5 states, and a 19 hour car ride makes for an interesting car ride, but put a week's worth of events between both ends of the drives and you get an interesting trip.
Some of you may know that I spent my Spring Break in Bear Branch, Kentucky, or Leslie County, Kentucky, or just Eastern Kentucky depending on how you look at it.
Basically, it was a really small group of small towns in the small corner that is Eastern Kentucky. It's not too small to name the individual towns, but it's small enough that you can't tell the differences between places because the town lines blur between the wooded trees and mountains of Appalachia.
It's funny because they aren't really mountains either. They are more along the lines of really big hills that are covered completely in trees and brush, and trying to hike them is like crawling on your hands and knees at an upward angle of almost 180 degrees. It's not like the rockies people.
During the week we worked alongside Big Creek Staff, a mission group who works in Leslie County, and fellow Christian Student Fellowship members (my campus ministry, also called CSF). Different teams went out into the community each day to provide a variety of volunteer work to the people who need it. Some of the main projects included the construction of a 90 foot wheelchair ramp, fixing up an older man's home. Other groups could volunteer at the retired community, adult day care, or working with high school students.
I spent my first two days at the high school, and I got to hang out with students to talk to them about their interests in college and moving away. Which, just like any other high school, the majority of the students had plans to leave and start over somewhere new. It was interesting to see the similarities between this high school, and the high schools I have experience with back home in Nebraska. It was also just as interesting to hear the differences. For example, my friend Logan was talking to a boy who said (without knowing we were from Nebraska) that if he could go anywhere, he would pick a place with a few rolling hills, some corn fields, and maybe even a few cows. It's crazy to think that our home is someone else's dream location, and put a lot of things in perspective.
The next two days I spent volunteering at their local coffee shop called, The Well, and should you ever find yourself in this part of Eastern Kentucky, I promise you that it's worth a stop. The store is run by all volunteers, and all of the money that they make goes towards the up-keep of their local food pantry. It was really fun to work there and meet a variety of people from the area and hear their stories. I think one of the coolest things I heard from the customers was that, because they had grown up in the mountains their whole life, they felt that if they weren't surrounded by the mountains, they would feel unsafe. It's like the mountains act as some sort of shield from the rest of the world. I had never even considered that symbolism considering we live in such a flat area, but I found it to be a beautiful illustration.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. I learned so much about myself, and the people I was with. It really is true that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. It didn't always feel like I was doing much, but without the little bits that each person contributed on the trip, there would have been no progress at all. I would encourage anyone to take a step out of their comfort zone to go and serve someone in need, because it really does change the outlook you have when you come home. Going to college may seem hard at times, or holding down a job, but when you look at the big picture, we are so blessed to have these opportunities because that hard work will pay off to provide further opportunities that not everyone has privilege to. For example, did you know that their closest Walmart is about an hour away. They have to worry about how they are going to get groceries, while I think i have to worry about picking just one grocery store to go to. I am so grateful to CSF for giving me the opportunity to serve, and I'm even more grateful that I was able to go on the trip. God is so good, and I can't wait to go back next year.
To express, explain, and exclaim the lessons life continually throws at me, and my take on how to deal.