Appalachia Service Project | 2011 Mission Trip
Our congregation’s first servant trip in 1988 to Appalachia included eight youth and adults. 2011 marks the 24th anniversary of congregational service through the Appalachia Service Project.
2011 Mission Trip Reflections | Vicar Christopher McKinstry
“God’s Work, Our Hands”
It’s not always easy to connect faith to everyday life. There seems to often be a disconnect between what we do in church on a Sunday morning and the rest of the week when we are at work, at school, taking care of family members or just relaxing with friends. This disconnect exists, I think, not because we don’t want to make connections between our faith and the rest of our lives but because we struggle to see how the two relate to one another. As leaders in the church it is our job to help make these connections and we do our best to tell stories, create images and share visions of the kingdom of God in this world but many times we still have difficulty answering the question “What does it mean to share the gospel in my own context?” I recently had the opportunity to be part of one example of what it looks like to do just that.
Over the week of the fourth of July a group from St. Paul’s – Red Hill traveled to Clay County, Kentucky to participate in the home repairs ministry of the Appalachia Service Project. 2011 is the 24th years of participating in this home repairs ministry.
This year’s group consisted of 27 youth and adults from the congregation some of whom were veterans of this project (one of our members was celebrating his 20th year on ASP) and some others were brand new to the experience. Once we had arrived at Clay County Middle School in Manchester, Kentucky, our home for the week, we were given our group assignments and informed about the work that we would be doing throughout the week. There were a variety of different tasks assigned including roofing, flooring, insulation, siding, painting to name a few.
On my way back from the trip, during the 12+ hour car ride I thought a lot about the experiences that we all had and it brought to mind the slogan or mission statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America “God’s work, Our hands.” When we all talked about what we had done for those families there was no doubt that we were doing God’s work with our hands. There was no doubt that this was a tangible expression of our faith in Christ, and there was no doubt on the part of the families that God was indeed taking care of them. It made me think of that question “What does it mean to share the gospel in my own context,” what does it mean to share my faith when I am not on ASP, what does it mean to “be the hands and feet of Christ,” when I am not faced with such obvious needs? The truth is that I didn’t come to any easy answers but the experience itself was eyeopening for us all and I hope and pray that our eyes can stay open to the needs that are all around us, that we will see, recognize and give thanks for the many blessings that God gives us each day, that we would hear the cries of the needy people around us and be moved to help them. That we would know that we worship a God that is full of love and compassion for all and that we would be moved to love as well.
How can a region like Appalachia have such poverty?
You can’t build factories on mountainsides. You can’t plant crops. And for more than a hundred years, natural resources have been removed from the region.
The result is that jobs are few
and far between. For many of these families, their modest houses-handed down from generation to generation-are the only real possession they have. But houses need maintenance. And when your resources are limited, fixing a hole in the roof is a low priority.
Into this bleak environment, ASP shines a ray of hope. With help from volunteers from across the country, ASP repairs more homes than any agency working in Appalachia.