I know all of the teams had special dynamics and came from the week bound together in a mission bigger than we can explain. But of course, I think Polly Pocket was the best! We had some experienced ASP members and then we had newbies. There were three adult males, two female youth (teens), one teen male, and me. I don’t have many opportunities to work with teens as my job keeps with the little people so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Actually, what I expected was the work ethic I see from my own teens at home. Boy was I surprised! The youth on our team took charge, moved forward, and truly contributed with a passion that was beyond my dreams. The beautiful girls on our team are typical teenage girls, active in school, church, and have loving families. These two young ladies walked on to that site, the very first day, and openly loved the babies and their mom. Even as teenagers, they still possess that innocent, open-hearted love for others that I have generally only associated with young children. Oh – please keep that heart! I don’t know when, in life, we lose that ability but I hope they NEVER do.
Several times during our week – after my “sit-down” talk with God, I had to stop and swallow hard at the sight of the young man on our team. More than once, this six plus foot tall guy was sitting quietly with one of our babies in his lap – just talking and sharing his time. I don’t think I would expect less from him but all the same – what 15 year old boy takes the time to love, unconditionally, a child he doesn’t know. Maybe more would, given the opportunity?
And our men – all three of the adult men on our team are successful family men. All three have loving families with children that adore them. Each one brought talents and gifts to our team. We were given several projects or the “work” of the week. Not once, did I see these men put the project before the people. The children eventually became part of our team and worked right along side the guys, using their tools, and requesting lap time. I was very fortunate to be a part of team Polly Pocket.
I am so very tired but absolutely have to get my thoughts down before I forget about the day. While Monday was a great first day and we had some laughs and produced more work than I thought possible, I left the site a bit jaded and in judgement – to a degree. It was a weight on my shoulders of sadness and disbelief in the lives of these people but also of anger. How could this mother just sit in this squalor and have these two babies and not have a drive to get out?! I was very unsettled about my decision to be here. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this type of mission work – but who doesn’t love ASP. Am I some freak? And so…I prayed. My prayer last night (Monday night) was for God to help me with this. I don’t and haven’t ever asked God for a sign to show me anything – I think that’s what we call faith…you just gotta believe. Well, anyway…I simply asked God to help me open my eyes and my heart to understand why I am here and to help me see and feel a compassion for this single mother. I didn’t have some explosion to set it all right in my mind. In fact, it wasn’t until late today as we were filthy ,nasty and sweaty that God came walking down the road. Of course, I paid no attention to this man to start with but he hung out for a bit and with a little tidbit here and a little tidbit there, he intrigued me. I’d like to record that I was thinking of my heart-felt prayer from last night when I pleaded with God for help, but really, I wasn’t. His head held low, his hands in his pockets, he offered suggestions and thoughts about the area and some history. This soft spoken man that talked of more repairs to this trailer and helping us to do this and that is the father to our single mother. Without details that don’t bear repeating, he eventually shared with me why his “youngun” was in this trailer “not fit to tear down” and I’ve never heard another person including myself talk more lovingly and precious than this man did of his child. He had saved her from a certain death and she was walking a new walk close to her family. After trials and tribulations, she was making progress. So far, she has broken the chains of a horrible drug addiction. Set herself free from an abusive relationship – and is trying to get her children a safe place to live. So my note to self tonight is that this single mom has already worked harder, at life, than I will EVER understand and overcome more than I will ever be able to fathom. She’s not just sitting in squalor. She’s making one small step at a time to make life right and better for her children. God walked down that dirt road today – I have no doubt. He came to talk to me and to answer my prayer.
And so…the work commenced, and my goodness what kind of work we had before us! My understanding is that Monday morning is just a little slow to get going. The first day is an organization nightmare coming from someone who likes to have lots of order. Funny though, it all worked out – just like they said it would. I simply need to learn to “chill” and “go-with-the flow” a little more. We waited until almost mid-morning for supplies to arrive from town –ha! Town? Mayberry might be a metropolis compared to this sweet little Kentucky town. I think the blinking light at the bottom of the hill where we’re staying is the only light and it may quite possible not actually be in Chavies.
Let me stop for another quick note to say that this area is absolutely breathtaking. The trees grow tall and emerald green against a true blue Kentucky sky and no matter where you’re standing or sitting…the hills go on forever. As always, nature makes me in complete awe of God!
Back to my story…all of the vans pulled out of the center around 9:30 HOOTY HOO!!!! On our way!! Then…we stopped at the bottom of the hill for snacks – THAT took a spot of time. Eventually, we were off – over the hill and around the bend to our adopted family for the week. You know the excited feeling you have when you’re about to arrive somewhere new – each house that you pass – is that it? Oh – is that the road that we’ll turn on? Is that the house up on a hill? We were all greatly anticipating this first meeting. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. Our family consisted of a single mom with two small children, a four year old girl and a five year old boy – adorable. Introductions made, a couple of us spent a few minutes with the children. They were very open to new friends and asked lots of questions. Fun!
After unloading supplies, tasks were divided among us based on ability. That left me with…want me to….sweep?? Just kidding, I was about to learn all about insulation. I have to say that after five hours in an 11×12 foot room with five people and lots and lots of insulation, I have a new appreciation for insulation putter uppers (who does this anyway ?). We measured, cut, and stapled for hours. Our job today was to put insulation in the ceiling and then the walls.
This day was tough for many reasons. I was hot, nasty, and had insulation in my eyes, nose, ears… But more than that – the beauty of this land, the wonder of this mission, the anticipation of meeting our families, has somehow evoked feelings I didn’t expect.
Enough for today – too many thoughts to sort through tonight.
Kentucky is beautiful! As we drove deeper and deeper in to Kentucky, the hills and views were amazing. I think I could live here. The center is located in the midst of a little residential neighborhood atop a big ole hill. We found the center with a little help from a friend – a fast friend… PawPaw was very friendly and animated…from hi s front porch. As all of our vehicles (3 vans and a truck) rumbled by his house on a one lane road/track by his house, he was just a’wavin…. How friendly! I waved back…I guess all of us did. All except for B-rad and Justin who had sense enough to realize that PawPaw was NOT telling us hello. He was trying to let us know that the center was NOT down that road! “But the GPS said that it’s up this way” Like the man didn’t know?
We all turned around and actually listened to PawPaw. He said “up that hill – is where you’re headed”. Up that hill? Up that mountain? Yep – up, up, up. I’d hate to have to walk up that hill. Little did we know at that moment but some crazy members of our team ran up and down that stinkin’ hill multiple times…on purpose. Crazy people!
The gray, cinder-block building was just that – gray, cinder-blocks. No frills, nothing noteworthy really. All of the veteran ASP members “ooohhhed and awweed” over this permanent center. They seemed rather thrilled at this plain, Jane, gray building. Ok – I’m game, I guess? There would be indoor showers and air conditioning so it sounded like an upgrade from some stories from past trips.
The plan had been to arrive at the center early (before other teams) so that we could get settled before it became crowded. Plan success? Negative. The other two teams from Michigan and Ohio had already arrived but both teams were relatively small so arriving after them didn’t really matter. We tumbled out of vans and headed in search of our temporary homes/beds/cubbies? The inside of the center was clean and…had these awesome murals on the walls. We later learned that ASP teams, over the years, had created these works of art.
The camp-dorm style rooms were wall to wall bunk beds. The adults took first dibs on the bottom bunks…well, the FEMALE adults managed to convince younger chicks to let us have the bottom bunks. I hear the adult MALES didn’t fare so well and a few old men had to climb up to a top bunk. Whew – that would have been tough. Thanks girls for your sweet understanding that moms don’t need to be on second floor beds.
The rest of our day was spent in laughter and fun. Team leaders went out to meet our families and to take some notes on our assignments for the week. The rest of us enjoyed the afternoon settling in and getting to know each other. The evening ended with a circle of servants, holding hands in prayer for a people we had still yet to meet. The prayers tonight were tinged with excitement and readiness to be the hands and feet of our Lord.
We’re off to the hills of Kentucky. While excited, I’m a bit apprehensive about exactly what I’ve signed up to do. There are thirty five serving souls on this trip and I’m amazed at those that return year after year to reach out to help their fellow man.
The trip started bright and early with Communion and a prayer. We left our small, sleepy town before 9:00am only to stop promptly 10 minutes later to adjust a few ladders that were banging around on top of one of the vans. Moving on down the road…just a bit and we stopped again when Precious Van #3 decided – I’m done…. Now, we all remember the old joke about how many men does it take to change a light bulb. Well…if we thought it took a parcel of men to change a light bulb…just think how many it took to open the hood of the van! And…we won’t even talk about how many it takes to decide that the van is finished. Oh, well…luckily, there were only two grown people on this van and no luggage so we snuggled them in on another van – and we’re off again……………right down the road (3 miles?) where we stop for a potty break. I think this may have been a souvenier opportunity for race memorabilia but…I passed.
The trip continued until lunch where we stopped at a particularly great mall. This mall ranks due to the fact that Barnes and Nobles AND Starbucks were located just beside the food court. I really think I could live in a bookstore (that’s another post altogether).
Onward and northern bound, we made it to Knoxville with no other malfunctions and lots of great fun. Our fearless leader released the top secret team information and we are now completely set and ready for the week. After dinner together, the competition ensued – time to go BOWLING!! Yep, bowling…haven’t bowled in ten years or more. Nothing much has changed – still can’t break 100. Luckily, there were some team members that were in touch with their inner bowling strengths and….OUR TEAM WON! I’m just so thrilled that my team beat Chad’s team – HAHAHAHAHA (of course, I did nothing but hurt my team’s average 😦 )
It’s time to start the first day and head in to Kentucky where we’ll meet others that have chosen to answer a call to serve. I hear over and over again that we come expecting to serve and to bless others but it’s us that will be touched and blessed. How exciting is THAT two-way street? God is good and amazing – ALL THE TIME!
I’m very honored to be standing here today to share with you just a little about a very special lady – my grandma. As hard as it is to come to say good bye, as sad as we all are at losing this very precious spirit, she is truly in such a better place. And I know this – but she will be missed. Her quiet spirit will be missed, her genuine smile, my grandma’s voice, her warm touch.
Elizabeth Brockwell grew up in the small farming community of Adsit, Virginia. Grandma shared memories with us of a life that few of us can even comprehend – I asked grandma to pen for me some of her childhood memories, and she did. A very small sampling:
“Mama made our dresses out of feed bags. They were pretty, she smocked, embroidered, and put lace on them. We had two pairs of shoes, one for everyday and one for Sunday. We washed clothes on a washboard and boiled them in the big iron pot in the yard. We raised hogs and used every part.
We used kerosene lamps for light. Water came from the wells, outdoor toilets and Montgomery Wood catalog for tissue.
I loved to read. I got books from the library to read. I still remember reading my first book, Black Beauty. Santa brought it to me.
We went to church in a buggy.
One of my uncles taught me to do the Charleston but my daddy didn’t let us go to dances.”
For awhile now, we’ve known that grandma was readying herself to go home. Ninety three years is a lot of life – and she lived all ninety three of those years. When Uncle Bob called me to let me know that grandma had gone home, I felt very panicked, fretful, and alone. I suddenly needed to remember. I needed to not forget anything about grandma. As we all know, memories dim as the years pass and I was frantic that I not misplace all that grandma had given to me – those life altering, priceless moments in time that we spent together. My purpose today is to share just a glimpse of what my grandma gave to me for a lifetime of memories:
-grandma pulling up a yellow step stool so that I could see over her counter as she baked.
-playing hide and seek in her yard – usually in the bushes out by the road
-the smell of grandma and granddaddy’s house
-grandma tucking me in at night and pulling the door to a crack and telling me to come and get her if I needed anything at all.
-grandma reading me stories from the big Children’s Bible on the bedside table
-walking around the backyard listening to all of the names of flowers and veggies and wondered if I would ever be able to have such a pretty yard – I don’t.
-frozen peaches from the freezer at grandma’s
-the full freezer at grandma’s
-sitting at the sewing machine as my grandma tried to teach me to sew
-the dressing table with silver brush and comb
-the squishy carpet in grandma and granddaddy’s bedroom
-breakfast in bed with mama and grandma on Mother’s Day
-the grandfather clock chiming in the night
-permission to taste concentrated orange juice
-dresses made with my grandmother’s hands
-loving arms around me teaching me how to crochet
-digging around in the yellow stool for yarn
-walking on the sand at Myrtle Beach
-quilts and crocheted blankets made by grandma
-watching Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights with grandma and granddaddy
-the ceramic monkey and black ceramic cats
-grandma’s desk and her great pencils she always shared
-the “tsk tsk” when granddaddy went down to the basement for an evening tottii
-setting the table for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the dining room with the pretty china and silver (she even let me pick out the tablecloth)
-Guy Lombardi playing on the record player
-the sound of grandma’s footsteps coming down the hall in her house
-climbing the stairs to the attic where lots and lots of treasures lived
-finding love letters from granddaddy and watching grandma blush
-pulling tomatoes out of the garden – listening to instructions on how to know when the veggies were just right
-riding in the car after grandma first received her driver’s license
-eleven stockings hanging on the mantle with those bendable elves
-old, old, old legos in that metal can that were Uncle Bob’s and dads.
-the black and white and red and white teddy bears we only played with at grandmas
-grandma & I playing dress-up with her old hats and scarves
-sitting in the sliding bench chair outside the garage
-the chain link fence that had the coolest contraption to get in and out
-silver, metal trashcans
-going to church with grandma and granddaddy at the big church in Cary, NC
-pulling the mixer up and down from underneath the counter in grandma’s kitchen
-sitting in the floor in the kitchen while grandma cooked
-ice cream floats
-walking in to the kitchen and looking down the long narrow kitchen and seeing an entire counter filled with Tupperware full of goodies
-the recipe rolodex
-washing dishes by hand even after granddaddy bought her a dishwasher (she said it was a good drying rack)
-walking around the neighborhood with grandma and granddaddy
-Christmas around the white tree with all of the blue ornaments waiting and waiting for the adults to finish eating
-the Wiggins’ coat of arms
-grandma tucking me in at night
-going through the cedar chest with grandma
I hope the list continues to grow so that I’ll always be able to look back and see not only where I’ve come from, but who I am – and why. We are a blessed family to have shared in this lady’s life. Truly, I believe that she is happy again with all of those that were waiting for her in heaven. I know that one day, I’ll see her and granddaddy again and what a happy time that will be. To quote granddaddy in the weeks before he died, “It’s going to be a glorious homecoming” – oh yes it will. Thank you for letting me share today.