Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Mission Trip: but who for?

Jack is far right
About six months ago my 15 year old son (Jack) came to me and said he'd like to attend a local Methodist Youth Group. He said a lot of his friends attended, and the Youth Minister was really cool. I am a Quaker. So is my wife. My kids have grown up in Quaker Meeting. However, I'm of the mind that if your teenager comes to you expressing interest in a religious youth group, you support them! You know, unless they are worshipping snakes or something. A few months later Jack mentioned that he wanted to go on a Mission Trip with the Youth Group to the Appalachian Service Project. My wife and I supported this idea 100%. I think teenagers greatly benefit from hard work, from service to others, Spiritual exploration, and traveling to see how other folks live.

Then, back in April, the 17th to be exact (and I know only because it was 3 days prior to my ACL surgery) my son's Youth Minister, Rush, contacted me and said, "so your son suggested that you would be a great addition to our leaders on our Mission Trip". Well, hmmm...Again, when your adolescent asks you to participate in something of this nature I think the only answer can ever be a resounding "YES"! I did however have some trepidation about hard labour just 8 weeks post surgery. Rush and I discussed my likely limitations, and he assured me that he'd make certain I was not on a physically intense project.
ASP Staff: Sam, Stephen, Margie, & Chick-Chick

The Appalachia Service Project is a Christian ministry, open to all people, that inspires hope and service through volunteer home repair in Central Appalachia. To learn more about the Washington County center, go to

Or visit their Facebook page. 

Team Timberwolf:  Aaaawoooooo! 
Two Sundays ago, Jack and I met with roughly 40 high-schoolers and accompanying adults to load into 5 vans and head to Washington County, VA.  Three hours later we arrived at Rhea Elementary school where we would eat, sleep, organize for work days, and worship for the following week.  Each crew was divided and had five high-schoolers, and two adult staff.  Ours was named Timberwolf, and our projects were pre-selected by the ASP staff.

Tile Installation
Timberwolf, like the other teams had multiple assignments. Our assignments included removing a leaky sunlight in the top floor bedroom and installing a dormer window, installing a floating laminate floor into the living room, as well as adding a stone pad for the wood stove. In addition, we needed to install a tile floor to the bathroom, repair dangerous stairs at the front of the home, and dig a drainage ditch in the back-yard. Some of the tasks we were assigned had been started the prior week by another team, and some would be completed the week following ours.

The changes we were working on will certainly improve the home, and thereby the homeowners lives.  ASP seems to focus on improving Safety, Insulation, and Dryness, all of which are pretty crucial in a home!  ASP encourages the teams to build relationships with the families when possible, and to share lunch if the families are interested.

Sun roof leaks air and water...
With Service work like this there is powerful mojo going on both for the recipients and for the givers. Without a doubt, the work that happens on the homes is crucial. It is a gift to the homeowners, and there are countless anecdotes of emotional appreciation that are very touching.  Recipients are truly grateful. There is also the wonderful chance for our youth to experience giving Service. Sharing of their time, their skills, their humor, and their smiles. 

Hammering like Thor!

As stated above, the outward purpose of such a trip is to provide Service to the recipients. But there is far more going on under the surface. I have watched and participated in the growth of friendships among the youth and staff. I have also watched high school youth a bit anxious about using power tools become adept and gung-ho about the same tools. I have seen them use some of that math which they always said they'd never use! I witnessed teens exhausted and crabby dig deep to finish a project, and stay kind to one-another. Likely they all worked harder than their parents know they can (Jack included).

Building the Dormer
I had the pleasure of working with an incredibly skilled co-leader, Karen Beaton. She is a warm and friendly woman. She has a degree in Engineering, she home schools her three children, and she and her husband built the house they live in. Her knowledge of construction far exceeds mine, and she was a great role model for the young women on our team.

A typical day with ASP includes waking up at 7:00, and meeting for morning Devotionals, and announcements. This is followed by breakfast. Then the ASP staff (who were at Lowes or Berries hardware upon the doors opening) return with hardware and lumber for each group. Teams gather their gear and drive to their worksites.  Work goes on all day, with a lunch break and a  Devotional.  At the end of the work day, we head back to "home" and turn in a new "supplies list". Showers are available. We eat dinner at 6:00, and meet as a collective group at 7:30 for EG (Evening Group) Worship, singing, and any announcements. We were lucky, in that we were sharing the Elementary school, meals, and chores with two other churches, and a family of four who came on their own.  Big group = big fun!  After EG's, most folks made a beeline for ice-cream back in town. Then Quite time by 10:30, Lights-out at 11:00. I had my evening meditation until 11:30, then went to sleep and started it all over the next day.
Gravel up the hill, for the drainage ditch

At the end of the week, I left Washington County fairly exhausted, but very happy. My knee survived, a bit swollen and sore, but still intact.  I felt spiritually fed, and gratitude to have shared this adventure with my son Jack.  I'm pleased to have made so many new friends. In addition I had the unexpected pleasure of seeing what it might have been like to have had daughters, as I have two wonderful sons.  What a treat!

The purpose of this Mission trip is to "inspire hope and service through volunteer home repair", and yet despite the great works we did, I am confident that I got far more out of this trip than I gave, as did all of us.  Jack and I are still talking excitedly about next year, and my wife plans on joining us!

More tech-talk to come!


  1. It was a true blessing having you Jim. Your presence and grace was truly awesome, for our students...and for me! - Rush

    1. Thanks Rush! We are looking forward to next year, and my wife is hoping she can be a group leader too!