Ahrens ready to tackle Appalachian Trail

15Nov

Ahrens ready to tackle Appalachian Trail

From Hinton Center to the Appalachian Trail? This week’s guest blog comes from former summer staffer Rachel Ahrens. What an adventure she’s about to embark upon – and we are so excited for her! My heart is happy to read more about her journey…

Hiya friends! Where do I even begin? Maybe with a short introduction, I suppose. My name is Rachel Ahrens, but some call me Dragonfly. I am a senior Outdoor Leadership major with a minor in Appalachian Studies at Young Harris College, located just about 15 minutes away from the Hinton Center. I was a Summer Staffer at Hinton for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 summers. I served as a Summer Missions Leader in 2017, a Field Manager in 2018, and the Missions Activities Coordinator in 2019, and for the summer of 2020 I have to opportunity to serve as the Appalachian Trail Chaplain with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. It is this really amazing opportunity in which I get to hike the Appalachian Trail (Maine to Georgia) serving as a Chaplain walking alongside those I meet. That’s where the name Dragonfly comes in, it’s my trail name, but I’ll get to that more in a bit. In all honesty, I would not have this opportunity without my time at the Hinton Center shaping who I am today.

While I worked at Hinton there was this stirring inside me to walk alongside individuals. I saw what we did, how we worked, and fell in love with it. In all honestly, I fell in love with the people. Hinton holds a special place in my heart because no matter who you are, or where you come from, they love you, and they respect you. My summers spent working with our homeowners and teams instilled this sense of certainty towards loving on people and meeting them where they are at, a passion for community.

After my first summer at Hinton, I came upon this job, the Appalachian Trail Chaplain, and fell in love with it – I mean I was hooked, it was always on my mind. It took this concept of walking alongside people that I was so passionate about and paired it with another one of my loves—backpacking. When I returned for my second summer I met some of the most incredible people (I did that all three years, but my second summer sticks out the most.) These people were intentional with me and wanted to what it was that drove me. The conversation about the Appalachian Trail and the chaplaincy came up many times, and these were friends who did nothing but encourage and empower me. When I was down, they would share backpacking books with me, when I doubted my abilities and question if I had what it took, they took me on a hike and encouraged me, there were friends who I wouldn’t trade for the world, my fellow staffers. Working at Hinton provides this wonderful community of likeminded people who just want to love people and love God—it’s beautiful.

Now I’ll jump forward a little bit, the Chaplaincy. As the Appalachian Trail Chaplain, I will walk the 2,190+ miles from Mt. Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia commissioned as a chaplain, in which I will spend time with those on the trail in community with them, walking alongside them in whatever capacity that may look like. Many people hike the Appalachian Trail, and for many reasons too. Some hike during a time of transition, like after college, a job change, retirement; some hike after a loss, like divorce, death, job loss; some hike for healing or

clarity. The list could go on and on. The moral of the story is there are a lot of people out there, who come from a lot of different places of life, but they are all people who could use being loved on as people, not as the addict, or the widow, or the recent college grad who has no idea where to go next, just people. That is one of the things I love most about the community. You are surrounded by people who come from all walks of life, who all have different stories, but on the trail, they are on the same playing field.

One of the cool characteristics of the trail community is this idea of a trail name, a name you are given or go by on the trail, a new identity, like Dragonfly. Trail names are sometimes given to you by people influential to your journey (mine was given to me by a professor), some are given because of something that happened or a quality that other hikers notice about you on the trail, even still it can be a name you give yourself (less common) as someone you want to become. It’s wonderful and reminds me so much of the text in 2 Corinthians 5 and how we in Christ are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. The trail creates this new playing field, it wipes away the shame and stigma you may have faced before in your life, and you can take on a new self, you get to create who you are, and that is how you are known.

So whether you know me as Rachel or as Dragonfly, there is a common denominator, my identity as a beloved child of God. Over the years Hinton has instilled a heart for people and community, and understanding that people are people no matter where they have come from or what their past may have looked like and now I get to use that same calling as I walk (quite literally) into this new season of life, walking alongside individuals, loving on them and reminding them that whatever identity they create for themselves on the Appalachian Trail or whatever identity they walk in at home they are forever and always of worth and value and loved by God. Happy Trails!!

If you are a college-aged young adult (or know someone who is) and you want to learn more about Hinton Center’s summer staff opportunities, visit https://www.hintoncenter.org/about-us/employment-opportunities/. You never know where an experience in missions will lead you… “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

[Every summer Hinton Center hires college-aged young adults who are passionate about living out their Christian faith, building relationships with others, mentoring youth, leading teams on home repair sites, and facilitating programming / activities with youth and adults. We equip and train our staff, and provide a lot of leadership development opportunities. Although summer staff live on campus (and get to eat yummy food!), they have separate lodging from youth/adult groups. The great news is our staff don’t need to be skilled in home repairs, but flexibility, positivity and motivation are musts!]

Kilbride: A graduate heads to Greece

01Nov

Jessie Kilbride (pictured left), makes coin purses with Threads of Hope ministry, a non-profit organization whose goal is to bring freedom in women’s lives.

Kilbride: A graduate heads to Greece

November 1, 2019

“’Oh, the Places You’ll Go’” by Dr. Seuss is running through my mind as I continue to read these wonderful journey stories from former summer staffers. This week’s comes from Jessie, and if you were here at Hinton Center during her time with us, you’ll remember her bright smile, encouraging words and cheery outlook on life. She’s continued serving God in many ways since her time here and we’re excited to share a bit of her story.” — Dawn Livingston

Greetings from the North (or your favorite Illinoian)! It’s a long story how I ended up at Hinton, but one God had His hand in. I suppose I should introduce myself; I am Jessie Kilbride. I worked on the summer staff team in 2017 and for two weeks in 2018. That summer is by far my favorite yet. The friendships built, memories made, community formed, and the love we all shared cannot be topped. God was MOVING that summer — and He continues to do so even now.

Back peddling a bit — I recently graduated from Olivet Nazarene University. My senior year was not what I imagined but one for the books. It’s amazing how God works when you earnestly pray for something and that year it was for community, vulnerability, and healing. Yet God brought about it all in a very odd way — through five concussions. Never having one in my life prior, then having five forced me to slow down and focus on caring for myself.

God challenged me in more ways than I could imagine but in the best of ways. It was a year of personal healing, many memories, and building even deeper relationships. I graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (located an hour south of Chicago) this past May, majoring in public relations and strategic communications with a marketing minor. I decided to work with One Collective, a non-profit organization that believes in bringing people together to serve the oppressed. My paths crossed with them at a job fair, the summer following Hinton, and I knew I wanted to work for them in some capacity. Naturally, I decided to see if they were seeking a communication intern. They were not. However, after a couple of conversations, they decided to take me on. My world was rocked!

That summer I interned with One Collective: editing different stories, learning about the many communities, building their Instagram page from scratch with another intern, and filming the ministry of one community in Joliet, Illinois. I knew I wanted to work for them in some capacity but wasn’t sure in what capacity. After many conversations and God knocking at my heart, I decided to serve in Koukaki, Greece (a community within Athens) for two years as a short-term-team coordinator.

My focus will be three-fold: first, I will be coordinating incoming teams and connecting them with a local church. Second, I will be serving in different programs such as working with the homeless community. Third, I will be using my marketing skills to promote home goods made from women who were caught in trafficking or worked as a prostitute.

What breaks my heart are the hearts who don’t know Jesus. The ones who don’t know their worth; that they are loved and matter. I have never been one to sit back and watch as the world goes by, especially when we can so easily help others. Using the skills that God equipped me with, I want to capture their story and move people to care and want to make a difference too. And I firmly believe that together we can make an impact: one community, one life at a time.

Throughout my senior year, I had an idea of what I wanted to do and the direction I wanted my life to head in, but God had an idea. One slightly more challenging and way more rewarding. A chance to reach people I could never have imagined and inviting others to join me on this journey.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” – Isaiah 41:10

Jessie’s comment about those who don’t know their worth; that they are loved and matter reminds me so much of our theme for 2020 – “Treasured.” Friends, there are so many people we encounter every single day who don’t believe that they have worth and that they matter. Just as Jessie is using her gifts to make a difference, we each can use ours too. If you want more information about Jessie’s journey, feel free to email her at kilbrij@onecollective.org.

If you are a college-aged young adult (or know someone who is) and you want to learn more about Hinton Center’s summer staff opportunities, please contact Dawn at dawn@hintoncenter.org. You never know where an experience in missions will lead you… “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

[Every summer Hinton Center hires college-aged young adults who are passionate about living out their Christian faith, building relationships with others, mentoring youth, leading teams on home repair sites, and facilitating programming / activities with youth and adults. We equip and train our staff, and provide a lot of leadership development opportunities. Although summer staff live on campus (and get to eat yummy food!), they have separate lodging from youth/adult groups. The great news is our staff don’t need to be skilled in home repairs, but flexibility, positivity and motivation are musts!]

Moffat: A journey from Katrina to Hinton to the Peace Corps

25Oct

Moffat: A journey from Katrina to Hinton to the Peace Corps

October 25, 2019

“In the three summers I’ve been a part of Hinton Center summer missions, it’s been a joy to get to know our summer staffers. It’s always exciting to hear how God continues to call them into lives of service and we like to share that news! This week’s blog is from Jane, who I got to know well my first round of Hinton Center summer missions, and who has an amazing story of how she ended up at Hinton and where she is now.” — Dawn Livingston

Greetings from Namibia! My name is Jane Moffat and I worked on summer staff from 2015-2017. Hinton holds a very special place in my heart, and I have many fond memories of the three summers I spent on the hill and the people I was fortunate enough to work with.

Currently, I am finishing my final weeks as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the southern African country of Namibia. I serve in a rural village in the Zambezi Region and teach English, the national language, to a class of bright and energetic grade 7 learners. Since I am nearing the end of my 27-month stint, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the past two years and the choices that brought me here. At the center of those choices stands the Hinton Center.

To tell any story correctly, one must start at the beginning. The transition from Hinton to Peace Corps actually begins in 2005, ten years before I loaded my first tool box. At that time my family and I were living a fairly normal life in New Orleans. One day in August, everything changed and the cause of that change was Hurricane Katrina. My family and I spent six weeks evacuated from our home and totally dependent upon the kindness of family, friends, and complete strangers. We moved back to our house, which had miraculously survived the widespread flooding, on October 10, 2005. We were beyond lucky.

The odd thing about natural disasters is that in the wake of all the destruction, chaos, loss, sadness, and confusion the most incredible thing happens— you get to see the world at its very best. Tragedy and trauma in the wake of disaster have a way of uniting people and revealing the depth of human compassion and love. Help from all over the country, and some far-flung corners of the world, swooped in to remind New Orleans and the Gulf region that they were not alone. In our darkest hour, there was a light.

I was eleven at the time of the hurricane, but still remember it as if it was yesterday. Over the next few years our church hosted countless mission teams who came from all walks of life to assist with the rebuilding effort. My parents opened our home and hosted weekly dinners as a small way to say thank you. I cannot recall how many people stepped through our door, it has to be somewhere in the high hundreds, but there is no way to forget the impact their compassion has had on my life.

In August 2010, my family and I moved to Clay County, North Carolina. To say I experienced culture shock would be a great understatement. It was very hard to connect to my new surroundings—the people, school, and way of life were quite foreign to me and adapting and adjusting was challenging. So, I joyfully left for college two years later—ready for bigger and better things (from the perspective of an 18-year-old), completely unaware that those bigger and better things would one day bring me back.

By the end of my sophomore year I had selected Political Science as my major and the bulk of my classes were concerned with international aid, development, and disaster relief. In the spring of 2015 I was on the hunt for a summer job that included work in aid and development. Since moving to Clay County, I had become aware of the poverty in the area and the much-needed efforts to help those in need. I noticed there was a job opening for Service Ministry Leader, and thinking back to all the help and support my family and I had received years before, I decided it was time to return the favor, so I applied. (Actually, I had applied to be on summer staff back in 2013 and didn’t get it, so be persistent…)

There is a stark difference between reading about poverty and actually seeing it firsthand. My first couple weeks at Hinton were eye-opening. The thing about Hayesville, North Carolina is the same for most small towns—everyone knows everyone, so working with homeowners who knew the same people I did and went to the same places I did was sobering. Not 3 miles down the road from my house was a situation that needed help and could be helped.

After the initial shock wore off, I came to love working at Hinton. I was doing what had been done to me years earlier—showing I cared, recognizing the humanity of my neighbor, and giving a helping hand. Above all, I was connecting with people in a way that only comes from serving in the name of God. I never wanted to leave, so I stayed for two more summers, but all good things must come to an end.

During my post-grad job search I was looking for organizations that did grassroots based international aid with a focus on relationship building. One of the great draws of Hinton was that it works where it has been asked to come, and I was hoping to find a similar model on an international level. And just as God called me to Hinton, He called me to Peace Corps as well.

Peace Corps serves only in countries it has been asked to, and only with organizations that seek out partnership. Namibia invited Peace Corps to work with schools, clinics, and business in the country within one week of gaining independence in March of 1990, and to this day organizations must apply for a volunteer. Like Hinton, Peace Corps seeks to build relationships, not just offer a helping hand. I can teach about verbs, pronouns, poetry, and grammatical structures until the cows come home, but the most important work, in my mind, has been connecting with the people I came to serve. For me, those people are my learners. They are full of potential and intelligence, attitude and desire and they are, by far, the best part of Peace Corps and the best part of Namibia. At Hinton the homeowners and the volunteers on my team played the same role.

As it was during my first few weeks at Hinton, my time in Namibia has been a challenging endeavor. The level of poverty in my village is……actually I can’t really think of an adequate way to describe it. But I will say that the baseline of poverty hits at $68.44 a month ($1,000.00 Namibian dollars), unemployment hovers at 35%, and income inequality is one of the highest in the world. Traditional mud huts with thatch rooves sit just down the road from lodges and resorts that cost a couple hundred dollars a night. In the face of all of this, teaching English may seem misguided, but it is what I have been asked to do, and is therefore infinitely more rewarding.

So, long story short Hurricane Katrina brought me to Hinton, and Hinton brought me to Peace Corps. Over the years I have been on the receiving and the giving ends of aid and assistance in the face of adversity, and I have come to realize that the helping hand that does the most good, is the one that is empty, the one that takes another hand and says, “I am with you.” Hinton is that hand, and so is Peace Corps.

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40

Interested in serving as a Hinton summer staffer? Be a valuable part of our team! Every summer Hinton Center hires college-aged young adults who are passionate about living out their Christian faith, building relationships with others, mentoring youth, leading teams on home repair sites, and facilitating programming / activities with youth and adults. We equip and train our staff, and provide a lot of leadership development opportunities. Although summer staff live on campus (and get to eat yummy food!), they have separate lodging from youth/adult groups. The great news is our staff don’t need to be skilled in home repairs, but flexibility, positivity and motivation are musts!

We’ll soon begin the application process for summer 2020… If you’d like to be notified when applications are open, please contact Dawn at dawn@hintoncenter.og. If you know someone who would be a great fit, share the info with them!

 

Consider the baggage you’re carrying around

18Oct

Consider the baggage you’re carrying around

October 18, 2019

In the last post, we focused on the first part of scripture from Hebrews 12:1-2, 12-15a, and how there are times in our lives when we endure and persevere and how what we do and say matters. I posed the question: if you haven’t told someone what an impact they’ve made in your life, would you consider doing that? (And I really hope you did, but if not… guess what?! There’s still time to do that!)

To center ourselves, let’s read the scripture again.

So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. So strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees! Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame, it will be healed rather than injured more seriously. Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. – Hebrews 12:1-2, 12-15a CEB

In this analogy of running a race, we are also encouraged to throw off any extra baggage and fix our eyes upon Jesus. As I wrote before, I’m no runner… but even I can imagine how lugging around extra baggage would make running a race even more challenging. Let’s face it… carrying around any extra baggage in any situation can literally weigh us down.

I think we all carry around some kind of baggage. Some of it stems from our own life choices or situations. Some of it is because of the things that we’ve gone through, maybe without much choice of our own. Some of it has shaped our perspective, our beliefs, and the way we see life.

I also believe some of the baggage we carry can blurry our vision.

It can make offering peace, extending grace and living with holiness difficult to do, or at the least, a little challenging. Even the best intentioned folks have things that we carry around. We’re human and we are good at making judgments. We have ideas that we really hold firm. I’m not saying that they are wrong or ill placed.

Yet, as part of the body of Christ, I think we constantly need to check our hearts and see what’s taken root there. For those of us who are United Methodists, we might reflect on, how is it with your soul?

You see, as followers of a risen Jesus I don’t think we can deny that we ARE compelled to serve others. We ARE compelled to live with endurance, tenacity, perseverance, so that we can make a difference in our families… our neighborhoods and communities… and beyond.

You have the ability to make a difference… to be that champion, that cheerleader, who walks alongside a neighbor, cheering him or her on. Not because you are in a place to know better how to tackle a situation, but because you have the capacity to model a life of peace, to extend grace and to live with holiness. To do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. To paraphrase John Wesley, (sermon 92, On Zeal): in a follower of Christ, love sits upon the throne that is built in the innermost part of our soul… that is, love of God and love of neighbor, which fills the whole heart and reigns without a rival – fills the whole heart and endures or perseveres.

I encourage you to take a moment to consider what the baggage it is that you’re carrying around… what is it that is blurring your vision or keeps you from sitting at the feet of Jesus, keeping your eyes focused on him? Friends, please don’t just read this and move on, without any real thought to it. Maybe you can’t take the time to really dig deep within yourself right now, but perhaps you can find time later. Do you like to write? Journal? Draw? Talk it out? Walk and reflect? Do what you need to in order to consider what might be hindering you from making a difference. How is it with your soul?

We can all encourage others to persevere

15Oct

We can all encourage others to persevere

October 14, 2019

I have never run a race, and I more than likely NEVER will. Friends, I’m the type of person who determined that riding a bicycle and then walking on a treadmill wasn’t going to prevent me from eating the desserts I love, but rather provide me a way to continue eating said desserts. If I’m running, you better start running too, because it means something is coming after me…. I’m not someone who runs races.

Even though I don’t run races, I can still relate to this scripture from Hebrews 12, because I am someone who has endured and persevered. I have a stubborn streak and I like to say I get it honestly, from my grandma. I endure and persevere. Just let someone tell me I can’t do something and see what happens.

So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. So strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees! Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame, it will be healed rather than injured more seriously. Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. – Hebrews 12:1-2, 12-15a CEB

I’m also the type of person who loves words so I looked up the definition and synonyms of perseverance and endurance.

Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Synonyms:

persistence

tenacity

determination

resolve

purposefulness

Endurance is the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

I would imagine there have been times in your life when you really had to persevere or endure. Those times when you pushed yourself beyond what you thought was your limit. When you had the tenacity, strength, determination, and resolve to continue onward.

Whatever the moment, perhaps you recognized an inner strength of endurance. You learned something new about yourself or stretched yourself outside of a comfort zone, even just a little bit. Talk about perseverance and endurance.

The scripture we read from Hebrews talks about this concept of enduring to run the race in front of us since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. For those of us who aren’t race runners, I think we can all imagine a time when we have had to press on. To keep going… even when the odds were stacked against us.

When you recall that time, maybe you can think of others who helped out. Those times when your inner strength was “cheered on” by those around you. That extra dose of encouragement. That helping hand. Those times when someone came alongside you to help you see a task or a situation through. Who was that person or group of people? Have you ever told them what an impact they made? Are you able to tell them now?

I have been on both sides of this – the one receiving the encouragement to persevere and the one offering it to another. What a blessing it is to be able to share with someone who has helped me about the impact they made. There have been times I have only been able to utter a “thank you” at the time, but then later follow-up with how meaningful it truly was. There have been times when someone has shared with me about something that I did or said that made an impact on them, and usually it’s something that I would consider a small act of kindness… a small act that made a big difference. Knowing that reminds me to always look for opportunities to encourage someone else. Not because I want to get something in return, but because I know even a simple smile may brighten someone else’s day.

What we do and what we say matters. So if you haven’t told someone what an impact they’ve made in your life, would you consider doing that?

We can all make someone’s day a little brighter.

The scripture from Hebrews has so much we could discuss. It also mentions throwing off the extra baggage… and that’s a whole other topic to delve into, so stay tuned for that next week.

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