Appalachia Service Project

For over 15 years, youth and adults from our church have journeyed to Appalachia with the Appalachia Service Project (ASP) during the summer to do home repair and to meet and learn about the people of that economically depressed part of the country. The following reflection was shared in worship on ASP Sunday, May 1, 2011, by Charlie Rohrer.

They call it Mosey Monday.

It’s our first day out on the job site. We’ve taken a slow, careful ride out on roads we don’t know, trying to remember the directions we were given. We don’t have any supplies yet so we can’t get much work done. We have to wait for them to be delivered.

It’s our first big chance to meet the family that we’ll be spending the week with, and we should spend the time to get to know them, make them at ease with us, and us with them. We won’t get another first chance. So we take some time to spend the time with them.

That’s why they call it Mosey Monday.

It’s always a bit awkward. Who wouldn’t be a little sheepish about meeting a bunch of people who volunteered to work on your house that you’ve been unable to fix? And we don’t know much if anything about our new family, except their names and that their house needs work.

But we talk for a short while, then wander around to look at the job we have to do, and talk among ourselves. And then we feel more comfortable because the unknowns are behind us, and what we’ve been working toward all year is staring us in the face. It’s time to work, to join the family, to make it happen.

That is what ASP is all about.

My first year was a huge learning experience. I saw the immensity of the job at hand and pushed to get as much done as possible. And I was amazed at how much we accomplished that week. We replaced the rotted floor in the wash room, tore out and replaced the rotten section of the kitchen floor, put in and plumbed a new kitchen sink and cabinet, and installed new linoleum on the entire kitchen floor. The staff at the center was amazed too, as they hadn’t planned to be that far ahead.

But that part about ‘it’s time to work, to join the family, to make it happen?’ I missed the part about joining the family. I spent all the time working on the house and no time working with the family. It suddenly became very unsatisfying.

I came home knowing that the next time would have to be different, that my focus would have to change. And though it was difficult because you really DO want to get as much done you can, the next year, my focus did change. It IS all about loving your neighbor as you love yourself, about taking care of them as you take care of yourself.

And because the family now comes first, it gets better every year. Almost as much work gets done, but far more time is spent caring and sharing. And it’s far more satisfying for everyone.

And that caring and sharing works all year round, too.

I have two quotes that say it all to me about our ASP group from Katonah.

First came form the general store owner in Kentucky where we all stopped for snacks every morning. On Friday, after a week of poring through her store, she said to one of our youth – you are the nicest, most polite bunch of kids I’ve ever met – even if you are from New York!

And my favorite, from the mother of the family we worked for a bunch of years ago:

‘I would never have believed that people would take off a week of their time, travel all the way down here to West Virginia, and do all this wonderful work. Y’all have restored my faith in humanity.’

And they have restored mine.

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