By Hannah Kessler, Partnership Coordinator

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

As I read about God’s faithfulness throughout the Bible, it’s sometimes easy to think His plans are only visible from a bird’s eye view. As we look from the outside-in, at the lives of others, we wonder why someone else’s life is working out and ours doesn’t seem to be. Just when things seem to be getting better… we get the grade we wanted, we are offered a job we desire, our sick family member is getting better, or that boy finally notices you…something else falls apart. We can’t see the goodness happening in front of us, because to us it seems random and not good. It seems really really difficult. We can’t see the forest through the trees, because the trees are right in front of us and are pretty intimidating… towering, and unreachable.

To be honest, this has been the last few years of my life. But this past week, I caught a glimpse of the forest, and it brought me to my knees with thankfulness.

At the beginning of summer 2016, I was nearing the end of my two year agreement as Partnership Coordinator, and after my summer was over, I was planning to move back home to Georgia, and out of West Virginia. That has never been common knowledge until now, but some things are too great of a representation of Christ’s work in my life not to share. I had lived for two years in West Virginia, and while I loved my job and loved getting to live among my neighbors in Rosedale, I was struggling. Spiritually, when I left Georgia, I left the whole support system I had depended on since I was a little girl. I left my family, my friends, I was dating someone very long distance, and felt my resources had run out. I was physically, spiritually, and emotionally ready to go home.

But as many of you know, three weeks into the summer, a catastrophic flood hit a small town about an hour away from where I lived. I remember in the days following, feeling like this could mess everything up. I had plans. I was leaving. Things were wrapping up and a transition strategy was in place. Just when I could see this “light” at the end of the tunnel, my whole world changed. Little did I know that this light wasn’t in God’s plans for my life, and it wasn’t a light at all. The opportunity to move home when that summer ended seemed like my only hope to get back to a sense of comfort and support. It seemed like the only way to continue to heal and move on from the spiritual slump I was in. But not three weeks after the flood hit, I was asked if I would consider staying in West Virginia. To continue flood relief. Looking back on it,  I have no idea why I said yes.

A year ago Clendenin and I had a lot in common. Everything seemed like it was falling apart.

A year after the flood hit, the week of June 23rd, 2017, over one hundred volunteers spent their summer mission trip in Clendenin, West Virginia. 123 people to be exact. Where there was once heartache, God has replaced with joy. And while scars of hurt never fully leave us, they give us a greater love for helping other hurting people. Where there were once flood waters rising, we now see hope rising instead. We ate, sang, and danced in the same fire department that responded while the mud and water threatened to destroy their station. I hugged some of my friends, prayed with new family, and laughed among some of the most giving people I’ve ever met.

It took a flood to bring me, and a lot of other people, to a town called Clendenin. Something, that in the midst of the trial looked like a towering, unreachable and incredibly difficult climb from the top, is a beautiful scene of God’s incomprehensible plan.

You see, God didn’t forsake me. He didn’t forsake Clendenin. And He won’t forsake you.

Next Step Ministries