Tex Evans, ASP’s founder, speaking with volunteers in the 1970s.

Tuesday night is culture night in ASP land, and that means volunteers get the opportunity to learn more about Central Appalachia during Evening Gathering. On Tuesday night in Cabell County, WV, guest speaker Audy Perry spoke to volunteers about problem solving with a mountaineer spirit.

Audy Perry was born and raised in West Virginia. He is a practicing attorney in the area, and the Executive Director of Heritage Farm, a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum that celebrates Appalachian ingenuity and invention. Perry’s goal with the museum is to inspire people to face the challenges of today by teaching them about the problem-solving, mountain-challenging people of the past who first settled in Appalachia.

To start off, Perry tells volunteers about what he sees as the major problem in the area today: the drug epidemic. Perry explains that while everyone’s circumstances are not the same, a lot of the substance abuse problems began when the economy started turning down because coal and other industries left the area. Once the drug epidemic began, some people left Cabell County entirely to move away from it. Others stayed, in many cases to look after the children of relatives who struggle with addiction.

This is the problem Perry wants to solve. He says that the way it will be accomplished is by helping people beyond rehabilitation. Perry explains that these individuals need post rehabilitation housing and jobs, and to be reunited with their families. He hopes that this problem can be solved in part by encouraging the tourism industry in this beautiful mountain area to bring in more jobs.

After talking about this problem that was near to his heart, Perry tells volunteers the two things they must do to become the world’s next problem solvers. First, they must get into the problem-solving mindset. Perry says he is sure many of the high schoolers in the crowd are asked nearly every day, “Where are you going to go to college? What are you going to do when you grow up?” He says the question we should be considering and asking is: “What problem are you going to solve?” As you start to formulate the answer, Perry explains, you will tie together something you are good at and something you are passionate about, all while helping to make the world a better place.

The second thing you need to do, Perry states, is to embrace confident humility. It may sound like an oxymoron, but confident humility is what empowers us to be servants in our own schools, neighborhoods, and homes. We are confident because the Creator has given us a special job and purpose in life. We are also humble, however, because we know it is God who enables us to do what He has planned for us. Problem solving through humble confidence, “That’s what it’s all about”, Perry says.

If ASP founder Tex Evans was at Evening Gathering that night, I am sure he would be nodding along in agreement. Tex saw a problem, and he tied together a passion to help with those who were able to do it. This summer, staffers and volunteers carry on Tex Evan’s vision, chipping away at the problem of substandard housing with confident humility, one home at a time.

But the work does not stop when your trip with ASP is over. In your own home states, in your own neighborhoods and schools, there are problems waiting to be solved. Embrace that confident humility and be a problem solver wherever you go.

Sarah Allen
Story Gathering Intern