Teen Reflections 2022
My name is Kate Swiatkowski and with this being my second year on ASP, I came back for many reasons. It’s an indescribable “asp feeling” you just had to be on the trip to know. You fall in love with the atmosphere and environment around you. From seeing smiles on everyone’s face and hearing laughter every minute, to having peaceful moments to take in the beautiful view of mountains everywhere you look. And really, it’s the people you meet and bonds you create that make it all worthwhile.
From the moment on the retreat where we found out our teams, I knew my group would make this trip a special one. We were all like, “There’s no way this is our group. It’s too good. It has to be another one of Howard’s pranks.” But it wasn’t. We all bonded right away and started cracking jokes instantly. I was surprised on how comfortable we all were with each other so fast. They made the long ride seem short. We all talked like we’ve known each other our whole lives.
This years theme is Rooted in Love. Our homeowner, Wilma, is the perfect example. She truly is one of a kind. Wilma shared many stories, life lessons, and
showed us the importance of love. I first met her Sunday night on the home visit and from the start she was extremely welcoming. Throughout the work week she would always offer us sparkling water, coffee, and said to let her know if we ever needed anything. She said her home is our home. Knowing the hardships Wilma has faced throughout her life, she was always so positive. We would ask her how she is and each day she would say, “I’m alive so it’s a great day.”
The hardest thing about ASP isn’t the work, it’s coming back home. Yes, you miss your family and friends, but you will also miss the second family you grew so attached to in the matter of one week. In ASP, you create a special bond with everyone you talk to that may be difficult for others to understand. You just have to be here. By the end of the week we all became stronger, more appreciative and understanding individuals. Thank you, ASP, for another memorable year.
Having done four trips now, it seems like in exchange for having an idea of what may happen during the trip in terms of an activity on the way down or events in the work week, I feel more lost than ever when it comes to describing my experience in words. Every year has offered a multitude of gifts from self-development to relationships and a raw world view. With each year being so unique and impactful, it has become harder to truly describe what St. Marcelline ASP means to me. It sounds cliché, but the trip is incredible. The people, the service, the families— everything fits in a way that you cannot grasp unless you experience it yourself. It is hard to explain what it not only means to those we serve but also to us. Such a spectacular experience just has to be seen for oneself. Because of this, I will forever be grateful for this ministry and the people who make it special.
This year we were so fortunate to have an incredible homeowner named Ms. Dee. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met and that in itself is an understatement. Why we go on this trip is a question you could be asked but the better question is, why wouldn't you go? People like Ms. Dee and her family are the reason we go to serve, not only with our hands to build or repair but our hearts to love and to be kind. That is the bottom line of ASP. No matter how unique each experience is or how incredible the trips make you feel, we go to serve and in return receive tremendous amounts more than the work we put in.
This was my first year doing ASP and while most of the trip was really fun and exciting, parts of it were a little nerve wracking. I don’t live in the Schaumburg area so for me, I was joining a group of 50 complete strangers. However, I'm happy to say that I see these people as a group of 50 new friends. It was really during the actual trip though when I realized how close I had gotten to all these people and that in a span of 10 days I had formed a strong enough connection with everyone, that I was actively missing them when I got home after the trip. But definitely some of my favorite parts of the trip were with my teammates. I was lucky enough to get put with a team with 6 other amazing people who made my first year an experience I'll never forget. Whether we were referencing the same scene in Ratatouille probably 50 times, or running around the dollar general parking lot with Maggie marking up all the other vans with our teal marker, it felt like I was laughing non-stop.
Besides all those fun moments, I think another reason I enjoyed the trip so much was that I never felt like I was being judged, even at times where the group was emotionally vulnerable, I never felt like my feelings were invalidated or mocked, and that allowed me to be present on the trip, and not stuck in my head wondering whether or not people were judging me. So, to anybody here who is debating doing ASP next year I strongly encourage you to give it a try because I guarantee you will like it a lot more than you think you will.
Around this time every year, I try and recruit my friends to join ASP. I tell them about the program, and it’s benefits, but I guess maybe I’m just not as convincing as Howard, because they never seem to want to join. As hard as I try, I can never put into words the essence of why this ministry is so impactful on me. After all, it’s not easy to explain to someone how getting showered in bird pellets on a 90 degree day on the worksite translates to a positive experience, but every year I find myself deeply affected and eager to return. I end up reflecting more in these 10 short days on the trip, than I do the rest of the year; not only on myself as an individual, but on my life as a whole, and the blessings I enjoy on a day to day basis. This experience never fails to put into perspective how lucky I am to be in this situation, and it never ceases to inspire
me to continue to serve, and pay forward the blessings I’ve received. Although I am excited for new adventures in the future, I will not soon forget this group, and the effect you have all had on me as a person.
I joined ASP after hearing from my friend Allison about this cool mission trip through her church. I couldn’t go to the first two meetings so it meant I would be joining late. I had a lot of anxiety, worrying about how I would fit into a close group of people, only knowing one person. As I went to more meetings I started to feel comfortable with new people but a small part of me still worried about how they thought of me, but not until this trip did I learn about having real confidence, of truly not caring what others think of you and never letting anyone keep you from completely being yourself. Our homeowner, Mrs. Dee, and her 13 year old granddaughter genuinely represented what it meant to be confident. Our project consisted of finishing up repairs in Mrs. Dee's bathroom which meant we spent a lot of time in her house. On her bathroom mirror, Mrs. Dee and her granddaughter would write positive encouraging
messages as a reminder to themselves of how to live each day to the fullest. The largest message, written across the top of the mirror, will always remain with me. It read “I am independent, strong, and beautiful, confident, and worth the world." I think that’s just a remind for everyone to continuing preserving through whatever life throws at them, to always know who you are and to never let anyone else tell you otherwise. I will definitely be applying this to my own life going forward because it’s something I didn’t think I could have before the trip and I am forever a better person for having the opportunity to meet such a warm-hearted and caring yet amazingly courageous person.
As most of you know, I am the guy from Indiana. Now you must be wondering why this guy would drive two hours for this missionary group when he could easily just find one closer to him. In the beginning, I did it to see what exactly my uncle was consistently raving about and to do some construction. So after all the meetings, I was really hoping that what we were doing was truly missionary work with a side of construction, and I fell in love with it.
On Saturday, I don't exactly remember how, but I heard the question, 'What does ASP mean to you?' I couldn't think of an answer right away, so I decided to journal on it. Saying that in the beginning, all it meant to me was a chance to do construction in Appalachia. But now, being done with the trip, my mindset has changed. Now ASP is all about building comradery with
people I would never have thought of being such close friends with, helping people live in safer homes, and understanding those who live in Appalachia. And that changed me forever.