Lately I keep asking myself these questions:
“How is the summer already over?”
“Is it really week seven?”
“How in the world is my time working with ASP already coming to an end?”
For what seems to be the strangest and most unpredicted summer ever, I truly don’t know how, and I have struggled to wrap my head around the concept of this time already passing by.
For the past two years, I have spent my time in Jonesville, Virginia, as a part of ASP’s Fellowship program. I can honestly say that when I left home in summer of 2018, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Looking back, I laugh at myself for the fears, doubts, and questions I had as I headed into what turned into the two best years of my life.
Over the past 24 months, I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside seventy-six families in Lee County, completing hundreds of projects between them. I watched as volunteers constructed seven new bedroom additions; I witnessed a family receive running water in their home for the first time; I listened to many stories on new front
porches; and I even helped plan a work order to build a treehouse for a kid that loved being outside. More so than the construction though, I reflect on the fond memories of joining our homeowner for a barbecue cookout, or babysitting six sweet kiddos as their guardians were away, or trying to learn the names of the sixteen puppies at one of our family’s houses. It’s the relationships.
As I think about what has made my time in the Fellowship so special, I automatically think of all the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. I think about casually joining our hardware guys for a material delivery in their big truck. I think about volunteering at a Remote Area Medical clinic that provides free care to locals. I think about the hours we spent decking our pickup trucks in Christmas lights as we joined Santa in the parade. I think about cheering on the Lee High Generals underneath the Friday night lights, year after year. I think about making sure the coffee is ready and catching up with Ron and Jill before they shared their history of their African-American Cultural Center each week. I think about walking into Better Burger to receive a big greeting, but no menu- because they already knew our order of course. It’s the community.
During my time in the Fellowship program, I have also lived and worked with other staffers who decided to dedicate a full year in Appalachia. We definitely experienced challenging times where we simply just didn’t know what to do next, but we also experienced joyous times where we got to celebrate together… both important and both full of new learnings. We cried together and we laughed together. I witnessed endless amounts of growth within these people, and they witnessed growth within me too. Together, we exercised our greatest passion and got to serve others. These people that started as coworkers quickly became some of my closest friends- they became family. It’s the fellowship.
I don’t know how the time passed by so quickly, but I do know that I’ve learned a lot- a lot about myself, a lot about my surroundings, and a lot about my calling in life. It’s hard for me to imagine not preparing for the next family I’ll be working with, and it’s hard for me to picture my everyday life not involving waking up and putting on my work boots… I think that’s why I keep asking myself all of those questions I stated earlier. Just as I’m sure many of you felt when you weren’t loading up your vans this summer for a week of service, I am feeling that way about not knowing what life will look like after ASP too.
As I have been making my way around Jonesville to say my goodbyes, I made a stop by Builder’s, our local hardware store that I have visited most days during my fellowship years. I spent time at the counter reminiscing with their employees about our time together, as well as explaining how I wasn’t ready to leave. And to that I heard, “But now you’re going to go on to do the next big thing. Plus, you’ll be back.”
He was right and his words were spot on… Not just for me, but for all of us.
Even though it’s hard for us to accept not having a normal summer with ASP and it’s hard to leave a beautiful experience that was the fellowship for me, we WILL be back. And, these opportunities teach us and prepare us for how we can continue to serve outside of the ASP outlet too.
Our theme for this summer, chosen long in advance, was next to perfect by expressing “Complete, But Not Finished.” It may be week seven, this summer may be almost over, and my time as a fellow may be coming to an end, but We are not finished. Our work is not finished. I am not finished.
I don’t have the words, yet at least, to express my gratitude to ASP, this Fellowship program, and all that I have learned because of it. Even though I continue to question how this time got here so quickly, I do know that it has been and will always be a joy to serve.
Annalee Posey, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 Fellow Center Director, Jonseville, VA