Across the Map

By Hannah Kessler, Partnership Coordinator

After my first summer serving in West Virginia, I remember going back home to Georgia and immediately a few things changed. I minimized my closet inventory… realizing that if I could live out of a suitcase for 3 months, surely I didn’t need 15 pairs of shoes I hadn’t touched in a year. I immersed myself in bible study like I never had before, missing the structure of worship every night of the week.

But one change that I didn’t expect, came in the way I watched TV. I didn’t skim past the news and weather stations like I used to. I lingered, and looked across the whole map, not just my local area.

Ever since, it’s been difficult to watch the news without thinking… how far is that from my friend Rachel? Will this impact her? How bad will that storm be in Mississippi? Will that tornado go through Joy’s hometown?

As storms impacted friends in Texas this past month, I was encouraged by the support coming through the Next Step family across the country. A West Virginia community member impacted by the June 2016 flood posted on a Next Step leader’s facebook page as Hurricane Harvey approached Texas. “Praying for you guys! Hope you are safe.”

Amy was a leader who had come to West Virginia before their summer trip to see the community and get more information about their trip. She was able to learn more about Clendenin through a pre-trip visit in March, and then led her youth group from San Antonio here in June. On both her pre-tip visit and mission trip she met many community members, and created relationships.

So when the tables were turned and Amy was the one in danger’s way, Anna (a Clendenin native) reached out, letting her know she was thinking of her friends in Texas.

Isn’t it things like this that amaze you in the community we have?  Our hearts ache to be with friends when things are hard, and support them when things are uncertain. When we have experienced pain in many ways… family hardships, job concern or natural disasters, we feel deeply for those who are experiencing the same things.

Ultimately, we love others because Christ loved us. He wept when others were hurting, would go out of his way for those who needed his help, and encourages us to bear others’ burdens with them.

While it’s difficult to send pieces of your heart back to communities all over the world, I’m thankful to see these relationships continue to grow even when distance is a reality. With Christ as our ultimate example, we continue to care, support, encourage and bear burdens, both near and far.