When I was younger I spent a lot of my time in my church community; I grew to really care about the people there; and they showed me a lot of love. I remember that not only did we have activities at church but we also went on trips; retreats; ski trips; trips the mountains; but the trips that were the most important to me was the Appalachian Service Project ( ASP). This was a mission trip where the church would travel to remote areas in Appalachian areas and help repair homes that were damaged in impoverished communities; I went on ASP about 2 times when I was about 17 or 18. I grew up in a community that was a bubble; most people were well off and I know for me; I wasn’t exposed to extreme poverty; I had never traveled much and had never been to the mountains. I was told we would be there for about a week; I was nervous because I hadn’t been that far away for so long without my family before; I sat on the bus in the parking wondering if this was a good idea. My health problems were starting then but I didn’t tell anyone; my stomach hurt really bad and I just felt uncomfortable. I was worried that everything I would eat would make me sick and I couldn’t run home for comfort; once that bus left; it was out my hands. It could have been nerves as well but I felt like this on most trips with the group; I chose to stay silent because I didn’t want anyone to worry. I remember getting there and we arrived at a high school; but it was much smaller than the one I had gone to and it was in the middle of A valley; a really small town; with a burger king, I think; and a little hardware store; I think there was a gas station next to the school; that was it. I was concerned because we slept in a gym and the facilities weren’t great. I was uncomfortable about sleeping on the floor with all of these people in a gym but I tried to be positive. I told myself that I was here to help a needy family and that i was willing to make a sacrifice; I felt i was doing a good thing. It took some time to get adjusted but eventually I did and the next day; we started to go to the home to help repair it. I was so embarrassed because I knew nothing about tools or building anything; I was clumsy and I never felt good enough compared to the rest of them; I didn’t fit. Most of the time I just kept to myself because I guess I was anxious. But people were nice and I never felt pushed aside; people understood that I struggled. The two trips may be merging together but I remember being on a roof and it was so hot; the midday sun was just burning; I was laying tar or something. I was just struggling; couldn’t hammer a nail to save my life; coordination was terrible but all that aside I was happy that I was there in the first place and I could be of help. It was a lot of hard work and at the end of the day I was exhausted; as was everyone else; just so sore and all I could do was sit down. But the working was not the highlight of the trip; the highlight was to meet the families; to know we were making a difference; doing what God would wanted us to do; we were supporting the families and each other; it was beautiful. I felt God spoke to me on those trips; I remember one of the families had a little girl; she was maybe 5 or 6; she was so friendly and was always interested in what we were doing; she was deaf. And when I heard her family talk about their situation; something in me changed. They talked about how they had no programs in school for the deaf; none; which coming from a wealthy county was something I had never even thought of; I always thought the deaf had schools to go to. Since they couldn’t place her in a deaf program; they placed her a special education program; which saddened me; because to me she seemed like any other little girl; aside from that fact that she couldn’t hear. When I was a kid I was in special education so something about that affected me; and here I am here 20 years later working to get a degree in the disability field; I am believer that everything happens for a reason in God’s timeline. There was another family we visited; actually it was two families. One family had two sons that I think had down syndrome; they were forced to live in the adjacent house ( which was right next to a railroad track); the family told the sons that if they crossed into the property they would be shot; I was shocked. We walked into their house ( the brothers) and you could tell they had difficulties taken care of themselves; there was trash and food everywhere; and you could tell life was difficult; it broke my heart; it really did. There is a reason I saw that; God was speaking to me; preparing me to make a difference in a disabled person’s life; it was one of those life changing moments where you now knew your purpose. Those trips meant a lot to me; the bonds I made with my friends; doing God’s work; feeling of use; helping families and seeing the smiles on their faces when we finished; I was honored to be a part of those trips. I later recalled those memories in front of the congregation; and I was nervous wreck; I had trouble fully explaining everything I was thinking and feeling at the time; so this is my chance 20 years later to say exactly how I felt. I hope someday I can go on another mission trip as an adult; and see young kids make a difference in other’s lives; just like we did. It is such a blessing that ASP exists; for everyone involved. Someone once told me that God put on these earth to help others and that couldn’t be more true.
Note- I am the kid with the Dare T-shirt