their life? How often do we think about the things we do each day and how they effect others, like wearing a mask? How often do we think about lifting others up, even when they live differently than we do? As Paul says in Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." The true blessing of the Appalachia Service Project is that ASP brings people together where we are all children of God, worthy of love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. Wanna go?
- Greg Corner
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