anticipation (noun): the act of looking forward; pleasurable expectation

Anticipation has always characterized my summers with ASP. 

As a volunteer, it came in the form of an anxiousness to depart from my Chicago suburb to caravan in white vans to central Appalachia. As a staffer, anticipation surfaced as I waited with my staff to greet new volunteers on Sunday afternoons, in a countdown to the delivery of a toilet for a homeowner named Rocky, and in our eagerness to see progress in projects across our county.  

I recognized anticipation in our homeowners too: in Patsy’s grin as she peered into the boxes of cabinets that had just been donated to complete her new kitchen; in Helen’s eager greeting of “Can I get you anything?whenever I arrived at her house; in Charlotte and Walter’s curious lean over the banister of the ramp that was starting to extend from their front door.  

If you’ve been involved with ASP before, I’m sure you too have experienced some sort of anticipation for the work of restoration and community that happens throughout the year. As we enter into summer 2020, it is no secret that ASP anticipation looks a little different this year, and maybe holds a bit of disappointment in the changes to our summer plans. 

Our anticipation has turned to waiting: waiting until next summer to return to the mountains, pull out our work boots, and work alongside expectant families in Appalachia. But while the ASP community might be waiting for a return to “normal” programming, our anticipation cannot be passive; it can instead be purposeful and thoughtful. 

In this quiet time at home I have been learning about waiting and disappointment; in Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren flips the narrative of waiting as a frustration saying, “God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful… We can be patient as a fallow field because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted.“

Though we cannot gather together on worksites, at picnic tables, or in hardware stores in the same way as years past, the ASP family can still be active. Like our theme verse of Philippians 1:6 reminds us, God is not done working through us in Appalachia: He who began a good work in you will carry it on until it is completed.

What could it look like for us to wait with purpose? To anticipate in a way that sparks action and advocacy, even from afar? 

Multiple 2020 summer staffers and volunteers have organized fundraisers during the time they had planned to be in Appalachia that have already brought in thousands of dollars for the continuation of home repair; the pursuit of warmer, safer, and drier houses will not be stopped. Meanwhile, other staffers have started a book club/bible study over Zoom to connect and grow. A woman from my home church has been making masks using old ASP t-shirts and donating them to community members. There is plenty we can be doing as a community to continue living out ASP’s mission. 

Our broken world—with the coronavirus crisis, racial injustice, substandard housing, and upended summer plans—can still be met with active anticipation as we all learn, listen, and build. God is not finished moving in Appalachia. God is not finished working in us. Good works have been started and God can use us to continue carrying them through to completion.

I invite you to join me in the pursuit of active anticipation this summer. Here are some ideas to consider: 

  • Write a letter to a homeowner you know and miss
  • Share your ASP memories and connect with other ASP supporters with the hashtag #WeAreASP on your social media posts
  • Have an ASP-style Thursday night picnic of your own—bring watermelon and songs 
  • Pick up a 2020 ASP theme t-shirt
  • Join our prayer team 
  • Consider donating or starting your own fundraiser 
  • Seek out resources about the history of Appalachia to become a more knowledgeable advocate
  • Find ways to serve locally in your community

Rachel Johnson is a former ASP volunteer and summer staffer with a soft spot for Kentucky sunsets. Originally from Wheaton, IL, she is a student at Hope College studying English and Communication.