On Friday April 16, I departed to Appalachian Kentucky for eight days. I was helping to lead a high school youth group to build affordable housing. As I am constantly reminded, it’s an unusual way to spend vacation time….
I left behind internet, television, any semblance of reliable cell service, and embarked on a twenty-hour bus ride. I stepped outside the world of general luxury where I tend to reside, where people’s basic needs are met more often than not. I entered a world of unquestioned faith, strong communities, incredible hardship, beautiful landscapes and physical labor.
It’s a trip that is difficult to explain, something I knew would be true going into it. This was not my first time traveling on this trip to Kentucky. Eight years ago, I was a senior in high school who “sacrificed” another of his Spring Breaks to take this very trip – or, rather, the 2002 version of it.
Eight years later, I have a little more perspective, a little more experience writing and a little more desire to share. Bear with me, as this blog becomes a bit less “Boston Guy” and a bit more “Kentucky Guy” for the next week or so.
To set the stage:
- The youth group, referred to as HYG, is from a local suburban church, which I attended as a kid. The group that traveled to Kentucky is made up of 37 high school kids and chaperoned by 6 adults. Within the 37 kids, there are six who have been elected Officers of the group. Two of these Officers are Co-Presidents.
- The town we travel to is called Neon, Kentucky. It’s technically part of Fleming-Neon, but I’ve never heard anyone who lives there calls it anything but Neon. Less than 900 people reside there.
- The organization we volunteered through is called H.O.M.E.S. Inc, which stands for Housing Oriented Ministries Established for Service, Incorporated. It is a local version of Habitat for Humanity — with many of the same goals and tenets.
- HYG has been doing Spring Trips for as long as I can remember. (Again, it is part of my childhood church.) Back in 2000, the youth group had grown too big to be utilized by any Habitat for Humanity affiliate, which is what each Spring Trip had been until that point. It was then the church found out about H.O.M.E.S. I was a Sophomore in high school, and attended this first trip and the two subsequent ones while I was in high school.
These posts about Kentucky will include perspectives on the economy there, the local faith and religion of people, the trip in general, the group and reflections on my high school trips as well as this most recent one.
The next post will travel back in time to April of 2002. I was in high school, finishing another Spring Trip that would indelibly impact my life. Going as a high schooler was the true beginning of this most recent trip: it was what opened my eyes even to the possibility of doing this. And it seems only appropriate to begin at the beginning. Stay tuned.