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Appalachia Service Project (ASP)

ASP-1Every summer for one week, Northminster youth and adults travel to Central Appalachia in the U.S. to do home construction projects for impoverished people in the region. In 2015, more than 90 people were in our church group.

ASP trips are enormously rewarding for our young people, teaching them valuable lessons in teamwork and helping others, as well as learning practical construction skills.

Group training and bonding for the trip begins in January, with fundraising events to help raise money to cover the transportation, housing, and food costs for the trip.

For more information on how you or your teenage son or daughter can participate in ASP, contact Al Williams.

A Parent’s Story

About three years ago, my daughter Maggie came home from a week in Appalachia beaming.  Mind you, she is not a kid who likes sleepovers, is resistant to sudden changes of plan, and needs lots of transition time to feel comfortable.

ASP-4Knowing what little I did about ASP, I was surprised and delighted that it had been such a good experience for her.  When soon after she suggested I attend the following summer, I immediately seized the opportunity.  After all, few kids are willing to let their (nerdy) dad hone in on something they consider cool.

The next summer, we drove to Anderson County, TN and my team spent an amazing week building a wheelchair ramp for a retired couple. He had broken his back years before in the coal mines, was confined to wheelchair, and was unable to leave his home without a yeoman’s effort.

The work literally changed all of our lives. I came home and recruited my wife Heidi and daughter Lanie to attend the next summer. Late June this year, we drove to Martin County, KY. It was another great and unique experience.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to consider ASP among Northminster’s greatest outreach. Many people are introduced to our faith community through this group’s inclusive nature and acceptance.

We have kids and adults from a variety of backgrounds who participate, but the unanimity of purpose always shines through. I am faithful we may continue to be a witness to the people of Appalachia and our community for many years to come. — Ned Lott

ASP-3A Youth Volunteer’s Story

The acrid smell of wet insulation was stuck deep in my lungs as I heaved the muddy five gallon bucket from the muddy hole I was digging. The temperature was well into the 90s, and I was dressed in heavy leather boots, jeans, and a T-shirt. I was covered in sweat, and I didn’t think I could get any wetter. How wrong.

All at once, the bucket I was holding broke with a loud snap and hit the ground, splashing the mixture of Kentucky mud, decades old insulation, and rainwater all over my shirt. In almost any other situation, the horridness of the accident would have sent me into a grumpy, irritable mood. But this was Thursday on my third trip on the Appalachian Service Project. There was no time for that here.

There was a man whose trailer home was at risk of collapsing if we didn’t finish draining the support post holes we had dug. I quickly picked up the shattered bucket, grabbed another and sat right back down in the mud to continue my job.

Whether it is fixing a leaky roof, laying down a new floor, or digging a 25-foot long drainage ditch, sharing a common goal with six other volunteers brings out the best in each person. The responsibility you share takes precedence over any other issues. The Appalachian Service Project teaches volunteers the importance of putting their own desires aside for a week to work on something ultimately larger than five youths, two adults, a power saw and a handful of nails.

Craftsmanship, experience, and knowledge of construction are all unnecessary for an ASP rookie to have. A mixture of teamwork, passion for working, humility, desire to learn, and compassion for others is the recipe for a successful ASP trip. Newcomers beware though, it is not uncommon for volunteers to become “ASP junkies,” people who love every moment of the trip’s planning, fundraising, team building, and work.

Some volunteers have even worked as staffers at ASP centers all summer in college. No doubt these people have been reached by the magic of the ASP experience as all who volunteer have, and all who have yet to work in the sometimes miserable but always memorable conditions will. — Peter Regan, 3 year veteran