Leaving Charlotte’s home that late afternoon, my fellow staffer and I could not stop yelling “Charlotte has water! Charlotte has water!!!”
My first summer on ASP staff, our biggest project was a bathroom addition for a wonderful woman named Charlotte. On a typical day of runs, the staff splits up to visit all the homes, and then comes back to the center afterwards. However, the day that the water was to be connected to the home, allowing the home to have running water for the first time, somehow all four of us on staff showed up at the home at the end of the day of runs. We all anxiously awaited while the plumber connected the water line to the home. Leaving the home, knowing that water was flowing through it, all stress, worry, and tiredness escaped us as we knew that Charlotte would not have to worry about many of the things she used to worry about. Driving back to the center, the sky started misting but the sun stayed out, and “Brand New” by Ben Rector came on the radio. I didn’t realize it then, but I was experiencing my first “ASP-joy” in that moment.
ASP-joy hits you deeper and changes you into someone different. I never thought I would say that one of my favorite memories of my summers in college was hearing about the impact a new roof had, but after getting to know the people of the home that roof helped, it truly was. ASP not only transforms homes, but it transforms lives and builds hope in people. I will never be the same after hearing a single mom tell me that for the first time since she can remember, she is excited for it to rain. ASP does important work, and that is why I believe that ASP-joy is rooted in empathy and connection. This ministry and the joy associated with it are difficult to put into words, and for those of you who have had the pleasure of serving with ASP, I’m sure you all have your own list of moments; but for me…
ASP-joy is being able to tell a mom that her water line will be fixed because of donors to ASP throughout the year, providing peace of mind that their water line will not freeze again this winter.
It’s visiting a family from last summer and feeling like you never left, drinking coffee in their kitchen as the 5-year-old boy sits on your lap, just like last summer.
It can be is standing at the top of a mountain surrounded by two people who were strangers a year ago, but after being on staff together, are two of your best friends. Overlooking a county served together and being overwhelmed with gratitude and love.
ASP-joy can be felt eating dinner with your family on Christmas Eve, and every-so-often, thinking of families served in past summers who are also celebrating the holidays with their families. This year, however, in a home that’s hopefully a little bit warmer.
It’s the joy of meeting a family and having the privilege of hearing their story that because of work done on their home, they were able to be foster parents once again. Knowing that the contagious laugh of this loving mother will echo in the ears of her daughters for many years to come.
ASP-joy is feeling like you’re in over your head then God reaching out in the most unforeseen ways to let you know He is right there with you, helping and guiding you.
And it’s share circle on a Friday night, when a 15-year-old says he now believes in God.
On the surface, ASP-joy is about puppies and kids and the beautiful views of Appalachia, and it is about those things. However, at the core, it’s about the love shared between people that change each other for the better. It’s is never being the same after experiencing this ministry, it has everything to do with what God is doing in these hollers and in peoples’ hearts.
I know that I, alongside my other staff members, families served, and volunteers have been transformed by the ministry of ASP, but there is so much more transforming to be done. More donations to the Cup of Cold Water Fund mean more ASP-joys that revolve around functioning plumbing and electric for families in need. Signing yourself or your church up for a week of service or bringing a friend allows for more people to serve and be served this spring break or summer. Finally, thinking about ways to bring the magic and joy of ASP into your everyday life will lead to transformation of your own communities, making “ASP-joy” not just a once-a-year feeling.
Shanah Slade just finished her third year on summer staff as the Center Director in Leslie County, KY. She also served in Knox County, KY and Lincoln County, WV. She is currently in her first year of her masters program in Speech-Language Pathology at Marquette University.