I read a story the other day. Admittedly, one of those little anecdotal stories you might receive in an email forward… but it resonated with me just the same. The story took place in a little southern church (perhaps in the hills of Kentucky or Tennessee), and it goes like this:

The new pastor asked one of the older deacons in the church to lead in the opening prayer one Sunday morning. The congregation bowed their heads, the deacon stood up, and said “Lord, I hate buttermilk.”

The pastor opened one eye, wondering where this could be going. The deacon went on, “Lord, I hate lard!” The pastor was totally perplexed and glanced around to see if anyone else was as confused as he was. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour either. But, after you mix’em all together and bake’em in a hot oven, I just LOVE biscuits!”

“Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things happen that we don’t like, or when we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what you are making. After you get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits.”

This story was an encouraging reminder for me. While I may not understand or enjoy certain circumstances that I’m going through, I need to remember that I don’t have the whole picture.

As summer approaches, excitement is growing at ASP headquarters. Center leases are signed, summer staff are hired, and county assignments have been announced! I’m sure this same excitement is growing among your group members as you hold meetings, fundraisers, and team building activities.  There are many moments to anticipate and look forward to… meeting your homeowner, learning how great ice cream tastes after a day in the Appalachian sun, and watching God work in your crew members (and your own heart) are just a few of them.

As with any missions experience, you are likely to run into a few unmet expectations as well. Perhaps your group did not grow as large as you hoped it would, your best friend isn’t able to come this year, or you didn’t get your first choice of service location. There may be moments on the worksite that try your patience… your project might not go as smoothly as you expected, and that same Appalachian sun may exhaust you or burn your nose.

If everything went the way we hoped and planned that it would, we would never be stretched. How would we grow? When would we ever need to rely on God, and when would we experience transformation?

I hope that in those instances of unmet expectations or disappointing surprises, you will think about making biscuits, and how each moment of our lives is just one small ingredient of the big picture. God is taking each experience and working them together for our good…for something even better than biscuits!

There is only so much we can do to prepare for an ASP trip, or any part of life, for that matter. Even if we do everything exactly right, turn everything in on time, and successfully remember everything on our packing list… we can’t control how things will turn out. The good news is, we know the One who IS in control and who has a good, good purpose in mind for us.

God loves the people of Appalachia, and He has a good purpose for each of them as well. If we zoom out and imagine the big picture of what God plans to do in Appalachia this summer…I think we would see a beautiful tapestry made up of millions of moments, on hundreds of worksites, for thousands of volunteers and families. Those moments may not make sense on their own, but God has woven them together to accomplish His plan. He knows which county you will be in, which worksite you will serve on, and exactly which family you will meet, and He will use those circumstances for transformation. The book of Isaiah (in chapter 55) tells us that God thinks a little bit differently than we do. He sees the big picture, and His ways and His thoughts are much higher than ours. That is something to be excited about!

 Sarah Dingus, ASP Volunteer Specialist