Hello and welcome to the last edition of “Rhodes on the Road.” As of when you are reading this, I am in fact no longer on the road. The keys to my Chevy Blazer have been handed in, and I will soon retire my sturdy shoes for Birkenstocks in the afternoon.

As I write this, I am sitting on the Porch for the last time this summer. Around me, glimpses of the Summer murmur in the background, laughing over inside jokes, giving me warm hugs, sharing photos from across Appalachia. We truly have an astonishing arrangement on the porch this Summer, youngins whose love for Appalachia and the families they serve run deeper than the rocky rivets we drive each day.

As I listen to them talk about their summer and begin to reflect on mine, I think that I have slowly begun to unravel part of what makes ASP successful and truly wonderful to be a part of.

No matter how many times you interact with ASP, each foray brings a new adventure, a new mystery, and a new air of uncertainty.

For a few days or weeks or months, we swallow our uncertainty and give ourselves over to the bigger picture. We get in the van, sign onto the project, and accept a new group of volunteers into our house. By taking that leap of faith, and opening up that door, we inevitably open ourselves up to experiences outside of and greater than ourselves.

This week, I visited Wise County, Virginia, for my last day of runs. I rode with Clarene and Alexis, who had a full day of runs filled with signing off of homes and ensuring that projects would finish. Despite a crazy day, they took the time to stop at a home and visit a family whose daughter would be starting her first day of school the next day. We played card games, watched as she showed us her school supplies for the next day, and got makeovers by the creek in the backyard.

Though it may have just been for a moment, Alexis and Clarene took time to devote themselves fully to that moment, knowing they had things to do and other stressors. They not only showed that family their importance, but they were also able to engage in an experience greater than themselves.

I left with a new understanding of what it means to fully experience ASP and a new favorite memory from the summer. When we agree to experience anything, if we agree with an open mind and a ready spirit, we truly cannot lose. We get to experience the new, we get to be a part of the change we wish to see in the world. Even if we fail, even if we stumble, we’ve learned and we’ve grown because of it.

I was reminded constantly this summer of the need to jump in headfirst as we faced new challenges and new experiences. But now, as I look back from the other side, I know that I gave ASP everything I had, and I am changed because of it.

I’ve learned how to sleep truly anywhere, the importance of a hug, that everyone knows a guy who knows a guy, and why we have to use vented and unvented soffit. I found rest in the restless, opportunity in the uncomfortable, and community when I thought I would have none.

So, yea, I’m sad to go. I’ve met so many people and made so many friends, I’ve gotten used to the backdrop of the mountains as I drive. But I know that a part of me will stay up here and that I am taking the ASP experience with me as I go on to new challenges and adventures.

My Takeaway from this week, and from the Summer in general, is to jump right in and give your all. You won’t be disappointed, and if you are, you know that you undeniably did all that you could do. Devote yourself fully to something, and it will devote itself back to you.

Thank you for the last 11 weeks, for sifting through my words, and for making me feel welcomed into such an amazing ministry. I know that I won’t forget this summer, and I am already itching for the next. It has truly been a gift.

Till next time, stay beautiful.

Rhodes out.

Lauren Rhodes

Story Gathering Intern