Thank You, Clendenin

By Hannah Kessler, Partnership Coordinator

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Meaning, it’s best to be content with what you have rather than always seeking more.

While the saying itself is true and good, I have sometimes fallen into the trap of not reaching physically, but mentally for the birds. I don’t reach out for the two I don’t have, but those are the ones consuming my thoughts. Not the one I have in my hand.

So for the last few months I have consciously tried to be a more thankful person. It’s difficult to admit that thankfulness doesn’t come naturally to me. Even when it does and I’m appreciative of the gift, I too often forget to thank The Giver. So, as the summer comes to a close in West Virginia, I look back in thankfulness to the people who made it wonderful, and to the God who created them.

When I drive down the street I usually see one of our friends, Paul or John, sitting on the bench in front of the Post Office. Each time we wave… and that makes things feel like home. We were able to help Paul build a wheelchair ramp on his home this year, and he fed the team fresh peaches as a thank you.

When I’m on my way to little league I pass by the Clendenin United Methodist Church. I remember the first day I was ever in Clendenin, 3 days after the flood. I saw that church and thought how beautiful it was, even covered in mud. It was this meeting place in the middle of town where donations would come in, and volunteers were always working. Now whenever I pass by I usually stop because our teams use the church as a space to dive into lunch devotions. When I don’t have time to stop I drive by their sign out front and read, “This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us.” 1 John 4:10

To the young Clendenin kids who help me brush off the baseball field before Thursday night community night… thank you. To the fire department that continues to take my phone calls, even when I ask to borrow ladders or coolers or ice, the list goes on and on…thank you.

Thank you to the community members who don’t know who we are, but stop by the worksites to thank us for working in Clendenin. For the old stories of what their town used to be like, and their hopes for the future. Thank you for letting us in on your dreams.

To the 2017 Next Step Summer Staff that have made this home for 10 weeks, you loved this community like it was your own. You went where you were sent, unpacked for a while, and gave it all you had until you were done. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing others catch the vision for a town and creating dignity in the work they do. Thank you for your blood, sweat and tears this summer.

And to the community members who go above and beyond to answer 10:00pm phone calls, secure last minute plans, let me in the building when I inevitably lock myself out, treat summer staff to a lunch other than PB&J, work hard, give generously, and encourage well, I am in awe of you.


Clendenin has taught me to not just let your dreams be dreams, and to always remember that God can rescue us in ways we could never imagine. Here’s to many years of working and learning alongside each other.