Thursday morning started with devotions led by Pastor Matt based upon 1 Tim 6:17-19, which reads:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

The devotion invited us to think of the ways that we arrived at ASP with intentions to help people who are “poor” or “unfortunate” but found that the people we are meeting have riches to share with us that are of infinitely greater value than what the world defines as wealth. We also began to think of the next mission trip we will take: the trip back home. Returning the normal life, we will meet people who, even though they live in expensive homes in affluent communities, are not fortunate to have spent time on ASP. We began to think how we will meet them where they are and love them while still remaining changed by our week in Appalachia. We prayed for the families we are serving and the people we will be reunited with at home (all by name) as we sang “Sanctuary”.

Pastor Matt & Luke the Monkey joined team Nama-Stay the Night. After greeting their homeowners and setting up, the crew divided into a bathroom team that started cutting drywall and lumber and a siding team that continued progress on the back wall of the house. In the bathroom, work continued on the ceiling while siding made its way across the back of the house. Melora and Pastor Matt spent time with one of the girls who lives there. She showed them her excellent gymnastics skills while they did some extra work to make her trampoline safer to use. She also helped Melora spread stone in a muddy spot in the driveway. The team sprinted to the porch when a rain shower came with no warning. Nicely, there was room to cut drywall for the bathroom on the porch. During lunch in the driveway, the crew prepared for “Theme Song Thursday”. Each team is to prepare a theme song to perform at the evening picnic for their family. In a beautiful act of relationship building, the team included their family in the song and will all sing it together. Work continued through the afternoon and both projects made great progress.

Team Urban Jungle finished flooring and baseboards, completed the back porch railings and started constructing a gate for the front porch.

Team Ruffles and Feathers continued great progress with florring throughout the house.

Team Off Tropic removed a bathroom floor, but found multiple layers of flooring beneath that needed to be addressed.

Team Jump in my Jumpsuit made great progress on the roof, including impressive skills developed among the younger crew members.

Thursday evenings at ASP are reserved for the community picnic, which includes an invitation for all our families to join the ASP volunteers for dinner. Each team wrote and performed a “theme song” (or poem) for the crowd. Every team’s was memorable and fantastic. It was a wonderful night of fellowship.

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Wednesday morning came with a few sprinkles of rain, and everyone was moving a bit slower than on Monday or Tuesday. Nonetheless, everyone was up and ready to go in time for morning devotions. Prospect UMC led a devotion on what they called “Wall Wednesday”, inviting everyone to focus on God’s love and let that show through in how we continue to operate with members of our team, especially as we get tired and face the potential that some projects will present a challenge.

The pastor and the monkey joined team Ruffles and Feathers today. The crew drove about 15 minutes just past Newville to the home of a family with two little boys. As we pulled in we were greeted by 4 very friendly dogs and then met Buddy, a very colorful little bird who loves people. The boys took me to see the hundreds of chickens the family is raising behind the house: from newborn chicks to full-grown roosters and hens. There are also 3 pigs, several rabbits and some pheasants.

The team was ready to spread out and tackle various projects already underway. Philip G. & Gillian H. Removed a toilet and floorbin a bathroom. Andrew L. & Shannon R. cut and installed fiberglass insulation under a bedroom floor. Sam M. went to work in another bedroom taking down a ceiling fan and addressing a holes and damaged spots  in the bedroom and kitchen floors. Jackie B. painted a bedroom alongside the two little boys and their mom, again showing that ASP is a relationship-building ministry with some construction work happening at the same time. Once the 3-year old ran out of interest in painting, his mom helped him warm up to Pastor Matt so she could go back and help paint while they played with 2 Lego men. Pastor Matt remembered how easy it is to make a little boy laugh with silly sound effects…and how much it still works on him at 45! The team worked constantly in 4 different spots in the house. Lunch was enjoyed along with the homeowners at picnic table in the woods. The team put in a full day and by the time they packed up, significant progress was made on insulating and closing holes in the subfloor, the boys’ bedroom had a first coat of paint and baseboards were cut and primed.

Team Jump in my Jumpsuit the day working on the roof. The roofing material is more time-intensive than the insulation, which posed a challenge, but the tram made good progress.

Team Off Tropic finished their flooring and then removed old flooring from a bathroom along with the toilet and vanity. They also decided to go the extra mile for their homeowner by refinishing her porch rocking chairs. Anna D. showed great skill with the table saw.

Team Nama-Stay the Night completed the shower floor and began building an adjacent shelf. The members hanging siding encountered some setbacks, but regrouped and got a good amount finished.

Team Urban Jungle continued on the porch railings installing spindles, added baseboard in the bedroom and continued some flooring.

The evening gathering included a prayer walk that culminated with the volunteers writing messages inside journaling Bibles that will be given to the families whose homes they are working in. Afterwards, everyone went into town for ice cream. Another great day at #ASPAvery!

The morning of Independence Day began with the sight of fog between the foothills and the scent of wood-burning stoves. Saint Luke led morning devotions beginning with a rousing arrangement of “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” on guitars and saxophone. Pastor Matt offered a reflection on freedom and service after sharing Galatians 5:13-14, which reads:

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.”

Pastor Matt and Luke the Monkey spent the day with team Urban Jungle. The worksite is about 20 minutes out into the hills past several Christmas teee farms (a notable industry in Avery county). Jack and PJ got to work installing a bedroom floor while Molly and worked outside building a porch railing. They are also building wonderful relationships with the young family that lives there with two little girls, 4 dogs and 3 brand new kittens. By lunchtime, the bedroom floor was installed and the porch had posts in place and the start of the railing framed out. During the afternoon, the homeowner was reassembling bunk beds for his daughters, flooring was being planned into the hallway, and the porch railing was framed.

Team Jump in my Jumpsuit finished their siding work and started on the roof, completing the insulation layer.

Team Off Tropic finished the soffit work, most of the floor installation and were able to go the extra mile for their homeowner by removing debris from the property and cleaning off her front porch.

Team Nama-stay the Night installed subfloor for a new shower and made great progress with hanging siding.

Team Ruffles and Feathers installed most of their Subfloors, including insulation, and primed walls in three rooms. Gillian H. officially extended her streak of climbing underneath houses to a still perfect 5-for-5.

The whole group is headed into town for Fourth of July festivities and fireworks. 

All the volunteers were excited to start the week as we gathered for morning devotions focused on keeping our eyes on Jesus, even during storms.

Throughout this week, we are asking for donations of any amount to help provide needed materials for our work. To contribute, please visit this link and mention Saint Luke or Pastor Matt Staniz.

The Pastor and the Monkey spent the day with Team Off Tropic (Robby & Katharine Gilbert with Elaine L., Anna D., Emma B., JJ L., Aidan K.). They are working on the home of a 77-year old woman who has battled both bladder cancer and breast cancer and is currently recovering from a surgery two weeks ago. Their work includes installation of flooring, outdoor soffit, wall trim, and painting.

A midday soaking rain brought the group inside for lunch, conversation and project planning. Rain continued into the afternoon, but work continued on the floor preparation until the specifics of the project called for an early end time of 2pm. There was a break in the clouds around 3pm that afforded the team the chance to visit a nearby waterfall.

Team Urban Jungle (Steve B. & Dawn H. with Jack B., PJ H., Molly J., Mary B.) removed a floor from a little girl’s bedroom and are also preparing for some porch work. There were also puppies and kittens to play with!

Team Ruffles & Feathers (Team Ruffles & Feathers: Tom McCown & Jackie Baver with Gillian H., Shannon R., Sam M., Philip G., Andrew L.) are the first team at their site. They removed flooring for much of a modular home. Philip G. also found himself chasing a pig, which was one of many animals living there.

Team Jump in my Jumpsuit (John & Elizabeth Muir with Kaylin B., Emily L., Ian R., Nicholas S., Andrew V.) spent the day installing siding, sometimes in the rain.

Team Nama-Stay the Night: (Gary & Melora Bauman with Kelly B., Katie B., Tyler D., Aidan M.) tore out a bathtub and installed siding. They had very little rain.

During evening gathering we explored the theme “Love in Action”. Many members of the group headed into nearby Newland, NC for our first ice cream outing of the week.

A NOTE ABOUT PICTURES: At present, our connectivity is enough to post but not enough to upload pictures. Should that change, pictures will be available at the Saint Luke Facebook page. Occasional pictures are also showing up at Pastor Matt’s Facebook page.

The teams met at Saint Luke at 5am to embark on a week of service. The whole group circled up for a time of prayer and then loaded into 5 vans, departing at 5:30am. The drive was smooth and successful, with all the vans arriving safely at Cranberry Middle School in Elk Park, NC between 3-3:30pm (9.5 – 10 hours later).

We set up our sleeping quarters, met the ASP center staff and had our first evening gathering along with groups from 2 other groups (both United Methodist, from Maryland and Georgia). Thanks to the leadership of Gillian H. and Shannon R., Saint Luke had our most elaborate and memorable “group introduction” that included custom t-shirts and a poem that reflected on Saint Luke’s 5 years with ASP. We quickly learned that some of the leaders from Maryland were with us during our very first trip to Hinton, WV in 2013!

After dinner and cleanup chores, a youth and adult from each team set out to see their work sites and meet the families they will serve during the week. The remainder of the group stayed back at the ASP center, which sits atop a scenic foothill and is a quite nice place to live for a week. As the sun begins to set, I can already see friendships growing stronger among our group. It’s going to be a great week. Please pray for us!

Here’s our groups:

Team Jump in my Jumpsuit: John & Elizabeth Muir with Kaylin B., Emily L., Ian R., Nicholas S., Andrew V.
Team Urban Jungle: Steve B. & Dawn H. with Jack B., PJ H., Molly J., Mary B.
Team Nama-Stay the Night: Gary & Melora Bauman with Kelly B., Katie B., Tyler D., Aidan M.
Team Ruffles & Feathers: Tom McCown & Jackie Baver with Gillian  H., Shannon R., Sam M., Philip G., Andrew L.
Team Off Tropic: Robby & Katharine Gilbert with Elaine L., Anna D., Emma B., JJ L., Aidan K.

I plan to be spending 1 work day with each team, unless specifics of a project present another need.

Our days will include: devotions at 7:30am (lead by Saint Luke on Tuesday and Thursday), breakfast, load-up, work sites (9:15-4:30), showers, dinner, chores, evening gathering. Free time 8-10:30pm…rinse and repeat. Fireworks on Tuesday, community picnic on Thursday.