Greetings from Jonesville, Virginia! My name is Lauren Rhodes, and I am one of ASP’s Story Gathering Interns for this summer. While I am new to being on staff, my family has been a part of ASP for the last decade, and I could not be more excited for what the summer has in store for us.  

Each week, I hope to update you all on my ASP experience and the lessons I learn along the way. I want you all to feel what it’s like to be here, from wherever you are. I want to share what I learn, who I’ve met, and how this summer has changed me — because it inevitably will. 

When I accepted this internship, I knew it would allow me to challenge myself and grow. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I was super anxious about what I was about to experience going into this summer. The idea of Summer Staff can be quite intimidating:  show up for an 11-week-long job, not knowing where you’ll work or what you’ll be doing. I didn’t even know what to pack, much less what to expect.  

I was fortunate enough to not face this challenge alone. I made the drive up to training from North Carolina with three other Summer Staffers — two of whom were a part of the ASP staff for the first time. In a way, I viewed the drive-up as a test for the summer. If I could make small talk for six hours with strangers and no legroom, I could face anything the first week of training threw at me.   

Here’s the thing about growth: It’s scary, and even though we know it’s supposed to be, that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable. But when we push through, something inexplicably beautiful happens. We build new relationships and get to become part of new stories. When we get out of our comfort zones, we redefine what it looks like to be comfortable. 

Not only did I survive the car ride, but I had a blast. Talking with the other staff was easy because we knew we were heading on an insane adventure together carrying similar goals of service. I arrived at our training facility with three new buds a little bit less worried than when I had started. As I climbed the wooden stairs to where staff who had already arrived were gathered, I heard them singing in the distance. I turned to Sophie, one of the staffers I had driven up with, and said “This is weird.”  

And listen, it has been. This week alone, I heard my first Wisconsin accent, been introduced to way too many acronyms, and even experienced a small skunk infestation. But each day, I wake up excited to do it again. I have learned to love breaking down barriers, making new jokes, and learning new names.   

On one of my first nights here, I was talking with a fellow trainee about our nerves for the summer. We were talking about how this experience was a huge leap of faith and a moment to say, “Here I am God, use me for Your good.” That sentiment has stuck with me throughout training. Over the next eight weeks, staffers and volunteers alike are allowing themselves to experience the discomfort of growth so that they can be where God needs them to be. 

This summer, I am saying “Here I am” to everything. I am allowing God to grow me and to grow ASP’s mission through me. I, along with the other 100 staffers at ASP, are here and ready to be the hands and feet of this mission, whatever form that may take.  

Let me tell you about the moment I knew that I would be fine at training. Though I don’t know exactly how it happened, I earned the nickname “Two Scoops Johnson,” one night in a Walmart. The next morning when I got up for breakfast, I was greeted by people yelling “Two Scoop” across the porch where we hold our meetings. Dorky? Yes. Does it make me smile every time? Also yes. It’s a nice reminder that all I had to do was put myself out there, say “Here I am,” and God took care of the rest.  

So far, ASP has been one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. That may sound crazy to you, considering it has only been a week. But I promise that to every other staffer here, that makes total sense.  

This week, my advice to any volunteers, staffers, homeowners or other humans reading this post is to be uncomfortable. Sing the weird songs, do the awkward icebreakers and sign up for the scary things. Get out there and grow because you won’t regret it. 

So, here I am! I hope that you’re as excited as I am about what lies ahead this summer. And who knows, you might just be inspired to start an ASP adventure of your own.  

Oh, and if you’re reading this, hi Mom!  

Lauren Rhodes

Story Gathering Intern