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.
Here we are. After months and months of questions, we finally know what we’ll be doing next.
Actually, we’ve known for a few weeks, but finally the timing is right for us to communicate.
Are you ready for this?
But before I say more, I want to just say “Thank you” again for all your support, prayers, and encouragements. We have had an amazing adventure over the past 3.5 years, and we could not have done this with the people that have gone ahead of us, walked alongside us, and spurred us on.
Even the times when it’s convenient and logical to
break bend a law, I still try to follow the rules of the road. You know, like when you’re stopped at a red light at 11 PM, and there are no cars around, and you’re just trying to get home, and surely no one will get hurt or even notice . . . . Well, it’s wonderful that Allendale has only five traffic signals.
And I get that our laws (whether we agree with them or not) are here to protect us. That’s great.
But sometimes it’s nice (as it is in Allendale) when:
Traffic laws are more like traffic suggestions.
No, I’m not recommending that you try to beat the trains at train crossings. (Yes, I’ve done that.) And I’m not recommending that you speed through town (and, yes, I’ve done that, too).
As we are coming to the end of our season in Allendale, it encourages us to hear that we will be missed in this community. Not a week goes by that we don’t hear, “We are going to miss you!” or “Are you sure that God wants you to leave?”
It’s nice to feel loved.
But this question (“What will be the impact of you leaving?”) also burdens us. Because when people ask that, they usually mean:
- Who is going to come in and continue your work?
- Did you finish what you wanted to accomplish?
- What’s going to happen with all the things you’ve started?
While we don’t think we’ve done anything too amazing by living in Allendale, we are glad that we’ve been able to do some positive things here. We have not come up with any novel ideas. We just saw needs and opportunities, and jumped in.