Appalachian Service Project has many rewards for FL teen
Teen Talk Reporter
Last summer I went on ASP, a mission trip that my church’s youth attend during the summer every year.
We go to an area in Appalachia and serve by helping repair or add to houses or property, thus the name: Appalachian Service Project.
Youth and adults from all over the country partake in this unique and wonderful experience every year. Our group of high schoolers and adults was assigned
to Floyd County, Kentucky. There are many reasons this trip changed my life, and I would like to share them with you, even as I encourage you to consider
going on a mission trip with others.
One thing I gained on this trip was a sense of friendship. I had known and been good friends with everyone on the trip before, but I developed deep bonds
that I believe will last a lifetime. One way I developed this friendship was through the car ride down to Kentucky. We were randomly assigned to three
vehicles. One was a fifteen passenger van, one a suburban that held eight, and one a five passenger truck. We switched cars frequently, and because of
the nature of road trips, we got to know each other very well. You learn others’ likes and dislikes, and you sometimes have very interesting conversations.
I always had a feeling of being accepted. Everyone was willing to ask me questions if they didn't understand something about my blindness. They included
me in everything.
On the way down to Floyd County, we stayed in a church in Lexington, KY. This church had a gym and roller skates. Almost everyone went roller skating, but
I didn’t think I would be safe skating by myself, especially since I knew only how to use inline skates and they were not available. One of my friends
spent the whole time skating with me, and working with me on skating. I didn’t have to sit off to the side because I couldn't skate.
Another time, most of the kids were throwing a ball around, and I didn’t think I’d be able to join them because the ball didn’t make noise, and without
that, I wouldn’t know where the ball was to catch it.
My friends came to the rescue as they told me to join the circle, and warned me when the ball was coming. Then, they would tell me to catch it, and I would
bring my arms up toward my chest and catch the ball.
Then, I would say the name of the person to whom I wanted to throw, and they would talk so I could throw to them. It was a lot of fun! I was on the same
playing field as my friends.
Another thing I enjoyed about ASP was that I was able to try anything I wanted to try. I’m sure that the sight of a blind girl with a pickaxe made the other
youth on my work crew, not to mention the adults, nervous.
To be honest, it made me nervous, too.
When we had done a work session at church I had proven terrible with a hammer! Most people have hand-eye coordination. I had hand-hand coordination. Wherever
one hand was, that was where the hammer went. After I felt as if I had completely destroyed my hand, my Dad was able to show me how to not do that again.
This had made me fearful. I was not sure how I would pull my weight. The logic behind my thinking was this: If I couldn’t even use a hammer, how would I
help the team? That proved not to be a worry as the days went on. I got better at using tools, and since we were building a retaining wall into a mountain,
I didn’t have to use a drill or regular hammer. I did, however, get to use a sledge hammer. I knew I could not aim well, so I had someone aim for me while
I tried to do more of the muscle work. Digging was a bit more challenging. I couldn’t quite handle a large shovel, and I needed a way to help dig. The
adult leader overseeing the work on the retaining wall suggested I use a hoe to dig. It worked, however, without vision, I couldn't tell if the hoe had
flipped over or not. We decided to tape something to the top of the handle. This way I could make sure that whatever we had taped there was on top. If
it was not, I could flip the hoe over. We used a piece of metal rod that we were using to hold the railroad ties in place. We taped it to the top and I
didn’t have that problem again.
Another thing I got out of the trip was that I was able to help someone. We worked hard, and got to know our family. As we did, we really hoped that we
could make things okay. We weren’t able to finish everything, there was only so much time, but I really felt like what we did made a difference. Sometimes
that can be an uncommon feeling in today’s society. The truth is that our family may not live in the same location in twenty years, but I hope that what
we did may have made a difference in their lives.
The bottom line is that I would recommend going on a mission trip to anyone, but especially to those with disabilities or those who don’t think they matter.
Going somewhere and helping others gave me a feeling of doing something bigger than myself.
It wasn’t about how much money I had or what the latest fashion was. Instead, I learned to enjoy the more simple things in life. After a day of hard work,
I looked forward to a shower like I never have in my life.
I was not useless on this trip, I was able to contribute to the group in a normal way. I really didn’t feel like my blindness limited me. I was also accepted.
I was able to participate in fun activities in an adapted, but complete role.
I had always thought that this kind of experience would only come in a perfectly adapted environment, but I discovered that it does not have to be that
If you have ever wanted to help someone, I urge you not to hesitate, you’ll be making a difference in someone’s life, and you may surprise yourself at how
much better you feel about yourself and the world.
You’ll develop a love for others that is greater than yourself. The best way I can explain it is by quoting Dr. Karl Menninger: “Love cures people - both
the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
Well, that's about all I have for now!