If you traveled south from Allendale, along Highway 301, you’ll soon come to a bridge that gets you across the Savannah River. You can keep following this road, if you want, through Georgia and Florida, all the way to Miami. In fact, before I-95 came to be, 301 was THE way that people on the eastern seaboard would travel to Florida. (Allendale is halfway between New York and Miami.)
Here’s the thing about that bridge between Allendale and Georgia: it’s not the final destination, and that bridge doesn’t even get you to Florida. But it does get you across the river. And it gets you further along your journey.
I hope this blog has been like that bridge for you. My goal was not to be a blogger, even though I have over 500 posts on this blog in the past 3.5 years.
And my goal was not to try to figure out or explain everything about Allendale, SC. We’ve been blessed our time in Allendale, but we realize that we have experienced just a sliver of time in that community.
I just wanted to help you (as I helped myself) a little further down the road, to help you understand this community and the God who loves the people here. I wanted to help you see how He has been working here.
This is our adventure, but it’s God’s story.
Thank you for joining us in this journey, whether you were one of the 200+ subscribers, or you just came through searches and social media, or even if you just read one article. It’s been an honor to partner with you.
I hope you learned. I hope you were stirred to action.
I hope you laughed. I hope you cried. I hope you dreamed.
Here’s a few pictures (and captions) that summarize our feelings at the end of our season in Allendale:
A Taste of Heaven (Rachel Verughese): “Restoration is not only focused on the restoring of our souls and spirituality, but also a restoring of creation, including the communities around us. Before this Summer I never thought the restoration of a community could be an expression of the Gospel.”
Broken, then Restored (Michael Zuch): “Through all of these experiences God showed me He wasn’t only restoring these communities, but He was also restoring my broken view of missions. More than anything, healthy change can only happen when you place Jesus at the center, and that is something that I continue to learn this summer.”
And if you want more special memories, check out these older posts, from previous interns in Allendale:
On July 31, 1995, I meekly prayed to God, surrendering my life to the Lordship of Jesus. I was 19 years old, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Before then, I fell somewhere between the states of being agnostic and atheistic. (And I am Jewish, too, just to complicate things.) All things considered, I was an arrogant fool.
That is why the words of “At Calvary” mean so much to me now:
Years I spent in vanity and pride,
Caring not my Lord was crucified,
Knowing not it was for me He died
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;
Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,
Till my guilty soul imploring turned
Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,
Now I gladly own Him as my King,
Now my raptured soul can only sing
Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span
That’s nineteen years I spent “caring not my Lord was crucified,” and now nineteen years that “I gladly own Him as my King.”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Or, as I tweeted the other day:
I am thankful that God loves me & pursues me more than I love & pursue Him.
— Joey Espinosa (@EspinosaJoey) July 26, 2014
- Remembering My Salvation
- From Forgiveness to Service
- Why I Chose to Be Baptized
- Realizing That I Am Proud
**image courtesy of mimwickett via rgbstock.com
“Sometimes the thing you never know to ask turns out to be the biggest blessing of all.” Rev. Deb Richardson-Moore, The Weight of Mercy
We are in Greenville now. But a big piece of our heart is still in Allendale, so we will go back. There are football games to attend, and kids to see.
And memories to re-live and keep fresh.
Our Start in Allendale
I started working for the Boys & Girls Club in Allendale County on January 17, 2011, and the club opened two weeks later. That’s 3.5 years ago. Living and working in Allendale since then was such an amazing experience. And surprising.
As we transitioned to Allendale in that season, we were told by some of our initial friends in the community that Allendale residents were wary of outsiders. And for good reasons. Over the decades, many folks have come to the county with big promises. Most departed with full pockets and/or satisfied souls, but left a wake of chaos and brokenness.
So we came in with more caution than expectancy, and more humility than authority. We came to serve and to learn. And hopefully (we reasoned), we would earn their trust over time.
Nothing has surprised us more than this reason that Allendale has been such a wonderful place to live:
“The community of Allendale welcomes you with love and acceptance.”
For almost a year, we have been communicating that we would be leaving Allendale. Many people have asked us, “Is anyone going to come and take your place?” The short answer is, “No.”
We have been praying for someone to move to Allendale, particularly someone from Grace Church. One of the biggest ways that we got to support Grace Church’s work in Allendale is by being “feet on the ground.” The biggest impact we had here isn’t what we’ve done ourselves, but how we were able to connect and support others.
While we would have loved someone to have moved here this summer (and we did talk with a few individuals), I think it could be a good thing that no one else is coming here immediately. Some of the benefits of not having someone move here as we transition are:
It was the end of the last day of the final week of STEAM Camp. My daughter was sitting on the stage, and she told me, “It’s kinda’ sad that some of these kids we might not see again.”
I told her that she was right, and that I try to not think about it. I gave a half-hearted smile and big hug, and walked away with those thoughts.