The People, Places, Events, History, Businesses, and Music of Upstate SC

INSPIRE | COME SIT FOR A SPELL

\"Come and Sit For a Spell\"

The art of neighboring is one that requires a little time, an openness to connect, and a desire to help others experience what we all long for deep inside…belonging. A front porch is a great place to invest, not just in the value of your home, but more importantly, in the value of the lives of those around us.

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\"IMAGINE

Two years ago at this time, in 2015, my youngest son and I had just returned from our first mission trip to Haiti.  We have been on numerous mission trips before, both domestic and international, but this was our first time serving on the island that holds the distinction of being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  We anticipated it being unlike anywhere else we had ever been, and those anticipations were met with stark reality.  The devastation from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck five years before we set foot on Haitian soil was still overwhelming.  To look out the window of our van as we traveled the ravaged roads between Port Au Prince and Jacmel, you would have thought the natural disaster had happened days ago, not years.  And if you were unaware of the earthquake, you would have thought you were driving through war-torn streets in the Middle East. It was a multi-sensory overload to try and process just how much the catastrophe has impacted the way of life for this nation that dwells on the same land mass in the Caribbean as the Dominican Republic.  I was so glad to get to make that trip with my son, not so much for what we would get to bring to the country as two among countless thousands of others who have been a part of relief efforts over the years, but for how we would permanently be re-shaped for having been there ourselves.

“Wait a minute.  I thought this was a magazine about Upstate, SC!” you might be thinking. “What’s the connection?”  Well, the connection lies within my son Noah and I, and how our time in Haiti taught us a valuable lesson that we brought back to the Upstate with us.  In fact, it inspired our family to make an investment that we had been talking about for a while but had not yet put into action.  An investment in people.

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One of the things Noah and I and our team experienced each day when our work at the orphanage was complete was a gathering on the large front porch of the walled compound.  Sort of like Cracker Barrel, this large space was filled with rocking chairs, but rather than all of them facing outward, they were set to face inward, toward one another in a large circle.  Every single evening, our team mingled there with other teams who were serving at the same orphanage.  It felt very counter-intuitive to our warp-speed mentalities to sit and be still, like Psalm 46:10 tells us to do.  It seemed un-American to be doing “nothing” for extended periods of time.  But, in reality, as time went on, we realized we were doing so much more than nothing.

You know what we did on that front porch?  We talked, and we shared stories about our lives with one another.  We built relationships that went way beyond the surface.  We prayed together and laughed together and cried together.  We read our Bibles together and some people journaled.  We sat and rocked as the sun went down holding orphans in our laps before it was time for them to head off to bed.  We drank coffee (some really good coffee, too!!) and learned to sit as comfortably in silence as we did in conversation.  That front porch became the family room, a sacred space where everyone was welcome and basked in a state of belonging.  Beyond the compound walls, the brokenness of a nation was visible in every direction.  But there on that front porch, there was wholeness and unity as people from different points and backgrounds around the globe celebrated the common bonds of our love for our fellow man and for our Creator.

You know what we did on that front porch?  We talked, and we shared stories about our lives with one another.  We built relationships that went way beyond the surface.  We prayed together and laughed together and cried together.

It was difficult to pull ourselves away from the porch on our last night in country, not because the chairs were so comfy, but because we were not eager to step away from the holy ground that space had been for us all.  Re-shaped and re-focused from all we experienced that week, Noah and I boarded the plane home from Port Au Prince inspired to bring back and share some of the biggest lessons we had learned while in Haiti.  Some of it began right away by sharing stories and encouraging others to get involved with the organization we had served with in Haiti, the Hands and Feet Project.  And then last Spring we began to share a really big take-away from our time there. Our family decided to build a large front porch on our house!! My wife and Noah drew up the plans, and then all four of us, including our oldest son, Peyton, worked day and night (sorry next-door neighbors for the late evening sounds of saws and hammers!) to construct the covered structure ourselves.  We also were very grateful for those from our extended family, church and neighborhood who pitched in!! It was a labor of love from the first board to the final nail. The only thing we contracted out was the shingling of the roof.  We loved it when neighbors would pause on their daily walks around the circle on which we live, to chat and see the progress on the porch.  What we’ve loved even more is when neighbors pause now to come and join us on the completed porch to sit and catch up on life.

\"COME

We’ve noticed that not many houses have functional front porches in our area anymore.  There are screen porches on the backs of houses, patios, decks, barbecues and swimming pools in the backyard, but the front of a house has become more of an aesthetic piece for curb appeal rather than a place designated for any practical relating to take place.  We realized we would have to be intentional about moving from the sequestered nature of backyard living to the open invitation of front yard living.  And drawing from our experience in Haiti, we agreed a front porch was a great way to demonstrate that desire and intention.


Our front porch is now a peaceful, tranquil spot to rock in the mornings and listen to the birds sing, with a cup of coffee in hand.  It’s a great place for people to eat a meal around the table.  It is a place for neighbors to come and talk as they stroll their babies or walk their dogs throughout the day and evening. It is a quiet spot for parents to rest, read and interact as their children take piano lessons inside the house after school in the afternoon. It is a place for husbands and wives to sit in the rockers and reflect on life together as the solar lights turn on at night in the flower bed. It is a place for small groups from church to gather for meals and fellowship. And it’s a place to enjoy personal solitude as well.  It thrills our hearts to know our house now joins in with the compound in Haiti, as well as others whose front porches are dedicated to the vision of intentionally bringing people together.

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The art of neighboring is one that requires a little time, an openness to connect, and a desire to help others experience what we all long for deep inside…belonging. A front porch is a great place to invest, not just in the value of your home, but more importantly, in the value of the lives of those around us.

Next time you’re in the Central area, let me know! You’ll have to come sit awhile with us!!

Lee Millspaugh, INSPIRE

After getting my degree from Southern Wesleyan University, I eventually became a pastor at The Mount Church in Clemson where I’ve had the privilege of serving for the past 19 years, doing what I believe I was created to do.

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