Loving People Right Where They Are

Weekly Reflection, Friday, July 15

By: Kilpy Singer

This Sunday, I and a group of St. Mary’s high schoolers are headed to Wise County, Virginia. We are going to serve with Appalachia Service Project and are assigned one home to do repairs on all week long. If you haven’t heard of ASP, it is a wonderful program that has been serving families in Appalachia since 1969. They work with congregations of all denominations and people of all ages. I actually had the chance to go to Kentucky with ASP when I was younger and am thrilled to be partnering with them again.

In my opinion, ASP is a wonderful program because of its priorities, and what it holds most dear: the people. ASP’s founder, Tex Evans, described it as “a relationship ministry with a little construction on the side.” I don’t think he means that the house repairs aren’t important or are an afterthought. Rather, it seems to me that Tex understood that any and all service we do should be grounded in our love of neighbor. Yes, we will do home repairs, but does that really matter if we haven’t loved the people who live in them?

Sounds simple enough. However, on my first ASP trip, I learned otherwise. We were assigned to put a new roof on a house, which involved hoisting steel roof panels and baking in the mid-summer sun. I thought surely that would be the most challenging part of the week. Yet, when we met the homeowners on the second day, I had no idea what to do. They invited us inside for lemonade and I suddenly realized I didn’t know how to talk to these folks. They lived differently than I did and spoke differently than I did, and I wasn’t sure how to relate to them.

As it turns out, ASP’s founder had some advice for us regarding this. He believed that ASP is a place to “accept people right where they are, just the way they are.” Remembering this, I took a second to get over myself and refocus on the priority – the people. The rest of the week was full of conversations and storytelling and chances to discover more about the beloved child of God sitting across the table. By the time we packed up on Friday, the roof was fixed and new friendships were made.

As our group heads to Wise County this week, I’m hopeful that we will get to love some pretty awesome people with a little home repair on the side. We welcome your prayers as we travel and work and rest. And we invite you to join us in this work from wherever you are this week by accepting and loving those people God has placed around you, right where they are, just the way they are.