As many of you know, seven (7) young people from this parish participated in the Appalachian Service Project (“ASP”) earlier this summer. They went down to Virginia to serve God’s poor as they participated in work projects of home repair. Upon their return I emailed them and asked if they would not mind sharing some of their experiences, and also, would they share what they might have learned from this experience. On Sunday morning July 9, four of them addressed our congregation and spoke from the heart.
I am going to share with you (although I will respect their privacy and withhold the writer’s name) written reflections from some. Please note that the four email excerpts you are about to read do NOT necessarily come from the same four teens who spoke – in fact they do not. But I thought you would find the reflections of our own teenagers to be food for the spirit as well as thought.
|Hey Fr. Joe. The trip was amazing and I learned so much from it. Not only did I make new friends within ASP but also friends with the family I worked with. My family was so nice and I loved spending time with them. Their life was so different compared to us. I wish I could have stayed down there for longer and helped the family more and also gotten to spend more time with them. But the time that I did spend with them will stay with me forever. ….|
|Hi Fr. Joe: Sorry this is late. I started work this past week and have had a pretty busy schedule but just wanted to pop in and say ASP was incredible. It was a truly eye opening experience and I learned so much more about the country we’re in and the state of it. I also got to meet so many lovely people, both from Bland County and Westchester. It was really powerful and moving and I’m so glad I went……|
|So I guess the biggest thing that I learned during the trip was that everyone had a story. The family that I had worked with had some of the most love for each other I had ever seen, but also had gone through the hardest situations in life. They had lived in Chicago when MLK Jr. was assassinated, and their house was completely destroyed by the riots. The father of my home owner had been in the Korean War. My home owner has had 30+ surgeries in the past year. A flesh eating disease, nerve damage in his left hand, acid burns on his legs, suicidal thoughts, and is the nicest person I have ever met. His family has battled cancer, poverty, destruction and disease, and yet are the greatest family I have ever met. That’s the lesson that I learned this week, is that there is always hope in love.|
|Hi Father Joe, … I had an amazing time on ASP (as usual). My group did flooring in a house all week, which was a first for me. We stayed at an old bible camp in Virginia which was super fun, and I met tons of new people. All the families were amazing…|
I would add one final thought: to do as they did and learn from their experience, our parish youth are also amazing.