Each year, students at Severna Park United Methodist Church (SPUMC) travel to central Appalachia for a week-long service project, building and repairing homes for communities that have fallen on hard times. For the second consecutive year, the Appalachian Service Project (ASP) trip was canceled due to COVID-19, so the staff had to get creative again. During the last week in June, the ASP team planned a work week in the community to engage students in ministry work closer to home.
“The church goes to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and places like that all over the country doing stuff, but it's hard finding things locally,” said the Rev. Lee Ferrell, minister of Christian education and youth.
Most of the students’ energy went into facilitating a food drive for SPAN. Ferrell wanted the students to address the issues of hunger insecurity in the surrounding community.
“It didn't require a lot of people power, like putting a roof on the house, but the point is that they were addressing a need and that was what we were out to do,” said Ferrell.
Working at home allowed the church community to get involved as well, and many members of the congregation donated to the SPAN drive for the ASP students.
The students also started a relationship with Langton Green Community Farm in Millersville. They were set to build a fence to keep deer and critters away from the produce, but the project was rained out.
“We started a relationship with this group, and we will continue that,” said Ferrell. “Anytime they need something like that, we will find a crew to go over and do whatever they need done.”
The students also painted three classrooms in the church. Nick Wright, a rising senior at Severna Park High School, was among the 30-some students who participated.
“Although we were not able to go on ASP this year, I believe it is still important to help out your local community whenever there is an opportunity,” said Wright. “I felt that the work we were doing for SPAN and around the church was extremely beneficial.”
Ferrell said the students’ work ethic is unmatched, whether they are traveling or staying home. This summer in particular, their dedication was inspirational.
“They love their church,” said Ferrell. “They really would do anything that we asked them because they love this place and they like working.”
She hopes that the students learn that although traveling and building homes for those in need may sound like it has a greater impact, there are always things that the students can do in their own communities to put their faith in action.
“We go to Appalachia every year so that the kids can put their faith into action,” explained Ferrell. “It's a big, glorious project, but if there is something locally that people still need, we also want them to see that service.”
The year 2020 would have been SPUMC’s 40th participating in ASP. Church leaders are hoping to have a big celebration next summer if they are able to travel, but for now they are content with celebrating the work that they have done right here in their community.