One of the Luckiest People in the World
By Dr. Walter B. Crouch
President/Chief Executive Officer
What happens in Central Appalachia every summer through the cooperative work of volunteers, community contacts, donors and the staff of ASP is often indescribable. The reason for this is simple: God dwells in the midst of our efforts and those efforts are, for the lack of a more appropriate word, miraculous.
Homes are repaired, relationships established, families encouraged, and lives transformed through God’s enabling strength. Together we become what we cannot be separately—the body of Jesus Christ, touching lives with God’s love through service to others.
It has been my great pleasure this summer to meet new friends while visiting our centers as I travel the mountain ridges and hollows of Appalachia. The inspiration I experience hearing the stories of family members, volunteers, and staffers is humbling. Story after story affirms that God is at work through our combined efforts and it is an incredible privilege to be associated with ASP and all those who come together to make miracles happen every summer. As I told an assembly of group leaders in Warfield, Kentucky, last Tuesday morning, I am one of the luckiest people in the world.
This miraculous story is taking place right now in East Tennessee. Betty Johnson became a widow about three years ago. Her husband was very handy and had several repair projects lined up for their longtime residence when he passed away. Over time the needed repairs became worse. With her mobile home roof leaking and the small addition on the back rotting because of drainage problems, Betty began to resign herself to the fact that her home was falling down around her and she could do little about it.
As God would have it, one Sunday last winter I was invited to preach at the small Newport, Tenn. church where Betty faithfully attends each week. I mentioned that ASP was considering a summer center in the area and a glimmer of hope was born. From there, providence took over and now volunteers assigned to our Cocke County summer center are at work on Betty’s home. A brand new roof structure is now complete, drainage problems corrected, and the old rotting addition has been torn down and a brand new room is being built in its place.
While getting out of my car at her home a few weeks back, the smile I saw on Betty’s face said it all. Choking back tears, she didn’t say a word as she embraced me with a hug in her front yard. She didn’t need to say anything—I was overcome with her sense of gratitude and joy. “I knew God sent you to our church,” she said. The words were humbling. But that’s how God chooses to work.
And now God is sending volunteers, chosen from across the nation, to work on Betty’s home including Chris Gremban from Cincinnati, Ohio.
I learned that God has been sending Chris, and his group from Anderson Hills United Methodist Church, for 29 years to Central Appalachia to touch the lives of low-income families through service. He laughed with joy as he thanked me for the opportunity to work on Betty’s home. It wasn’t my place to accept thanks on God’s behalf, but I graciously did and I immediately understood why Chris was a messenger of God’s love. And those thanks, from both Betty and Chris—and the thousands of family members and volunteers they represent—extend to all of you who come together as the body of Christ, summer after summer to serve others, changing the world one home at a time. Wow!
And to think, I get to play a small part in all of this. As I said, I am one of the luckiest people in the world.
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