Well, dear friends, here I sit in Logan, West Virginia, on the eve of Early Bird week. Early Bird is a week when multiple sites come together to run a YouthWorks week as one giant unit. It gives new staffers a chance to see a week in action, and alumni to get their feet wet again. We, the Lincoln County Crew have come to Logan. We will be here until Friday, then head back to Hamlin, West Virginia, where we will do one more week of prep, and then will have youth of our own arrive.
A great deal has occurred in the last few weeks, but I will try to summarize in a brief rundown.
I left my dog, my truck, my family, and my friends behind in Kansas City and Manhattan. no matter how many times I leave a place....and I tend to do that often....it is always a difficult thing to do. I truly enjoy my friends and family, and sometimes my transient life wears me down. Sometimes, just as the plane takes off, I think about how nice it would be if I could just settle in someplace for 3 or 4 years. Maybe put down some roots, meet a girl, start a family, have barbeques and Toasting Tuesdays.....
.....then the plane takes off and I am onto the next adventure, and I see new stories forming to tell old friends, new friends coming at me, new cultures to immerse myself in. And suddenly, I know that this wanderer's life is the only thing I can do....for now.
Back to YouthWorks
My training week was awesome. I got to catch up with old YW friends, to meet my amazing staff, and to remember why it was that I quit my job and abandoned reason to come serve God in West Virginia this summer.
My staff. They are truly wonderful. Each brings gifts to the table that make our site run like a well oiled machine. Each brings a work ethic and desire to serve the Lord that will carry us all through the summer. Each knows how to smile and seek God in both the mundane and the trying times. Each is a blessing to West Virginia, YouthWorks, and myself.
Their names are Haley Church (Program), Mark Cooper (Work Projects), and Lindsay Holmes (Kids Club). If you are praying for me this summer, I would ask that you add them to that time as well. If you want to know more about them, just let me know.
We left Philly, and began our trip to Hamlin. Along the way we saw some beautiful countryside, ate at an excellent Mexican Restaurant, discovered that out F-150 two-tone pickup (named Tony) has no radio, and got to know each other much better.
Upon our arrival in Hamlin, we walked into the Fire Hall in the middle of Bingo Night. Every Thursday and Saturday night the building we stay in, which was a brassiere factory, then a junior high, and now is owned by the Fire Fighters of Hamlin, houses community bingo. It is pretty amazing, and a greta chance to catch up on local goings on.
Anywho, we arrived mid-bingo and mid-rainstorm. There was water in our sleeping rooms. There was dirt. There were bugs. It was a bit overwhelming.
But there was air conditioning. There were mattresses. There were amazing people who told us over and over that they wanted us there, that they were honored to have us, whom they had never met, staying with them. There was God. The love was....a bit overwhelming.
We found a dry, safe place to sleep, and slept through the evening. We awoke, we cleaned, and we began our adventure. We are starting to love our home.
It is always cold. The A/C works very well, and is always on. It is always filled with scanner chatter. As one person put it, we always know who to pray for, because we hear about every accident in Lincoln County. It is often filled with firefighters and EMT's and their families.
The community in Hamlin is extremely loving towards us. They look after us. They have already invited us to dinner (twice), given us gifts (amazing ones), told us they were our mothers, and gone out of their way to give us anything we even mention needing/wanting. We have been invited to every community event available, and have been invited to every church in town- and there are many.
I have reunited with the Elswicks and the Ellis's. I have not had much chance to hang out with either, we have been busy getting the site ready, but they have welcomed me back with open arms. Clifford Ellis told me he and his wife Pinky had been praying hard that I would "come home".
Clifford is the pastor of the Ferrelsburg Church of God. On Wednesday I got to go to his church and take part in a good old fashioned West Virginia prayer service. I snuck in the back while they were watching a video about experiencing God. When they lights came on, Clifford came up to wrap up, and he saw me. Immediately he called me up, and had the entire congregation come up and pray for me. It was humbling, honoring, terrifying, and beautiful. Then I got to sit and just catch up with this amazing man and woman for about an hour.
Now, as I said before, I love everyone I left behind. I miss each of you everyday, trust me I do. But it was a special kind of sweetness to sit in the Ferrelsburg Church of God with an intense man of the Lord and his wife, and just feel a real, Godly, pure love oured out in my direction. As I drove through the scary West Virginia night, I couldn't help but feel like with people like that praying for and watching out for me, the summer could never get too off course.
Well, this update has already been too long. I will close it down. I do want to say that I love you all, and look forward to seeing you at the end of the summer. Or when you send me your pictures. DO IT.
AND stayed tuned, dear reader. Coming soon: John goes clogging.
There may even be pictures.