Week of Service Reflection by Meg Vance
Why I came:
- I became acquainted with Good Works in 2011 when I was living in Marietta and working with nonprofits in the Mid-Ohio Valley area as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I had the privilege of serving as a weekend volunteer at the Timothy House, but moved out of the area in July of 2012.
- Since then I have stayed in touch with Keith, participated in the Good Works Walk, and visited Good Works when I am in the Athens.
- I currently live in Xenia, Ohio and I am on the board of a startup nonprofit that is seeking to create a nonprofit hub to help people experiencing poverty, homelessness, and the consequences of addictive behavior. We recently acquired an old elementary school building that we are preparing to renovate. Part of the building will be used to provide an emergency homeless shelter for Greene County.
- I’ve always wanted to do an internship with Good Works, but I thought a summer or year long commitment was required. Thus, I was thrilled to learn about the Week of Service and felt the Lord compelling me to apply.
- I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to stay at Good Works this past week and learn many valuable lessons that will not only help our nonprofit, but me personally in my walk with the Lord.
What I did:
- During this week I stayed at the Hannah House, along with the summer interns, Appalachian Immersion intern, Community Life staff member, and a youth group that was visiting. It was a neat experience getting to live in community.
- In addition, I got to interact with the other GW staff and interns throughout the week. They included me in their staff and intern meetings and it was wonderful to get a “behind the scenes” look at how they work together as a team. I learned about the many different programs and initiatives that GW has to offer the community.
- We started the day with devotionals and ended the day with reflecting on “God Moments”. I got to participate in their “Life Together” community faith gathering as well.
- The bulk of the day was spent doing service projects. I served mainly with Neighbors Helping Neighbors where we go to neighbors home’s (especially widows and those struggling with age, disability, and/or poverty) to visit with them and meet practical needs. We helped one family gut and redo paneling in their living room. We cleaned homes, mowed grass, and did yard work. We visited a man recovering from surgery. Other groups might do things like building/repairing ramps, weeding, landscaping, planting, and maintaining gardens. There is another option to serve in the Kid’s Discovery Club to invest in kid’s throughout the week. Every day we got to meet more neighbors at the Summer Lunch program. Preparing and cleaning up from meals is another service opportunity.
- I loved going to the Timothy House and getting to enjoy a meal and an evening with the residents there. I had the opportunity to interact with teens participating in the Teen Agricultural Internship. I also served with the Transformation Station volunteers who were working to earn points towards material items, like appliances and vehicles.
- Staff members also graciously carved out time to meet with me and answer my questions.
- At the end of the week I got to enjoy the GW hiking trails and have a time of solitude in their Carter Cabin.
What I learned:
Priorities: Love God and Love your Neighbor
- When Jesus was asked what the two greatest commandments were, he said to love the Lord with every aspect of yourself and to love your neighbor as yourself. It was beautiful to witness this being lived out at GW this week.
- I appreciated GW’s perspective about worship. Typically we think of worship as it relates to music and guitars and pianos and drums as being instruments of worship. But lawn mowers and hammers and rakes can be instruments of worship too. When we are loving God with our full selves, everything that we do can be an act of worship to Him.
- What I most love at GW is how they love their neighbors. They not only love them through outward expressions, like the service projects I mentioned previously, but most importantly, through building relationships. In Neighbors Helping Neighbors the priority is not to “get the job done”. The priority is to visit with the individuals and families—get to know them, hear their stories, and see Jesus reflected in their faces.
The ethic of inefficiency:
- They call this preference to relationships, the “ethic of inefficiency.” Essentially people are more important than tasks. If someone walks onto the GW property, it’s a beautiful thing to witness how people drop what they are doing to welcome them in. Every person is treated as an image bearer of God—worthy of time, attention, investment, and development. It was beautiful to see people blossom in this environment of hospitality and affirmation. They felt seen, loved, respected, cared for, and needed. What is the effect of a community like this?
- On my first day I was struck by the kindness of a five-year-old. His name is Mason and he’s the son of a staff member named Buddy. Mason was playing with another staff member’s son when in walked a little boy from the community named Philip. Mason stopped, looked at Philip, put his hand to his heart and said, “Hi! My name is Mason. What is your name?” Then he introduced the little boy to his friend and promptly Philip went from being a stranger to a new friend and the three of them played together the rest of the evening. What struck me is that this behavior must’ve been modeled for Mason so many times that it became engrained in him and natural.
- I found this happening to myself and to others in the work retreat group as the week progressed. As we were saturated with love and welcome, we desired to reach out and help others feel the same way.
- You’d think that with so much emphasis on relationships that it would slow things down, but I was amazed at how much GW accomplishes. As a community they have their priorities straight, and as a result, God really blesses the work of their hands. I was very impressed by the structures and rhythms that they have as a team. Meetings never felt rushed, but they always ended on time. Schedules were made very intentionally to incorporate both work and rest. Especially among the interns I felt like responsibilities were evenly distributed.
- I really enjoyed getting to know Jane, her boyfriend Jim, nephew Jon, and neighbor, Jamie, this week. GW has had a long standing relationship with them. They have built Jane a beautiful porch and planted a garden, and this week, they were doing a project inside her home. I enjoyed visiting and getting to know these individuals. Jamie invited me and a few other group members to her home to see her new puppies. To put it plainly, I have never experienced such sober living conditions in America. As a widow and elderly woman experiencing poverty, it seemed difficult for her to take care of her home and yard. With a big heart she took in 7 dogs (and 5 new puppies), but as she didn’t let them outside very much, they made a mess in her home. She did not have running water. I asked Jesus, “Please help me see you in Mary.” Over the course of the week she shared with me story after story and one theme that stuck out to me was commitment. When she decided to give up smoking, even though no one around her believed she could do it, she committed and never smoked again. When she married her husband, even though she only knew him for a month and knew he was going to jail, she committed, and she was married to him for 52 years. She is a beautiful woman inside and out and I discovered that the thing she was most hungry for—even more than water, food, shelter—was relationships.
- Another widow and man struggling with age and sickness, Tom, touched my heart because he too was hungry for relationships. GW has had a long standing relationship with him as well—they built him a porch, help him with projects inside his home, and bring groups over to visit and to do deep cleaning whenever it rains. We visited with him on a Thursday and while I was looking for a seat at Friday Night Life I felt a tap on my arm. It was Tom and I got to sit with him. He had come out to see our group again! A few of us spent the entire evening talking with him. He had us in tears—sharing stories of how he lost his wife when his kids were young and raised them as a single dad. His youngest daughter passed when she was only 15. Like Job he has walked through a lot in his life, but he still loves the Lord and has faith.
- I enjoyed connecting with two Transformation Station volunteers, Jason and Dolly. While a little hard to strike up conversation at first, every time I would see them I would say hi. One afternoon I was walking by and saw Dolly sitting and waiting for a ride. I sat down with her and was surpised and touched when she opened up to me about her experience walking through breast cancer. Jason came over and he just lit up when I complemented his mowing job and started sharing with me about the places he has taken care of in the past. I learned later that his family has been connected to GW for a long time.
- At the Timothy House I met a man named Jim who is really gifted at cooking and is preparing to go to school to become a chef. I love how the TH gives him an opportunity to exercise his gifting to bless others. I met another man named Dave. I came to find out that we have a mutual friend. He shared his story about losing his job and how it was difficult to find another one. Living in a rural area you have to drive everywhere and he didn’t have gas money. Two of my friends are in the same field as him and they went from having very lucrative careers one day and being laid off the next. It took both of them almost a year to find another job in their field. Fortunately they had family to fall back on. His story reminds me that there is very little difference between any of us—all it takes is a job loss or medical crisis and we could be in the same situation. I was struck by his positive attitude and his kindness towards other residents and their children. Those staying at the TH really felt like a little family.
- At the Summer Lunch I met a man named Nick. He struggles with poverty and is disconnected from his biological family, but has found a family in GW. He has been coming out to Friday Night Life for 19 years and serving as a volunteer for the past 5 years. He is very proud that he is able to contribute in this way. It’s so amazing to me all of the long standing relationships that GW has. FNL is like a family reunion every week!
- I really bonded with the Works Retreat group this week—especially two teens named Milton and Kamie. Milton has walked through a lot in his young life and I sensed that he was in need of mentors, especially male role models. It was a beautiful thing to see how God used GW staff, Buddy and Heath, to pour into him throughout the week. His youth leaders said that they have seen such a transformation in him. Kamie shared with me about her life—how her family had lived in a hotel room for several months—and I was struck by how much she can relate to people experiencing homelessness and poverty. One area she is afraid of is praying out loud. I encouraged her and prayed with her and loved watching her grow in confidence this week.
- Thank you to Paul and all of the staff who had a hand in coordinating my Week of Service. Thank you to the Summer Interns and Heath and Jimmy for making me feel so welcome at the Hannah House. Thank you to Nick, Fran, Andrea, and Paul for meeting with me one-on-one and for patiently answering my questions and for giving me such wonderful insight. Thank you to Buddy and Timothy for sharing your stories and jokes—I loved working alongside the two of you in the community. Thank you to every person who smiled, said “hi”, introduced yourself, took a few minutes to chat with me, and for all of the little and big ways you showed that you cared. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet all of you and get to be a part of your GW family this week.
- Thank you sweet Jesus for this wonderful week. I feel so honored and privileged to have had this experience. Please help me to remember all that you have taught me. May this week be an Ebenezer in my life. May the seeds that GW have planted be watered by your Spirit, take root, and grow to produce what You have planned and purposed. Help me to love you and my neighbor as I return home and in whatever context you place me in the future. Please continue to bless everyone associated with Good Works. Thank you for this, your ministry.
July 9-15, 2017