Hi, I’m Beth Virostek, a sophomore Psychology and Faith & Social Justice major from Columbia, Maryland. On campus I serve as the Operations and Logistics Chair on the Missional Engagement Council this year!
This summer I had the absolute joy of working full-time as a summer staff member with the Appalachia Service Project, one of our host partner organizations! I spent two weeks in training at the year-round center in Jonesville, Virginia, and then with my staff of four lived for almost eight weeks in a preschool in Louisa, Kentucky, the heart of Lawrence County. With teams of visiting volunteers offering their labor, we were able to help 10 families make their homes a little warmer, safer, and drier in six short weeks.
The Appalachia Service Project is a home repair ministry that deeply loves people and builds connections and relationships with ‘a little construction on the side.’ A ministry that holds dear its founder’s statement that “We accept people right where they are, just the way they are.” After serving as a volunteer for a week each summer during my four years in High School, I was already in love with Appalachia and all it has to offer. I could not wait to follow in my brother’s footsteps and join staff in college. However, there is a large difference in being a week long volunteer and being a summer staffer. Being a summer staffer involves a lot more responsibility, including learning all about and advising construction projects, leading teenage and adult volunteers in programming throughout their week, and juggling situations that I had never considered would occur.
My eight weeks in Lawrence County, KY included some of the most joyous celebrations and sweet glimpses of heaven that I have ever encountered yet also some of my most stressed and defeated moments. Through this experience I learned the reality of some of the difficulties and realities that missions and nonprofit organizations like our host partners with Belmont on Mission face. Budgeting, communicating with volunteers, and loving well the people we encounter, and many more things are hard.
It is not easy telling a family who is so deserving of a new, leak-proof roof over their heads that we are unable to help them this summer due to time, volunteer, and budget limitations. It is not easy trying to lead volunteers through fixing a leaking roof in a week full of thunderstorms. It is not easy driving a 12 passenger van filled with lumber down narrow and steep roads for the first time. It is not easy making deep relationships in a week, or even in six weeks, with people you have never met before. It is not easy, but it is deeply worth it.
It is worth it to wake up every day and see teenagers have a drastic change of perspective of the world in a week. It is worth it to see the joy of a mother who can worry a little less about the electrical bills and spend more time loving and raising her kids. It is worth it to watch people who would not know each other in different circumstances come together over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and share a meal together. It is worth it to watch the joy of an older woman walk down her new ramp to the mailbox instead of struggling on the stairs. It is worth it to watch kids take a bath in their new bathtub, one without a hole in the bottom any longer. It is worth it to rest knowing that a family no longer has to worry about putting out buckets each time it begins to rain in order to catch the rainwater that leaks through their roof. I’ll spare you my continued pages of why it is worth it with this: It is profoundly worth it to serve. It is profoundly worth it to fall in love with a small town and its residents in just eight short weeks. It is profoundly worth it to work with a host partner organization, and for this experience I am forever grateful.