Monday, February 24, 2014


I never considered how hard it would be to return to normal life after ASP.

I was ready for sleeping on hard bunk beds, eating off cafeteria trays, working muscles I forgot I had and working in sub par conditions. I wasn't ready for the relationships I would form, strengthen and change. ASP is more than working on houses, it's building bonds.
I don't easily forget the experiences I have. My mind works overtime reliving conversations and moments. That's what makes re-entry so difficult.
When you ask me how my trip was I will say great, awesome, wonderful or some other like adjective. I will then usually tell you a story about the house I worked on or a funny experience I had with the group. Know that behind my laughs are plenty of tears. Tears of joy for bonds formed, tears of sadness for the poverty I saw, tears of hopelessness and for me, tears of hope. Hope, because I choose to believe that someday things will be better.
The question came up during our trip "Why do they live like this"? I wish I had the answer.
The house I worked on had a high school prom picture hanging on the wall. In the professional school photo was the happy couple holding their baby. I had a conversation with the woman who cooked our dinners. She also works at the high school sometimes. Phyllis relayed to me that she fed 10 pregnant girls that day and 2 have already delivered babies this school year. They get car seats so the babies can ride the bus with them to the school provided daycare on premises. They get special meals and snacks during the day while they are pregnant. I know this is not helping these young people reach their full potential. What to do? So, do I give up hope? No, I choose to believe that someday things will be better.
I made special relationships with homeowners I never imagined I could. I strengthened bonds with church friends I already knew. I got to know people better. The tearful goodbyes on Saturday and the warm reunion hugs on Sunday morning make me even more sure that I believe that someday we can make things better.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Prayer Shawls

I had the honor this year of presenting prayer shawls to the two women who make our meals every day at the ASP facility.    

While telling the women about our church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry, and the meaning of the shawls, I explained that the small group of people from BBPC that they could now see was just the tip of the iceberg, representatives of a larger congregation that they couldn’t see—a larger congregation that loved and supported them just the same:

·         Those in the Compassion-Knits who knit our shawls, thinking about and praying for their eventual recipients with each stitch.  (The shawls we gave out this year were knitted by Jane Settle, Jan Holmlund and Amanda Decker.)

·         Those who financially support our ASP trips, through pasta dinners, coffee houses, t shirt auctions and car washes.  (You know who you are!)

·         Even those who—though no longer part of our temporal family of faith—will always remain guiding spirits in all we do together.  (Someone like the late Peggy Sutherland comes to mind—someone who made innumerable prayer shawls herself, who continually gave financially in support of ASP and so many other church mission projects, and whose profound impact continues to shape the life of our congregation and the lives of its members.)             

Through the always powerful presentation of the BBPC prayer shawls to ASP staff and families, we were humbled to represent our larger congregation, were reminded of those who went before us yet still go with us, and were grateful to be members of the larger Church Universal—which stitches together New Jersey with West Virginia, prosperity with poverty, mortal with the Eternal.        


The ASP staff member assigned to our work site is a young woman named
Katie.  During the orientation meeting at the ASP center on our first
night, she introduced herself and mentioned she was from Connecticut.

The next day, Katie led us to our work site—a home about 15 miles from
the ASP center.  Katie spent much of the day checking on our progress,
giving advice, and actively participating in our work.  In a casual
conversation during the work day, I asked Katie where she was from in

She said: New Town.

We looked at each other for a time, without saying what didn’t need to
be said.

* * * *

There’s a connection between the destructiveness of Today--the school
shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Boston Marathon bombings,
the poverty of West Virginia—and our constructive work at ASP.

In the narrowest sense, our work this week was for a small number of
homes, for a small number of families, in a small area of Appalachia.

But in the broadest sense, it goes far beyond that—just one positive
response to the negative circumstances of Today, as we work toward and
strive for a better Someday.  Someday when poverty is eliminated.
Someday when tears of sadness are replaced with tears of joy.  Someday
when hatred and violence are conquered by love.

Are we making a small number of homes warmer, safer and drier in Today’s
world?  Definitely.  But are we also improving people’s lives—including
our own—in a way that will endure long after our work week?  Are we
making our world to be a little more filled with love?  Just as

The reason we came to ASP is simply this: We Believe in Someday


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Just the facts...

Here we are again... BBPC adults at Guyan Valley
A few participants had to cancel due to work issues or illness. Ten of us made the trek to West Virginia.
Crew NA (also known as Foghorn Leghorn) consists of John A, Mickey, Sue, Tim & Judy
Our project is to finish a home that ASP has been working on for almost a year. Monday Sue  and I laid carpet in a bedroom complete with molding and thresholds. The guys worked on finishing the sididng. Unfortunately much of our work is taking down and redoing work that a previous group did wrong.
Crew Barnevelder is John C, Steve, Kerry, Mark and George
This crew is taking down a porch, replacing it and builing a handicap ramp for the homeowner who is anticipating surgery on both legs and will be wheelchair bound.

They told me ASP draws you in and you are hooked. I get it!