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


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


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


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.







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.

The importance of clothing ourselves with love


The importance of clothing ourselves with love

Oct. 3, 2019

Here’s a confession: last night I discovered how weary I’ve been.

Ministry is hard (amen?!). It comes with its unique set of challenges and difficulties. Even though it’s beautiful work, it can also be draining. There are seasons when it seems overwhelming and apparently I was in that place. I chalked it up to being tired and sinus/allergy issues, as well as just getting over a cold. But then, in the unexpected refreshment of my soul, I realized how weary I had become.

This unexpected renewal came through having an opportunity to hear one of our former summer mission staffers preach at her college. I had heard Rachel preach before, she’s worked here for three summers, has preached multiple times, and has become a dear friend of mine. I knew I was in for a treat, but her message seeped deep within me and reminded me just how much of a ripple effect this ministry at Hinton Center has. I was replenished for the journey.

I asked Rachel Ahrens to share her message as our guest blog this week and was thrilled when she agreed. (You, too, are in for a treat!)


Psalm 133

How wonderful and pleasant it is

when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil

that was poured over Aaron’s head,

that ran down his beard

and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon

that falls on the mountains of Zion.

And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,

even life everlasting.


Colossians 3:12-17

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Harmony. Webster’s gives it many different definitions: the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord, the structure of music with respect to the composition and progression of chords, the science of the structure, relation, and progression of chords, pleasing arrangement of parts: CONGRUENCE, AGREEMENT, ACCORD, internal calm: TRANQUILITY, an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative, a systematic arrangement of parallel literary passages (as of the Gospels) for the purpose of showing agreement or harmony.

Read these synonyms: balance, coherence, consonance, orchestration, proportion, symmetry, symphony, unity.

Both scriptures we read use the word harmony. “How wonderful and pleasant when brothers live together in harmony!” and “above all, clothe yourself in love, which binds us together in perfect harmony.”

What would that look like in today’s world? We could even break it down into a smaller example and ask, are you living in harmony with your roommate, coworker, or neighbor?

What if I told you that we are called to walk alongside all those we meet? Yes, even the one you just thought “I hope someone else walks alongside them, so I don’t have to.” Life is funny, it strategically places you in some of the places that stretch you above and beyond your comfort zone.

I had a homeowner I worked with my first summer I worked at Hinton Rural Life Center. He was a little rough around the edges, and I will be honest, at first, I was not thrilled I was placed at his home. I was a little anxious, even a little afraid. But I did my job, I introduced myself, and the team working with me, and we began to work. Over the span of weeks I was at his home, I really got to know this neighbor. He was caring, with a gentle spirit, and wanted to help do the work and be involved. I grew to really love my friend, someone I did not expect myself to enjoy working with at first. So much so that I was devastated when he unexpectedly passed away.

This person that I had incorrectly judged all those weeks ago as “rough around the edges” and someone I was unsure I wanted to associate with became someone I learned so much from and someone who made each day brighter. I was stretched in a way that summer that taught me what it means to love unconditionally, and what it means to intentionally value someone in your life. Life is precious, you may not always have that person next to you. Intentionally cherish the time you have with them now.

The past three summers I had the privilege of working at Hinton Center as a Summer Missions Leader, Field Manager, and Missions Activities Coordinator. Hinton is where I met my dear friend I mentioned earlier. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in a beautiful way. Hinton takes on this approach that we do not work for people in the community, but instead we are intentional in working with them; we walk alongside them. This concept transformed my understanding of what it means to be called to love one another as we are to be loved. I no longer saw by the societal labels put on by others like rich or poor, black or white, male or female, even too young or too old, but instead I saw them for who they were, a human being just like each of us. Someone worthy of love, someone who deserved to be valued and needed to have those feeling expressed to them.

Friends, we are the church, we are the body of Christ. We are called to walk alongside those we meet, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or how they act. We are called to love. Find people you feel called to walk alongside, and don’t be surprised by who it is. We find ourselves imagining walking alongside people who walk the same speed and same direction, but what about others? Isn’t it just as valuable?

People can come from all different walks of life, have pasts and backgrounds that vary from here to the North Pole, but loving God and loving neighbor bares the weight of it all.

We walk with different people in different stages of life – theirs and ours.

Who says the church has to reside within the four walls of a building. What about all those who cannot go to church, maybe those who have been burned by the church? Haven’t we been called to walk alongside them as well? There’s this great thing that happens when we meet people where they are at, when we are empathetic towards what is going on and treat them as humans, loving and caring for them as we would want someone to do for us. They begin to feel understood; they begin to feel like they matter. And guess what? They do! There has never been a point where they did not matter. What happened was that we, as a society, belittled and “othered” them, to the point they felt shame for actions, shame for where they were in life compared to their neighbor.

Our human nature tends to view people as other or different. But what if we begin to change that? Why if, instead of feeding into the system, we push against the system? You may have heard the starfish story many times, but I’ll share the gist of it again: There was a man walking along a beach full of starfish and he saw another man walking along the beach, stopping every few feet to throw a beached starfish back into the ocean. When the one man asked the other, he said “why do you do that, you cannot save all the starfish.” The other man responded, “it mattered to that one.”

We may not be able to break this cycle as one person, or even as a generation, but we can make a difference to the lives we encounter, the people we meet and intentionally walk alongside. Can you imagine how different the world we live in would be if we took the time to be intentional with those around us and did what we could to show others that same love we desire ourselves?

It goes back to the scripture: Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

Rachel Ahrens is in her senior year at Young Harris College, majoring in Outdoor Leadership with a minor in Appalachian Studies. She’s from McDonough, Georgia and she began working at Hinton Center as a Service Ministry Leader during the summer of 2017, returning to Hinton both summers since. Fun facts about Rachel: Her natural bedtime is 8:00 pm and she has an aversion to cotton balls.

Hinton makes a difference by walking alongside our neighbors


Hinton makes a difference by walking alongside our neighbors

Sept. 27, 2019

Imagine for a moment all the different images or emoji depictions for the phrase “mind blown.” That’s what rolling around in my head right now.

I recently attended a retreat for a two-year cohort I’m in that centers on bridging divides in a community or, really, any sort of conglomerate of people. We had a speaker who shared his take on John 11, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what he said, and taking it even further in my own mind about the scripture.

My thoughts on this scripture passage have always been focused on the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, and of how Jesus was so moved by his death. (That and the verse declaring that he smells – stinketh… Can’t help it, I’m human and that always catches me. #everysingletime)

If you want to refresh your memory, read the entirety of John 11:1-44. Here’s a snippet of the passage:

Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.” Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” (vv 38-44)

What stands out most to you in these verses?

The speaker shed new light on this passage for me and I’ve been discussing it with others and mulling over it ever since. Consider this:

What if we think about this passage in terms of a negative experience or trauma or even a life situation, such as living in poverty? What if the cave you find yourself in is one of a past hurt or situation? If you read the previous blog, it’s the thing that causes a crack in you.

Do you notice how Jesus doesn’t go IN the cave to get Lazarus; he simply calls for him to come out. Friends, I believe that Jesus is with us in our deepest hurt and struggles, but I also believe he calls us to life beyond those things. He calls us out of the dark times.

In the scripture, Lazarus – the dead man! – comes out of the cave. I think that when we’ve experienced something that causes us pain, that wounds us, that makes us grieve or suffer, we have to be an active participant in our healing and wholeness. We too have to come out of the cave. Keep in mind, Lazarus was still bound and his face was covered. He wasn’t strutting out of the cave easily… it took effort and persistence. It was hard. Oftentimes when we come out of our “cave” (whatever that is), it takes effort and persistence. It is hard.

Did you notice what happens next? Scripture tells us that Lazarus comes out with his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them (the crowd gathered there), “Untie him and let him go.” This wasn’t just Jesus and Lazarus, there were other people present and engaged in the dead man coming to life. I think that even though we need to be active in our healing, we can’t do it alone. It takes a community, or at least a few trusted people, to help us. It might be trusted friends, others who have been there, going to therapy, our church family, to name a few. The point is we can’t go it alone.

Going a step beyond, if we look at it in the context of living in poverty, consider all the conversations around people helping themselves and the fear of enabling (and whose role is it to help anyway)? What if we frame that discussion through this scripture? Someone who is experiencing poverty, specifically generational poverty, needs to have active participation in taking steps to improve their situation. This helps with the dignity piece and empowers individuals. It’s an individual who has agency. Yet, it’s very difficult to do it alone. That’s where the community comes into play. An important piece of this is the bridging social capital, which is others who walk alongside someone. Just like those present had to untie Lazarus, we need to walk alongside someone – and that will look different for each person or situation.

This is one of the ways we believe we are making a difference in our community here at Hinton Center. Through our missions outreach, we don’t just want to make repairs here and there, but we want to walk alongside our neighbors, in a way that is dignified. We want to build relationships with others and see transformation in our community, but it takes effort – both for our neighbors and for us, and we need people to come alongside us in this work.