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Hope Full Circle - Reuniting in Maytown
June 13th, 2024  |  by

Since its founding in 2006, thousands of volunteers have served in our Appalachia field. Some came only once, some returned many times, and some went on to become interns, trip leaders, or staff members. Hundreds of community members have been impacted by these groups, and the volunteers have been impacted in return. 

Last summer, God brought a group of individuals together who made significant impacts on each other while serving in Maytown back in 2007. Now leaders themselves, they had no idea they had all served together as kids on the same mission trip until memories were shared while serving. 

“We were all here that summer,” explains Joe Slone. “It’s just friendships that we were able to create. And now 15 years later, we’re all back here together. And it’s weird how God works. Just put us all in the same place.” Joe grew up in Maytown, and he has a unique perspective on the work CrossRoads and the Maytown Center has been doing in the community.

 

Growing up in Maytown

Joe elaborated on the role of volunteers in his childhood, “It takes a village to raise a kid the right way. It’s not just the two parents who raise you up. And the Maytown Center was able to provide that village. CJ would bring people with CrossRoads and that gave me more good role models.” 

One aspect of the ministry in Appalachia is kids programming, especially in the summer. Our staff plans a variety of activities that the volunteers help run during their mission trip. There are also construction projects during the day, and some local kids serve alongside the volunteers. “I was there every day I could be,” reminisced Joe. “I would be on Dan’s hip or Jimmy’s hip, getting into whatever they were into. It didn’t matter if it was digging a ditch, I’d be sitting there with a shovel.”

As an adult, Joe moved to Lexington and hadn’t been involved with CrossRoads much until 2023. “I would have never imagined I’d be back here and working with you guys,” continued Joe. “And I would have never imagined working with the kids’ groups. It’s just wild. It’s like God puts you in a place that he knows that you need even when you don’t know you need it.” 

CJ and Jon – left from Jon’s middle school trip, right from a trip Jon led
Volunteer to Youth Minister

“This was such a pillar for our youth group,” explained Jon, who came to Appalachia as a student in 2007 and has returned many times as a participant and now as a Youth Minister. “I always have fond memories of this trip. And then being a youth leader now and bringing students, I was not really sure how to handle it, but it was still just as impactful, if not more impactful.”

Jon went on to explain how he enjoys getting to see his students become more comfortable on the mission trip and get excited about returning, “every time you come, as soon as you get here on Sunday evening, the guards are down, and then you kind of have your guard down for an entire week. It’s an amazing place that makes your heart smile.”

On a previous trip Jon’s youth group worked on the home of Mrs Mary, a Maytown resident. While working on her ramp, the students got to know Mrs Mary and were so impacted by her kindness that they were still talking about the project over a year later. Jon concluded, “I think she helped those students out more than we helped her. You do things for other people and you end up being impacted more than the people you are helping.”

Jill participating in youth games in Maytown
Volunteer to Intern

Jill was part of the same youth group as Jon, coming on the same mission trips to Appalachia during high school and college. The experience had such an impact on her, she became a summer intern. “It was the best summer of my life,” praised Jill. “Because of the friendships I made, because of the things that God showed me about myself, about the people here, the connections I made with people here.”

A summer internship can teach you so much about a place, but also about yourself. Like how Jon saw the kids being impacted by the locals, Jill experienced spiritual growth on a grand scale. “You come on this trip for the summer, for a week, a couple weeks, whatever it may be. Whatever is going on in your life, God  boosts that. Like it’s like a fast track of answering questions or giving peace. There’s something about this place and the way that God moves here, it feels different. To realize that God working here is the same God back home in Michigan is amazing. It makes you think about what you can take and do back home.”

Jill continues to lead trips to Maytown and is constantly reminded of the impact her internship had on her life. “I think that’s why I keep coming back, because I know I have to go home and live a normal life. But by coming here, it makes me more equipped. It puts me in a better heart space. It reminds me of God’s goodness and his faithfulness.”

Staff picture in front of the Maytown Center sign when Jacob was a kid
“CrossRoads Kid”

Jacob would spend a few weeks each summer serving alongside his dad, who was the Project Manager for the Appalachia field from 2007-2012. “I think I’m really lucky that my dad was a project manager here when I was in middle school and high school. It’s a perfect time, through those formative years to have been in Appalachia. This place shapes me immensely, probably more than any other place or thing or person did.”

Like Joe, Jacob got to meet many new people every week and build relationships with leaders and students alike. Jacob goes on to explain how these relationships impacted him, “the groups that came in, interns that I got the opportunity to hang out with. Really cool people who were doing some cool things. I got a lot of cool influences at a pretty young age. I don’t know if I could ask for a better time frame of my life to be introduced to that lifestyle.” 

“It’s impossible for me to leave here without learning more about myself,” continued Jacob. “I’ve had some moments where I really struggled through some things, and I’ve learned a lot, especially from the summer interns. I think I’ve learned more about God and what it looks like to love people here than anywhere else. That shapes what I do today.”

 

15 years later…

While each of these individuals has different experiences and learned unique lessons from their time in Maytown, they can all agree that Appalachia is a special place where God can work in your heart if you let yourself open up to Him. That impact has continued throughout their lives and brought this group full circle – serving together again and sharing 15 years worth of stories about God’s impact through Appalachia.

“It blows my mind to think about how we’re all connected and how God has brought us back here,” commented Jill. “And these stories along the way that we’ve shared. All of us were able to grow back then, grow separately, and now grow back together again.”

“I think that’s what is special about Maytown, it brings everybody together and then God is able to just express his love to everybody,” continued Joe. “It seems like this place just works differently when it comes to God, and I will never be able to describe it. It’s like, God works when you’re here and you’re able to let your guard down, it’s almost like that’s who He created you to be.”

Jon built onto the uniqueness of Appalachia, “There’s certain places where there’s something more. And Maytown is definitely one of those places. Everyone you encounter here doesn’t think about the external stuff. They’re always in the present and focused on who you are spiritually.” 

“It’s impossible to leave this place without learning more about who you are and what God’s doing in your life right now,” added Jacob. “And that just brings you forward right to the next thing. It makes you hopeful for what the next season of life is going to bring. Whatever that might be.”

 

Continuing the story

CJ concluded the discussion by sending a question out to everyone who will read this article or watch the video of their discussion, “Are you supposed to join us in this circle and add your story to the mix, to impact the next generation of kids? So then in another 15 years, there’s another table of people sitting in a circle telling their story of how Appalachia impacted their lives.”

Will you be part of the story?

 

Here are a few ways you can make in impact in Appalachia

DONATE to fund our construction projects and kids programs

-SHARE your impact story with us directly, or on social media

VOLUNTEER your time through a mission trip

INTERN with CrossRoads to make a bigger impact on the field, and on your own life

-ASK our staff if there are any special needs or prayer requests

LEARN about our programs and upcoming opportunities

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