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:
“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.
It was last day of working at the Boys and Girls Club, a program that I helped re-launch at the beginning of 2011. Just weeks earlier, I made a decision to leave that job, even without knowing what I would do next. (PS — God did come through for me with these four jobs.) But I did know that my wife and I were committed to the well-being of children in Allendale County.
On this final Club day of the semester, the children led a special Christmas-themed program, in which we invited parents and organization leaders. The children did a fantastic job, of course.
Near the end of the evening, one of the organization leaders spoke to the audience. She thanked me for my work that year, and wished me the best. But what she said next infuriated me, and it was only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that I did not react immediately.
She said, “Mr. Joey is moving on to bigger and better things.”
I’m always recommending books and articles, based on what has helped me the most. If I had to go back 3.5 years and start over again (which is sort of what we’ll be doing next), I would be sure to start with these.
If you are thinking of moving to Allendale (you should), or doing something similar to what we’ve done, these resources may help you.
I will either link to the books on Amazon, or to a review I’ve done.
A Slave of Circumstance (James Brewton). Though specifically written about Allendale, it may help provide insight to other similar communities.
Teaching with Poverty in Mind (Eric Jensen). The number one book I recommend for teachers, and for anyone who works with children who are growing up in poverty. I’ve referenced this book over and over and over and . . . .
A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Ruby Payne). More well-known than Jensen’s book. Payne’s book is not as good, in my opinion, but it has given us exactly what the title promises, a basic framework.
Fatherless Generation (John Sowers). If you read this and are not motivated to get involved in the lives of children and youth, you’re either heartless or gutless. Period.