American University students serve in ASP mission

April 10, 2017

By Joey Heath*

June 23, 2016 began as just another normal rainy early summer day in Rainelle, WVa. Unfortunately, the day took a turn for the worse and led to devastating flooding. By the time the flood waters receded, 90 percent of the homes in the downtown area were no longer livable. As one trooper said, “it looked like a warzone.”   

The Appalachia Service Project (ASP) already had a presence in the community. Once they were able, they got right back to work, this time working on disaster relief rebuilding. To date they have built over a dozen new homes and renovate many more.

Enter college Spring Break 2017. Many students at American University spend Spring Break taking a break from the intense pace of college studies and internships. Others spend their break doing something different: attending alternative spring break programs.

This is exactly what led the AU United Methodist-Protestant community to Rainelle and ASP. They were looking to do something different, to go out in the world and give back as the hands and feet of Christ. This meant spending the week working in a house without electricity or plumbing.

The work day started at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until 4:30 p.m. with a lunch break in the middle. When it snowed overnight on Monday night, they still went out to work Tuesday morning. When the temperature dropped in the teens, they used a contractor’s heater to keep the inside of the house warm enough to keep working. They placed some of the finishing touches on a house, putting insolation under it, putting in wall trim, and lots of painting.

They did have time for some fun as well. In the evenings there were programs, board games, and fellowship with each other and the other college groups.

It was a long week, but deeply satisfying to look at the house at the end and see a space almost ready for the homeowner to move back in.

*Joey Heath is the United Methodist Campus pastor at American University.