This summer, our theme has been Be The Peace coming from the verse, “And thus you shall salute him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.” 1 Samuel 25:6.

As a standalone verse, the message fits perfectly with ASP’s mission. We repair homes, and we hope that our time in counties brings peace to the people living in those communities. But in the context of the story, it took a few reads for me to understand the connection to ASP; I encourage you to read the whole chapter this weekend. In an attempt to understand the full story, I read a few commentaries, and I found the most clarity in the “bottom line” of a children’s message from Celebration Church. The bottom line claimed the story was supposed to show how caring for others means working to be a part of the solution. While David offered peace through his blessing in verse 6, Abigail embodied peace because she chose to work through conflict in pursuit of a solution.

During staff training, I started to write a blog post about peace. I started the post with some anecdotes about how it feels to stand still in the wind, sit beneath a setting sun, and drink sweet tea on a front porch. Those moments are peaceful, but after hearing about and talking through the compilation of feelings that make up an ASP summer, it seems like peace is experienced most fully when it follows a time of stress or difficulty.

This week, the majority of our summer staffs, having finished 6-7 weeks of home repair in counties across Appalachia, returned back to ASP’s Johnson City headquarters to unpack, finalize paperwork, and debrief their summers– I was fortunate to catch up with some of the leaders of our staff to hear about their experiences.

Izzie, the Center Director in Rutherford County, North Carolina, told me about a homeowner named Lisa. When the Rutherford staff first arrived, Lisa’s home was dark. She had the shades completely shut, and as the staff talked with her, they found her to be shy, like maybe she was trying to keep herself as guarded as her home. During the summer, the volunteers replaced Lisa’s old, thick carpet with floor coverings and redid her bathroom. As Lisa’s home started to change, the way Lisa interacted with the staff, the way Lisa presented herself, changed as well. When the work was finished and the Rutherford County staff went to Lisa’s home to say goodbye, they noticed that instead of the blinds being completely shut, they were halfway open.

I asked Jayce, the Center Director in Nicholas County, West Virginia, why she thinks ASP’s work is important. She believes in ASP because it is a collective group of people who choose to work together to strengthen homes, which will hopefully strengthen the families who live in those homes. When youth and adults sign up to volunteer for a week, when college kids apply to be on a staff, they are choosing to part of a solution. ASP seeks to eradicate substandard housing in Appalachia, a goal which inevitably arouses difficulty, but as people keep coming back, keep building porches and floor systems and new walls, I see the peace that can emerge out of conflict.

Jess, the Center Director in Magoffin County, Kentucky, echoes Jayce’s statement that ASP is made of people who are working towards a common goal. The people who contribute to ASP– the volunteers, staffers, families, members of the office, and donors– come from many different places and are composed of different stories. Despite our differences, we are united in our belief that all people, specifically people who live in Appalachia, deserve a home that is warm, safe, and dry. We are united in our pursuit of peace, both for ourselves and the people in Appalachia.

Jamie Tews is the Advancement Storytelling Intern this summer writing a weekly blog series titled “This Must Be The Place.” Prior to this summer, she was on staff in Breathitt County, Kentucky in 2016, Leslie County, Kentucky in 2017, and roamed around Appalachia as a staff liaison in 2018. She just graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Writing, and she has plans to pursue an MFA at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the fall.