All posts in “Clendenin, WV”

The Journey

Genesis 12:1-4 

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing….I will bless those who bless you….. So Abram went as the Lord had told him.'”

 

I was reading this passage this week, and wanted to share some simple thoughts with you.

  1. In these verses that we so easily read and move past, God has asked Abram to leave everything. With no end destination in sight, but with the promise that he will end up in the land that God will show him.
  2. This is more of a personal note, but it struck me that God told Abram that on this journey He would bless those who bless Abram. Could you imagine being so close to the Father’s heart, that those who bless you, are blessed by Him? Are we walking so closely with God and aligned with His plan, that when others encourage us in the journey, God blesses them? Are we a bright enough light for Christ that when people bless us, they see Him through our successes?

 

Genesis 12:7-8

“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “to your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord. From there he moved to the hill country… and pitched his tent… And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.”

Genesis 12:10

“Now there was a famine in the land”

 

3. And finally, my last thought is this: Abram was doing all that God asked him to do. And sometimes there is still a famine in the land.

 

I know that a literal famine is not as probable in our lives, but sometimes there is a thirst in our heart that just longs to be quenched. Maybe it’s the longing for a better relationship with family. Maybe it’s a long repeated prayer for a friend to know Jesus. Or maybe it’s just the thought, that if you have really been doing your best and obeying Jesus, you expected things would be easier by now.

But just like Abram’s life, Jesus invites us to be partakers in the journey. And in God’s journey, things like famines and thirsting, always have a way of bringing us closer to Him.

Years after Abram (later named Abraham) was dead, this was said about him in Hebrews 11:8

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going… For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

 

As I think about the communities that we live in, and the communities that Next Step serves in, I remember that each of us are on a journey.

In Clendenin, West Virginia, the journey has not always been easy.

This community has endured a lot of pain over the years, and life here does not come without hardships. But I am thankful for messages like this one, that remind us that we can draw near to God, He will bless us and bless those who we come in contact with, and He promises to be in control of the plan for our lives.

West Virginia Fall Update

Just a quick update on our friends here in Clendenin, West Virginia! 

Many here are counting our blessings for no major flooding for the month of September. As hurricane Florence came up the east coast, we were under major flood watch. This back and forth of trying to anticipate any damage is such a reminder of the week of June 23rd, 2016. Thankfully, the photo shown is about as high as the river got in Clendenin, and as you can see it was a close call.

For those of you who have experienced flooding of your own, or have been a volunteer in Clendenin, keep these neighbors in your prayers. Anytime there is a storm, our friends here experience a lot of fear and anxiety because of the flood of 2016. While it’s been over 2 years, the memories seem to come back each time it rains hard.

The YMCA hosted an outdoor event this fall, which was unfortunately rained on, so they moved to the new pavilion finished by volunteers this summer! By creating a covered community space, Next Step was a piece of people coming together for a common goal, to further activities and support one another here in Clendenin. What a blessing to get a glimpse of that long term impact.

Also on the Clendenin field, the Clendenin Little League has their Fall-Ball, Boys 7-8 year old, team playing baseball this fall! The last weekend in September the little league also hosted a community yard sale, and there was a main street fall festival with dozens of vendors and organizations present!

 Fall in West Virginia is here, and we are excited for the changing leaves, cooler weather, and lots of wonderful hiking. If you’ve never experienced fall in WV, come see us soon!

A little help from our friends

The summer has come and gone, and before we know it will be over. As I think about the last 2 months, I’m amazed at how God has faithfully provided comfort, friends, family, and help when it was needed.

The summer in Clendenin started out a little bit rocky, at least, for me (Hannah). My husband Jason was in a semi-freak softball game accident, and tore his patellar tendons in both legs. He had surgery the morning I was supposed to fly out to our Summer Staff Training Week, and thus started his road to recovery- that isn’t quite finished yet. Friends in Clendenin quickly caught word of his accident, and have been stepping in to help ever since. It was incredible to be loved by my community during a difficult time, but also from the groups that came all the way to serve with us!

We have had groups this summer from all over the country… Colorado, Michigan, Texas, Kansas, Virginia, Ohio, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey and more.  These groups have gotten to meet some of our wonderful partnerships while serving in Clendenin.

I think about our new friend Ron, who brings his grill to the church every Friday night to cook hamburgers, and his famous grilled onions for all of our volunteers. Or our church family at First Baptist Clendenin, who can always be found hanging out during dinner and worship in the evenings. Clendenin Little League continues to be a close partner, making sure that every Friday night we have a movie and concessions down at the field. I think about those members of the community that we didn’t know 2 years ago, who now feel like family.

While it has not been without difficulty, God continues to bring community members, students, and leaders to West Virginia to be a part of the plan He has for this town. Some of the things I’m so excited about as we wrap up our summer include:

Finishing work at the Clendenin Little League Field. By the end of the summer, CLL will have a remodeled training facility, to be used year round. What was once washed out, moldy, and in huge need of repair… has turned into a training facility to be used by over 130 little leaguers. CLL will also have a brand new bathroom house, as well as a pavilion to enjoy. It’s the little things about community that mean so much. I’m very excited to enjoy a T-ball game from the new pavilion one day soon.

I’m also grateful for our homeowners that partnered with us this year.  I think of families who didn’t have access into their homes who now can get family members to and from the car, without carrying them down a flight of steps. New friends who had flood damage that we were able to repair, and replace with safe and secure housing. Churches who looked after their congregation first, and put their needs to the side, after 2 years can now have sunday school and gather in the banquet hall again.

Little by little, Clendenin continues to recover with a lot of hard work from the community, and from teams that serve alongside them. If you were apart of this recovery, thank you. If you’d like to be in the future, I’d love to introduce you to some of our friends, and see how God continues to work in the summers to come!

People>

Three months from now, Summer 2018 will be over.

As I finish up last minute planning to start the summer in Clendenin, I can’t help but think how life will be different three months from now. Who will we meet that we don’t know now? With that question, I become anxious over this: Will we get to know others through the lense of compassion and thoughtfulness or quick need-to-know questions and answers?

So often I have found myself quickly going through my to-do list each day, only to arrive at the end of the summer and realize that I only know people for their project, not their friendship. I want to challenge myself, and anyone reading to start taking the time to ask the questions that really matter. Whether you are coming on a mission trip or not, we can all act with more compassion.

I was speaking with a homeowner recently, and at the end of our conversation about what we would like to help her with this summer, she gently added: “Do you think I could have a front porch too?” She was almost embarrassed to ask, and I could tell she thought she was wanting too much. With that in mind I asked her if a front porch was important to her. She said it was, and told me a story about how she and her husband used to always sit on the front porch in their rocking chairs together and talk. Her husband died about a year before a flood swept through the home they once lived in together.

My initial thought was something like: well, maybe if we have enough funding, or if we get other things done first. And while these are fine answers, and there is wisdom in being thoughtful when considering our stewardship of time and resources, those things aren’t everything. They certainly aren’t worth missing out on getting to know the reason why my new friend wanted a porch. I got to know more about her life, and realize that some little things are worth the extra effort. In the end, it isn’t the material things that matter, but the relationships that will continue to form over the next 3 months.

If you’re coming on a trip with us this summer, I challenge you to meet people with an anticipation. Will they show you a different point of view? Will they remind you to take time to appreciate the little things? It is an exciting moment to think that there are days soon when we will meet people that we will never forget.

 


 

Opportunity

In January our Clendenin, WV blog was all about an obstacle: We were needing to connect with a new host church for the upcoming summer. But instead of focusing on the obstacle, I wanted to focus on what opportunity God had waiting for us. When things don’t make sense immediately, it’s easy to give up and throw a pity party. “Of course this didn’t work out.” “Why does this always happen to me?” Those thoughts, and words, have been mine many times over the last few years.

But this instance really didn’t make sense.

Last summer we had an incredible time at our home church. The last Sunday of the Summer Staff’s stay in WV, they led the Sunday service, and it ended in tears. Tears of joy and thankfulness for what God had done, and tears of sadness that the summer was over. So when we got the news in January that we wouldn’t be back “home” we were eager to see what exactly it was that the Lord had for us next.

Well friends, we now know what it is.

Less than a week after we started looking for a new housing partnership, a friend from Clendenin asked me to come meet with his pastor. Their church had been damaged in the flood, but was back in working order and they were interested in hosting volunteers for the summer. Now this may seem like an average series of events… I needed assistance, someone reached out and made the connection, and I went and had a meeting with a church. But this is the first time in 5 years that I have had a community member approach me and insist that Next Step Ministries to stay at their home church.

When community members invest in their community, and get involved with organizations like Next Step, we see this amazing sense of advocacy form. After a few planning meetings, and a unanimous church vote, we have a Yes from Clendenin First Baptist Church as our new home for this summer. In this season God has taught me to 1. Keep trusting Him. 2. Bring others into this journey with me. I don’t have to do this alone. And 3. Be patient and wait for obstacles to turn into your next opportunity.

Obstacle or Opportunity

This month our 2017 housing church voted on whether to have Next Step back for summer 2018. I had prayed along with many others, in the days leading up to the vote. I prayed that the church would be open to another summer, that we could continue to work with members we had come to know and love, but ultimately, I prayed honestly that God’s will would be done and His plans would be accomplished.

I prayed that… but that’s not what I wanted.

What I wanted was to stay in the same place, be comfortable working with the same people, to have a logistically easy planning period and that I would know what I was getting into in summer 2018. But nonetheless I prayed that God’s plans, not mine, would be accomplished.

I know, deeply, that where God wants us, and what His plans are for us, are much better than anything I could create myself.

And because I went into this vote with an open mind to what God’s plans were, I knew that I would generally be okay if things didn’t go my way. And they didn’t. Our 2017 house church voted no, and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed at all. I went to bed that night feeling a little bit defeated, a little bit sad, and very reminded that I’m not in control.

Then the next day, I woke up, went to work, and this happened (without telling ANYONE about the vote yet!) 

“I’ve been stressing all day about Next Step. How can I help? We HAVE to make this work! We will figure something out!”

“Give me a call when you can, I have some ideas for housing that you should look into.”

“I’ve already asked my pastor and he’s interested in talking with you soon.”

Friends from Clendenin had heard the news from a member of the church, and immediately started calling and texting, wondering how they could help. God was working through other people to encourage me when I was worried about what the future would bring. His love was on full display, and I’m thankful that with prayer, and the peace that accompanied those prayers, I wasn’t too upset to see His faithfulness plainly.

When we believe that God opens and closes doors for a reason, we can see obstacles as opportunities.

I’m hopeful to see how God works in our housing planning effort, but even more so, how he works in the summer of 2018. Maybe we will be closer to Clendenin so that more neighbors have access to join us for worship and come to know Christ in a deeper way. Maybe we will be in the same area and give members of a different church a chance to serve their community in a way they didn’t know existed.


Whatever it is, I know God has a plan, and I’m so excited to see what it is.

 

Confession

“Most Merciful God,

We confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, and forgive us. That we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.”

I typed that from memory. Not because I’ve known it since I was a little girl, or because I just did a bible study on the confession in the book of common prayer. I didn’t even try to memorize this. And trust me, it’s not because I am some smart person and memorizing is easy for me- that’s not the case either!

I know this from memory, because I have heard it recited once a week for a year. My home church in Charleston, West Virginia recites this confession each Sunday that we meet. At first I thought it was really odd, because I wasn’t used to everyone talking at the same time, and this wasn’t a scripture so I wasn’t familiar with it. But one day as I was praying I got to the point in my prayer where I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I wanted to confess that I had messed up, and needed forgiveness. And so when I didn’t know what to say, this confession came to mind. I realized that I prayed through the whole thing without skipping a beat.

I love each part of the prayer for its uniqueness and applicability to our everyday life.

It starts by addressing God as merciful. 1 John 9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” While God is just, he is also faithful and merciful to his children.

“We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone”

This is my favorite part of the prayer because it summarizes all of my thoughts of failure. It feels as if I can say: This is it! This sums it up! We sin in our thoughts, what we think, what we let our mind linger on, and what our innermost thoughts are that are not pleasing to God. We sin also in the things that end up coming out of our thoughts and onto our lips, and in the things that we do. But I love that we remember also, not just the sins of commission: the things that we commit, or do. But we have sins of omission also. The things that we let go, when we shouldn’t. Sometimes we leave things undone.

We have not loved God with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

These are tied together, in Matthew 22:36-39 “And he said to him: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But the reality is that we do not love God with our whole heart. We are selfish, and think more of ourselves than of him, and in turn, do not love our neighbors as ourselves. Because of this, we come to grips with our sin, and say “we are truly sorry, and we humbly repent.” and ask for forgiveness “for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us”

Because in that forgiveness, and in that freedom, we can “delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.”

And that is the beauty of confession, and of forgiveness. When we realize that our joy and God’s glory are not two paths but one. God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in him. When we walk in his ways, we come to realize that we delight in him, and that is when he is most glorified through us.

Awe

I’ve had the pleasure over the past month to learn more about the state of West Virginia than I ever have before. I’m working with the West Virginia State Community Advancement and Development office, and through this new role I have the opportunity to learn so much. I’m not taking it for granted. From my first day, I have seen this as a chance to advocate for my friends in Rosedale and in Clendenin, and show my colleagues at the state level what life is like for people living normally in their state. While my day to day has changed from paint covered shirts, to high heels and blazers, I am happy to be in this season, for just that: a season. While I love the summer work of building, I can also see so much meaning in working to see this become a more sustainable and resilient state for the future.

 

While I was excited to learn so much and advocate for “the little guy” I didn’t realize how much this experience would impact the people I now get to work alongside of.This week in a meeting my new supervisor introduced me and said “She is in awe of all of the small things. When we go somewhere new she comments on the architecture and still takes pictures of the hills. She loves this state and everything about it. She reminds me of why I got into this job years ago, because we love this beautiful state and it’s beautiful people.”

 

And it’s true. I’m still in awe. But that’s easy for me. I’m young, I’m new, and I wasn’t raised here. It is still all an adventure.

But it’s more than an adventure.

 

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of The Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

 

“For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 16-17

 

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

 

I get to be in awe, because I can see The Creator in the created.

 

When I see a river flowing past my building, I see it’s beauty, and see the beauty of God who created and formed it. When the weather is perfect on my walk to my car after a long day of work, I can have a change of attitude, and thank Him for a calm and beautiful 30 seconds.

 

But what I didn’t know was that people would notice these little things. When the rest of the world has been bogged down with a heavy workload, mental, physical and emotional stress, or just fogginess to what’s in front of them, you can remind them of the beauty.

This week are we focusing on the bigger picture? The big and small reminders of God’s goodness to his children?

 

Because God shares this with us, we get to share it with others.

 

Across the Map

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.

 

Rebuilding

But you are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17) Continue Reading…

Not Left To Chance

As the summer staff arrived in West Virginia I was trying to keep all of my to-do’s in order. Get the shower trailer complete and ready to go… make sure all our project plans were finalized and our construction team was in the loop… invite everyone to our first community welcome dinner… The list went on and on, and to be honest, this was the first year it didn’t really bother me that much. You see, in the midst of the 2016 floods, God was graciously teaching me a big life lesson. Continue Reading…

Rest

Rest. Sometimes this word seems foreign and dirty. We shy away from it, at least publicly. But as Christ followers, we more than anyone, should learn how to rest. Because we can. Continue Reading…

He Delivers and Rescues

Sometimes when you are in the middle of a disastrous situation, it is virtually impossible to see the blessings surrounding you. I remember driving into Clendenin with some teammates from Next Step as soon as the flood waters were gone in Clendenin to take a look at the damage. If you had told me that 9 months later I would be moving into Clendenin and working hand in hand with a long term recovery committee, I would not have believed you for a moment. Through volunteers, neighbors helping neighbors, and  local churches, God is blessing this state in ways we could have never dreamed. Continue Reading…

Learning from Experience

One of my biggest passions is being able to educate others on the complex, deeply rooted issues that communities face. These are not cut and dry struggles. They almost always, do not have simple fixes. Continue Reading…

“I am only a Youth”

A few weeks ago I found myself in a room training to become a disaster case manager. I took a moment to reflect on the events that led me to this position in Clendenin, West Virginia. As I reflected,  I looked around the room at all the other individuals represented at this training. We were all there for the same reason. We were there to walk alongside flood survivors. Even if that meant being trained on and learning about the complications of duplication of benefits and failed income testing. Continue Reading…

The Best Is Yet To Come

As 2016 has come to a close,  I think about what my neighbors here in West Virginia will remember this last year for. Continue Reading…

Messy

If I have learned anything in my short time in missions, it is that life, and consequently ministry, is messy.

Continue Reading…

Yahweh Saves

While His activity is sometimes hidden and sometimes plain, we can see God orchestrating events to spread the Gospel, for the good of His people, throughout all of scripture. Continue Reading…

Time In Between

I always welcome and get excited for the mission trips we lead during the other 42 weeks of the year. The ones that fall outside of our 10 weeks of summer trips.

Continue Reading…

More Than Can Be Told

“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” Psalm 40:5 Continue Reading…