On Sunday July 7, our Appalachia Service Project (ASP) team returned from a week of service in Lawrence County Kentucky. It was an amazing week. We had moments of discouragement and moments of inspiration, moments of sadness and moments of joy, moments of frustration and moments of peace. Through it all, our team, those we work with, those who support us, and those we serve came together to bring some much needed home repairs, hope, and peace to families in and around the town of Louisa. Learn more about the week from the reflections below and our photo book.
Be The Peace
My name is Greg Corner. I'm the guy who somehow has had the pleasure of leading this absolutely wonderful team of volunteers. They call me Gerg.
Before I get into it, here's some facts and figures.
- We do ASP. ASP is the Appalachia Service Project.
- 51: This summer is the 51st year that ASP has been in existence.
- 38: This is the 38th year that Covenant church has been part of ASP.
- 25: This summer, ASP is serving in 25 counties in Central Appalachia
- 124: 124 staffers who run everything in these 25 counties
- 470: 470 mission groups (we are one of them)
- 13,300: 13,300 volunteers from all over the country (like us)
- 25: For our part of this, we bring 25 volunteers
- 5: 5 crews from our team
- 1: 1 county: Lawrence County, KY
Why go we go to Lawrence County?
- ½: The median income there is less than half of what it is here.
- 80,000: While the median value of a home here in Delco is $235,000, in Lawrence County, it's $80,000.
- 3: The poverty rate is more than three times higher than it is here.
- 5: 5 families we served
- 1: 1 Theme: "Be the Peace"
About our theme, "Be the Peace", our trip has told me a great deal. Here's what I now know:
God offers us peace through his people
Our theme "Be the Peace" is based on a verse from 1 Samuel:
1 Samuel 25:6: "Thus you shall salute him: 'Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, peace be to all that you have.'"
This is from the story of David and his unpleasant encounter with a guy named Nabal. Without getting into the details, Nabal’s wife Abigail is the one who brings peace in this story. Abigail was in the right place at the right time to keep the peace and avoid bloodshed.
I believe that God offers us peace through his people - by putting people in the right place at the right time.
Wait. I’ve got examples! Two stories from our week that exemplify this idea.
Each year, our ASP team travels about half way to our destination and we stay overnight at a church who is gracious enough to accommodate us. My search landed us at Broad Street UMC in Weston, WV – a smaller town than usual, but their building was large enough to host us. Normally, we find a local restaurant for dinner. When Kim from Broad Street told me they would be providing dinner, I was surprised and thrilled. “That’s incredible”. Then they told us they were making us breakfast! How amazing is that!
After dinner on our first night, their pastor, Brian, his wife, and a few others hung around to join us in some team activities. Brian explained to me that they were very well versed in providing dinners for groups. In just the month of December, they had prepared and served dinner 22 times!
This is one of the ways they support and care for their community. And this is a community that is in dire need of their care because they live in an area that has been hit hard by drug abuse. They’ve gone so far as to host a mini-VBS every single Wednesday night of the year. On Wednesdays, they provide dinner and VBS activities for 40 to 90 children. Pastor Brian was quick to tell me that he is regularly brought to tears when, during prayer time, a child – 5 or 6 years-old – raises his parents in prayer because they are struggling with drug addiction.
Brian told me that they felt blessed to have had the experience of hosting us – that they would be integrating some of what we did in our team activities into their VBS program. When he told me this, I knew it was one of those times – God offering us peace through his people. The simple peace of receiving a home cooked meal. The peace a child receives knowing that someone cares for them. He definitely puts people in the right place at the right time.
Wait. That was just Saturday.
On Sunday morning, we joined pastor Brian and the congregation for their early service. For his message, he focused on the story in which Jesus calms the storm. Now, we had talked about this story at one of our team meetings – as an example of the peace of Christ. While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a sudden storm came up. The disciples were freaking out – scared that they were going to die in this storm and that Jesus was just sleeping. They woke him up. He calmed the storm. Jesus was the peace.
But Pastor Brian took it to another level. He related that the disciples were unsure and afraid of where they were going – to Gerasenes on the other side of the Sea of Galilee – and what they would find there. That for them, going somewhere foreign – somewhere out of their comfort zone, Jesus was the peace.
How perfect is that? We, some of us first-year rookies, are going to an unfamiliar place where we know we’ll be out of our comfort zone. We receive the message that Christ will calm the storm. That he will be the peace. It’s exactly what our theme tells us. “Be the Peace.” But to do that, you’ve got to have Christ on board.
I’ve got chills thinking about it. Definite confirmation.
God offers us peace through his people.
To be in that church to hear that message on that day. He definitely puts people in the right place at the right time.
But that’s only one day in!
You’ll find out more from Emily Petz in her reflection below. I don’t want to steal her thunder, but you have to know this. She’s doing fine now, but on our first night in Lawrence County, she had a really really rough time. Emily had a serious medical problem that sent her to the local hospital.
As in most ASP summer centers, we sleep on the floor in classrooms. This center was rather crowded and girls from different groups had to share rooms. In the middle of the night, when Emily started having difficulties, others in the room noticed and took action.
One young lady from Bethel UMC in Connecticut jumped up and knew just who to get. She ran to another room and brought in a woman from her group who was a doctor. This caring doctor cared for Emily until the EMT’s arrived. Later, The young lady told of how she had been frustrated that she had to sleep in that room when she would have preferred to have been in another room with her group. She then knew that she then knew she had been there for a reason.
Emily’s father, Dave, was by her side from the moment he found out what was going on. Early Monday morning, they were transferred to a children’s hospital about 40 minutes away where tests were done. Emily was released Monday evening and returned to the center. Dave will tell you that throughout this ordeal, he was at peace. Sure, there were really rough spots, but he knew that God was by Emily’s side.
God offers us peace through his people.
Through this ordeal, Emily was surrounded by people who could help. There were people right next to her that noticed there was a problem. There was a doctor nearby and someone in the room to call on her. There was a whole group of people who were praying for Emily. These things might not have been as they were if she had been somewhere else.
God definitely puts people in the right place at the right time. That is how we can be the peace. Dave and Emily were able to be at peace through the grace and love of God. And then they were able to be the peace for two families who also needed a little hope and a little peace. You can read more about our week and the families we worked with from some of our volunteers below. We’ve had our struggles, our frustrations, and a good amount of fun. But, I’ve found that we – us and the families we serve – have been the peace for each other.
My prayer is that what you take from our week in Lawrence County is that you, too, can be the peace.
God offers us peace through his people.
You are one of his people. Sometimes, you might not be where you want to be, but God may have put you there for a reason. Be the Peace!
- Greg Corner, Team Leader
ASP 2019 Reflections
This year was my first year doing ASP and I am not exaggerating when I say... I really had no idea what to expect. To be honest, I thought we would go out there and all 25 of us would work on one house per day and get it done like the Amish. At night I thought we would just eat dinner and hangout. What I found once I got there was completely different. For those who don’t know what actually happens, I’ll explain. Normally, our church goes to a county in central Appalachia and meets up with two other churches. From there, we break into smaller “crews” with two adults and three youths. Then your crew gets assigned a home that you repair the whole week. The workday is normally over around 9 to 5, so when you get back to the center, the first thing you do is rush to get a shower before dinner, which is at 6:30pm sharp. We say a prayer, eat, then after dinner we have an evening gathering. The activity for the evening gathering was different each night and normally lasted until 9. After that we had free time to decompress and get to know the people from other churches.
My group helped a family of five with two kids, Keegan and Morgan, their parents, Sabrina and Casey, and their grandma, Shawna. Our project was to insulate and put up drywall in the attic where the kids’ room is. The project itself couldn’t be done without the expertise of Dave Petz. He was there every step of the way teaching and guiding our group. Outside of working, we also got to connect with the family. Although they normally didn’t eat lunch with us, they were out on the porch a lot, and always open to having a conversation.
I particularly enjoyed talking to Shawna, the grandma. In many ways she reminded me of my own grandma; she always wanted to talk and was quick to give affirmation. A memory that shouldn’t really stick out is one day, at the end of the day, Aidan and I went to the hose to clean out our spackle troughs, but before we went down, we donned our spackle “war paint” **MOTION PUTTING LINES OF SPACKLE ON UNDER THE EYES** Once we got to the porch, we asked Shawna what she thought, and I’m pretty sure she said, “Oh! You guys look gooooood!” I also played with the kids a lot. The first day we were on the site, the youngest, Keegan, pulled me around the yard to show me the old riding mower, all his toys, and the chickens. We chased many teenage chickens around which I later found out are called biddies. Unfortunately, we never could catch one.
Overall, this experience was very meaningful to me. The best way I can describe the whole trip is fun. Playing the “alphabet game” on the way down; becoming friends with the other churches; and meeting my family away from home was all more than I could have ever expected or anticipated. If you ask my parents and friends, all I was texting the whole time about how they should consider coming with me next year.
- Emma Brune, First Year Youth Volunteer
Hello and good morning. My name is Emily Petz and this was my first year participating in ASP! When the meetings started up in late September, the excitement of traveling to a new location really got to me! But, as the months passed, I started to realize that it’s not only about traveling, but it’s about making people's homes warmer, safer, and dryer. I guess you can say that this is when expectation versus reality started to set in place. I expected that I was going to build stronger bonds between myself and other ASP volunteers. Surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened! But not only with the ASP volunteers but with god! I was so excited to make a difference in someone’s life and that I was able to “Be the Peace” to them in the process!
When we arrived in Lawrence County, Kentucky, it’s not what I expected it to be at all. The reality started to set in place. This was a quiet and small town in the mountains that did not have a large population. Later that evening, Lori and I went to the home we were going to be working at to see what our tasks were at hand for the upcoming week. Little did I know I would wake up Monday morning in a hospital bed due to a medical emergency. Through much prayer, of my father who was with me by my side, my family, and others who were aware of my situation, I was released. I was able to return to work on Tuesday under my father’s supervision. Then on Wednesday I was able to return to my team, Covenant’s first all-girl team, which consisted of Lori, Colleen, Emily G, Kayla and myself. Our job for the week was to sand and paint the cabinets and remove and replace the flooring in the kitchen at the home of an 83 year old widowed man. It was a tough task and took many coats of paint, but we were under the supervision of the homeowner, who was quite apprehensive about allowing us to work. Needless to say, we finished our tasks. At the end of each day we would leave the homeowner with a smile on his face.
Reflecting on my week I realized how many times I have thought about giving up or when I would get frustrated in general when something did not happen the way I wanted it to. But my team always made me laugh and we had a great time at our site! On Tuesday, When I returned back to the center we were staying at, my team filled me in on what our homeowners life was like. Bob served 2 tours in Vietnam and his wife died 10 years ago. He hasn’t cleaned his home, for his wife would do most of the cleaning. We also believe that because his wife died ten years ago, he did not use his kitchen. Even though I had to take it slow on Tuesday, I was very happy I did not leave to go home, for I was now doing God's work, under Bob’s roof.
This year I had a blast! I bonded with people who I very rarely talked to when we had our meetings and I am very happy I connected with them. Next summer I am hoping for the better – that there will be no medical emergencies and that I can bond with more people. But most importantly, I can also bring peace to another household and family.
- Emily Petz, First Year Youth Volunteer
Hi. I’m Emily Gray and this was my third year doing ASP. This year I was on the crew “Tangerine Tape Measure”, which was an all-girl group including Lori, Colleen, Emily Petz, and Kayla. Before going on this trip I was expecting what I have been expecting for the past two years – that it would be fun, but also have some hard times during the week, either with relationships within the groups or the particular tasks we had to do. In Lawrence County, Kentucky we stayed in the town of Louisa. It was a cute little town that had some very cool housing, and driving to the worksite, there was nice scenery to watch in the van. The theme this year was all about peace as you know and I honestly did feel a lot of peace throughout this trip. The beginning of the week wasn’t as peaceful as we thought, but as the days went on, we were able to find peace in our group working together. I got to know each person in my group and how they worked. Our homeowner Bob was a kind of shy guy. He wouldn’t really make conversation but he would look at what we were doing throughout the week, making sure it was done correctly. What we were supposed to do did not seem as hard as it was. Trying to sand and paint the cabinets was very hard and at some points I got frustrated because the white was fully sticking and we were getting close to the end. When Friday came, everyone knew what we had to do and we were determined to get it done. And we did! I think our group gave Bob some peace because when we cleaned the kitchen it looked amazing. I could tell on his face he was happy, that with everything we did, it was starting to be okay and clean. It felt really good to know that I gave someone peace from doing something so little. Thank you.
- Emily Gray, Third Year Youth Volunteer
So, in case you don’t already know, I recently spent a week in Kentucky to help those less fortunate than us and to find God in places that a person wouldn’t normally expect. And it turns out, I did those things exactly. My calling to tag along on this trip was nothing but a few friends’ recommending that I do so, but it turned out to be a vital experience in my life and one that I will not forget. I went into the week having no idea what to expect. I was told that the experience changed each year and I honestly got nervous. It was scary to think that I was diving head first into a week of unknown actions, people and places that were out of my comfort zone. But, I had committed to doing so, so I wasn’t going to back down.
Once we arrived in Lawrence County, it was a culture shock for me. A lot of these people lived in conditions that I wasn’t used to seeing as was the family that we were working for for the week. My crew that I worked on got the privilege of working on a house owned by two grandparents named Terry and Candy. Candy had owned this house since 1971, so it had its fair share of blemishes from the years it had been in existence.
Our job was to simply remove the bathroom floor and replace it with a new one, but our job turned out to be so much more. We took out the sub flooring and put in new flooring which was expected, but then we had to install insulation, put up drywall and remove wallpaper and plaster the walls of the bedroom, all of which were brand new experiences for me. Because these jobs were new to me, the whole experience obviously got me stressed and sometimes frustrated with the work we were doing.
However, after seeing the change we made and the impact we had, I knew it was all worth it. All of the work we had done really struck me when the homeowner Candy saw the finished bathroom and shed some tears for the beauty of it all. That’s what really struck me, the fact that I could be on a worksite having fun and joking around with my crew members and change someone’s life forever, even to the point of making them cry tears of joy.
I remember the last day, I was sitting in the bedroom spinning in circles while two of the grandchildren held onto my shirt, (Which I didn’t know could be as entertaining as it was for them) and just having fun. Yet I had still been the peace for someone and made their house a home for them.
To conclude, I will say that the whole week was a great experience for me and changed the way I think about my life and others. The experience helped me find God and helped me to be the peace. Thank you.
- John Shields, First Year Youth Volunteer
We had heard about Keegan.
Right on cue, he met us when we arrived on Monday. I was driving the crew’s van and he stared up at me from his full height not sure what to make of us. We had unfamiliar faces - a different group than the one he’d seen off three days before. That one, different too from the two from the same number of weeks prior. I greeted him with a genuine smile from the open window of the driver’s seat.
Self-appointed or not and young for the task, he was clearly the family’s emissary. Hearing so much about him, knowing how demanding he was, I felt it important to make a good first impression. Our success in connecting with the family rested on this initial meeting. Much seemed to be at stake.
I stepped out of the van and reached out to shake his little hand. Instead of shaking, he grabbed my finger. Holding tight lest I pull it away, he silently turned and led me down the sharply sloping hill to his front yard.
He saw the van keys in my hand, and to my surprise, he reached for them. Making a classic rookie mistake, I absentmindedly handed them over. And so, while the rest of the Passion Fruit Pitchfork crew got to know the family under the front porch, I spent the first several minutes negotiating the return of our keys from our new friend, three-year-old Keegan.
My name is Rich Debany. My family has lived in Springfield for five years. My wife Patty suggested volunteering with ASP a couple of years ago but I procrastinated, life got in the way, and it wasn’t pursued. Our friend and my co-worker Todd Gallagher then invited us to join Covenant’s 2018 team. Although we couldn’t then, I with my sons Matt and Sam, and later Matt’s girlfriend Kayla Hayes, joined-up for this year. Matt participated in the all the gatherings and fund raisers but we knew from the beginning that a schedule conflict prevented his coming on the trip.
Keegan is a delightful kid, as is his slightly older brother Morgan. Their grandmother Shawna is the family matriarch. Their parents are Shawna’s son Casey and his wife Sabrina. The family has strong faith but life is a constant struggle for them in Louisa. Shawna is disabled with Huntington’s disease, Sabrina cares for her and the kids, and Casey works hard, but apparently check to check, operating heavy equipment for a logging company. Shawna has great pride in the house her family has had for generations but it was in desperate need of repair and other work to make it warmer and safe.
The family couldn’t have been more grateful for ASP stepping in to help. Work had been done by the previous three ASP crews to the home’s one bathroom and its kitchen. Our job was to finish insulating and drywalling the unfinished attic where the kids slept. Helping our family helped us find our own peace while it helped us be their peace by improving their home. More importantly, them allowing us and the different ASP staffers and volunteers into their lives throughout the summer unquestionably helped them find their peace at a level well beyond their basic living needs.
My peace wasn’t delivered just by helping our family. It started with our first ASP team gathering last September and it continued through our activities and other gatherings, driving to and from KY with Chris Friel, Sam, and Kayla, spending a week with the awesome Covenant ASP team, and by forming friendships and working with the great crew to which I was assigned: Dave, Emma Brune, Nathan, Aidan and, for one day, Gerg and Emily Petz. My peace was found by Gerg’s inspiring leadership, Dave’s patience and drywall instruction, the great prayers and efforts of my prayer-partner Barbara Cadge, and my wife Patty’s continual support and her giving precious time for me to spend with our sons. It was delivered by the extra time with Sam and Matt the whole experience allowed. I couldn’t be prouder of all the teenagers and young adults in our group, especially Sam and Kayla and the others who worked and thrived outside their comfort zones.
None of us would have found our peace and we would never have been able to help our families if not for the incredible and continual support of the members of the Covenant United Methodist Church, many others in the Springfield community, Broad Street United Methodist Church in Weston, WV which both allowed us to stay and fed us on the way down, and Wesley United Methodist Church in Morgantown, WV which allowed us to stay on the way back.
Thank you for being the peace.
- Rich Debany, First Year Volunteer & Group Leader