They say to never work with your family, but this week in Magoffin County I had the pleasure of doing exactly that.

My brother, Tyler Rhodes, is the Center Director of Magoffin. My parents, Heather and Jimmy (who will henceforth be known as Mom and Dad), visited and had their first experience with ASP as volunteers.

When I sat down to write this week, I knew I had to write about getting to serve with my family. Even though I have asked you all questions, told you stories about ASP, and cooked up some crazy metaphors this summer, I haven’t told you all too much about my ASP story.

So, this week, I am going to be a little bit selfish. Well, more selfish than usual. I want to tell you my family’s ASP testimony, and about why it means so much to us, starting from the very beginning. Buckle up because it’s going to be a long Rhode(s).

My Great Aunt, Billie “Bebe” Baynes, attended over 12 trips with ASP from 1998 to 2019. Aunt Billie is a super strong lady, full of a passion for Christ and a deep love for others. She loved the “rough and tough” atmosphere mixed with ASP’s message of love and service. When I hear her talk about her time on ASP, Billie quite literally oozes excitement — she even gave me all of her old shirts and her old overalls to wear while on staff.

Billie convinced my brother to join her and my cousin, Jackson, on ASP in 2019, the summer of Tyler’s sophomore year of high school. They both loved their experience and came home talking about “Tex Messages,” ice cream, and a bunch of weird lingo I had never heard of. They came back to volunteer the next year, even bringing their high school girlfriends along for the ride.

As Tyler was wrapping up his first year of college in 2021, he was looking for a summer gig that both fit his values and his major as a mechanical engineer. He decided to apply for and accept a position on Summer Staff. I was a little uncertain about what he was about to do, so I’m sure he was certainly freaking out about what he was about to do. Despite virtual training and post-COVID restrictions, Tyler dove headfirst into his ASP experience, serving as the Finance Coordinator in Magoffin County, Kentucky. And he loved it.

Tyler has told me before that despite the challenges of the job, ASP is where he feels most authentic, most like himself. I don’t think there was even a question in his mind that ASP was where he was supposed to be, and it was almost a certainty when he came home from his first year serving that he would return for a second.

He returned for his second year as Operations Coordinator in Breathitt County, Kentucky, in 2022. When Eastern Kentucky faced severe floods in July, the Breathitt staff had to evacuate their center. Tyler was shattered after watching the area and families he had come to love so much face such devastation. After finishing out the Summer, despite wanting to stay and help the area rebuild, he made the hard decision to come home and finish his junior year.

Now, acting as a Center Director during his third year on staff, Tyler is back in Magoffin County.

When I interviewed Tyler this week, I asked him why he keeps coming back to ASP. “I think it’s a culmination of what I am good at, what I love doing, and what needs to be done in the world,” he said. From holding a baby girl whose room he helped insulate to watching his volunteers join him as a part of his staff, Tyler has certainly had life-changing experiences through ASP.

Tyler was the one who told me about the Story Gathering Position. Truthfully, I didn’t understand ASP’s mission or what ASP did, despite visiting each summer he was on staff, and it had never sparked my interest. I applied, searching for a new adventure and a way to grow as both a journalist and as a human. I was terrified when I got the job, but I quickly grew to understand why Tyler returned each year.

The thing about this job is that it burrows under your skin, leaving an exhausted but fulfilled soul complete with a lifetime of stories that only other ASPeople will understand. While I have partially found the things I was searching for, I have also found an all-consuming experience that will certainly leave a mark on me. When I go home, I will leave differently than I came — more open to love and new experiences, filled with new friends, and containing so much random construction knowledge.

Getting to share that experience with my parents this week was, in the most elegant way, super freakin’ cool. Not only do they now get our acronyms and lingo, but they now have their own ASP experience to carry with them.

When I asked my mom what it was like having kids on ASP staff, she immediately teared up and told me that while it was hard to have us away from home, she knew it was important and that it had changed our hearts.

“I know they are serving God and serving others,” she said. “They are the hands and feet of Jesus on the ground every day.”

For my family, ASP has been a source of bonding, a space for change, and a chance to come into our own. It has accepted us without reservation at each of our stages of life, changed our expectations, and molded us to be stronger because of it.

So, here is my takeaway for the week: Share your ASP experience and allow it to change you. Get involved, whether as a staffer, an intern, a volunteer, a donor, a homeowner, or a helping hand. The days may be long, and the work may be hard, but the end will be rewarding.

From my family to yours, have a safe week, and stay hydrated. See you next Monday.

Lauren Rhodes

Story Gathering Intern