Are Appalachian Mission Trips Good?

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Chuck and Big John discuss Appalachian Mission Trips – something that organizations throughout the country engage in.

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Intro – Big Dog shirts are not part of the mission

Chuck: Were you, are you familiar with the big dog brand of clothing? Not to be confused with my dog. Whose name is big dog? 

Big John: No I 

Chuck: know that. Okay. So for people that don’t, it is it’s they brand themselves as athletic wear. I don’t really think that’s what it is. It’s basically a bunch of graphic tees, so to speak.

And it’s called big dog sports where the logo is a Saint Bernard, probably seen it. And lately some of their shirt designs are going around on Twitter, on the internet because they’re. Weird. And vaguely like Toby Keith S conservative assholey anyway, that was like, I don’t know why, but that was my favorite store growing up.

And I would always go, there was a big dog store on the way to the beach and I’d go and I’d get two shirts every time, because I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I don’t know why, but it just reminded me of the weird shit that I would wear to school growing up. These shirts said something like, and these are more tame ones.

If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. And then there was one that was 10 rules of being a big dog. Truthfully, I can’t even remember a single one of them, but I’m sitting here thinking, why did I feel the need to advertise that on my back at school? I don’t know. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences with shirts.

I know we’ve talked about 18 Husky pants, but we didn’t really talk about the The top half article of clothing that we’ve we wore when we were younger, 

Big John: mom used to buy those shirts from yard sales for 50 cents. And she used to think that they were the funniest thing. Like she would bring them home all like just to herself, like dying, laughing at these shirts and be like, you gotta see what you’re gonna, you’re gonna wear to school on Monday.

You’re 

Chuck: going to see what’s going to make all the kids think you’re the funniest. 

Big John: I can still remember. So a little bit about and sh I know my mom’s listening to this too, so she’s probably gonna call me and be mad cause she listens to every episode. But she has this weird thing about buying herself clothes that are too big, but also buy me clothes that are too big.

Like when I was a kid. So I was a big kid, obviously, but I wasn’t like a three X, big kid, at nine years old. But here I am like walking around Martin elementary, wearing a shirt that says triple XL on it. And I don’t think it actually meant the shirt size.

I’m getting that. Now, looking back as a 28 year old, I’m thinking, I now understand why teachers were like, is everything okay at home? Because my shirt’s probably said I can remember there was one shirt. It had the big dog logo. It said big dogs eat. And then on the back of said,

Chuck: said, you said just on the front of the 

Big John: big dogs eats or big dogs eat. And then it said big treats on the bus back.

Chuck: It’s so stupid to have that on the front, because simply we’re like, yeah they eat, of course they just like stating a fact like, 

Big John: yeah, and so like my shirts were like always big. I still have that issue. I still wear shirts that are too big for me, but yeah, like I used to have those shirts all the time.

And what was the other one that I had? That was a big dog. One. I can’t remember the exact one, but I can still picture it. And it being like something that was over my head at the time, but my brother liked to do this thing where he would let me wear some of his clothes, like back in the day.

Like I used to wear like GENCO jeans. Cause I thought it was cool, but they were way too big for, at the time he was like a foot taller than me. So they were all too big. 

Chuck: They’re also just. Biggest. 

Big John: But he used to like, to give me his shirts that were like inappropriate to wear. So like I’m walking around, like not realizing that the shirts are like really actually saying really terrible things or like sexual things or whatever.

And the whole time I’m like, I’m the cool kid. Cause everybody’s coming up and like talking to me and stuff. But in actuality they just thought my shirt was cool. 

Chuck: What is the back say? The big treats. 

Big John: I, okay. I remember it said

big dogs eat and it said big treats. 

Chuck: I don’t know what it’s so fun. It’s just what, why would you feel the need to like state that on a shirt? 

Big John: Oh, I remember the shirt now. I remember it. So the, not that shirt I’m not, I’m talking about the other shirt that I couldn’t think of. And it said it had the dog and it said big dog, big meat.

Yeah. Big meat. Oh 

Chuck: my God. I was looking up somewhere. Jesus Christ. I was looking up some while you’re talking. Really, I think what they represent is like old people humor. This one says I don’t need Google. My wife knows everything. 

Big John: Yeah. That’s a good one. 

Chuck: It’s an American classic.

And then there’s one of a dog with a pair of what looks to be Wayfair’s and it says I’m having a great day. Don’t screw it up. That’s pretty aggressive. One of my favorite wins is big dogs. Alternative fact, I’ve only had one beer. 

Big John: I like

okay. 

Chuck: And then first you don’t succeed then maybe you just suck big dogs. 

Big John: The big dog is always right. And I’m the big dog. 

Chuck: Yes. So I don’t know why I felt like this was the shirt for me. I maybe it was something where I was suppressing my, like an inferiority complex when I was young, which is entirely possible.

But I just, I was looking back at some of the stuff I wore and I was like, man, That’s stupid. So what was your brand of choice? 

Big John: Okay, so my brother wore a lot of echo, so I started wearing a lot of echo because I thought it was really cool. But I also had this brand that I think only games sold it.

And I think I’ve told this story, but it’s a brick city across the chest, which was hilarious because I had this superstition that if I wore it on basketball days, I wouldn’t make a shot. I would only throw at bricks. So my mom would give it to me on school days, like that had a basketball game and I would leave it in the car on purpose.

And it, it never helped. Like I still went like 20 for 40. I scored a lot of points, but I sucked. And I just wouldn’t touch it on game days after that any of their clothes wouldn’t touch it. I wore a lot of that. And in junior high, funny enough I could still remember Arab hostel was a huge 

Chuck: thing.

Jesus Christ. I was obsessed with getting those shirts because I, Lou 

Big John: loved being a billboard. I loved it because I like air pasta, American Eagle, Nike just do it, like all the things across my chest. Like I was like the man, at least the thought. And now looking back, I’m like, man, I overpaid for a $5 

Chuck: shirt.

There was an obsession with having like name brand stuff at, which was dumb because it was also expensive. I couldn’t afford it either, but I was obsessed with getting an American Eagle graphic tee and I was so proud of myself when I like it when I saved up enough money to get my first one. And it just feels so stupid because it was like the dumbest on the back, like a big dog shirt.

This one was an orange, one said American Eagle on the front. It said Bubba’s chicken and waffles on the back. Yeah, 

Big John: I remember that. And then they would have there was an American Eagle shirt that also had what is it? What’s that? Bubba Gump. They had a Bubba Gump shirt at one boy that, yeah, they had teamed up with him, Bubba gov on the bag.

And I thought it was the coolest thing. I don’t know why I didn’t get one because American Eagle, I didn’t get a lot of their shirts. Cause a lot of their shirts didn’t come in two X at the time. A lot of it like stopped at extra large and then Hollister would just blatantly tell you that they didn’t want big people wearing their clothes.

So like I never wore Hollister or Abercrombie

Chuck: Yeah, man 

Big John: Abercrombie. Yeah. Yeah, Eric Postel they were busting out shirts, but we couldn’t afford them. So my mom would do two things. Either one, she would wait until something showed up either at the salvation army or at yard sales, and then she’d buy them or air pasta.

Every year before school was, would do their $9 shirts. So it was allowed to go that day and buy a $9 shirts. That was it. That was what I got to go. It’s a big day. Yeah, but the shirts. Okay. The funny thing about it though, is the shirts are not good quality. They’re cheaply made they’re worth about $5 and you’re spending, anywhere from 20 to, some of them were outright, like 30 bucks.

Chuck: Abercrombie was like 30 or $35 just for fucking graphic tee. It was ridiculous. Speaking of Abercrombie, I remember. This is my second reference for my West Virginia history class of the night. So they had a shirt that raised some pretty big uproar in the state of West Virginia back in I was an eighth grade, so that would have been God, I’m like, Oh three, maybe.

Oh three ish. Yeah. Let’s say, Oh three. That sounds right. Because there was a Sheriff’s outline of West Virginia and it said it’s all relative in West Virginia. It’s an incest joke, John. And I remember my West Virginia history teacher was like, so appalled by it, which, rightly but it’s Do you want to spend your energy on it?

Not sure. But that’s, most of the time we’re like, we were all rebellious, like good for a shirt. And she was like, if you wear the shirt, you’re getting suspended. Basically. I don’t know if that was the actual threat, but that was the implication, and one kid Lawrence, I will, I won’t say his last name.

I don’t know what he’s doing now. Don’t want to put them on blast. Lawrence got the shirt and was so proud and so excited. He wore it in class that day. He got kicked out of class. I 100% get kicked out of good. I think I also had one that was like, no lifeguard at the gene pole. She was like, Oh man, funny, clever, but at the same time, 

Big John: so you’re saying.

That really, that, that teacher ended up being one of the reasons this podcast was created fighting that teacher was fighting against stereotypes before you even knew that you’d have a microphone 

Chuck: goddamn, you know what? You have a great point. Ms. St. Claire, up to you. 

Big John: Shout out Ms. St. Claire. I don’t know yet, but I’m sure you’re great.

I’m 

Chuck: sure your mother, she was a great teacher. She’s really good. Very passionate. 

Big John: Yeah. Okay. But they’re a bad company. That’s what it seems like. I don’t know if it’s 

Discussion of mission trips to Appalachia

Chuck: definitely a mixed bag John let’s get to the main topic. This is an interesting one. I think we got some really good input on social media about this Appalachian mission trip. This is I don’t know, I don’t, it’s not necessarily unique to Appalachia, but I do think that it’s frequently a place where people outside of the region will either with a church group or something different.

Do a quote-unquote mission trip to Appalachia, usually to a more impoverished part. More rural where people are in need of help with like home repairs. A lot of times it’ll be like after a natural disaster or something to help people out and the community and. Some of those organizations do proselytize some don’t, but it’s an interesting issue that we wanted to talk about because I think there’s a diverging bit of opinion on it and how people feel about it.

And it’s just a, an interesting topic. So I’m I’m interested in your initial take on the issue now. We, you and I are from Parkersburg. I don’t know that there was that much of these Appalachian mission trip expeditions there. I don’t think, but definitely in Southern West Virginia, 

Big John: Yeah.

We’ll definitely get into the, the meat of it, but in terms of just the mission trips by themselves, like on their face I’ve done, I did a little bit of research on the mission trips that, cause that’s the thing, mission trips over overseas are different than the mission trips to Appalachia, like from, that are in the United States, they are different.

And that to me was a key indicator of maybe some good things, some bad things but on their face, they should be this like, really nice thing of coming into a region and helping them, become maybe economically diverse or, something being built, whatever.

But to me, I am on the negative side of this. I don’t like Appalachian mission trips and I don’t think that they’re helpful. There’s a lot of better things that could be happening. But just, I guess my overall broad answer is I’m 

Chuck: not a fan says John. So to start, I think it’s important to make some distinctions, I guess I would say a lot of times they’re through a church, not all the time, a lot of times they’re through a church or through some religious affiliation.

Some of them are proselytizing. Like they want to come, they want to preach the gospel, yada. There’s a lot that are more focused on. Service oriented. That’s the word I was looking for? Service oriented service projects. I should say things like helping build houses or rebuild houses or building like an irrigation system to help prevent flooding in a community, something like that.

Something that involves like your hands and picking up a hammer and nail. So I want to be clear about that because the term mission trip usually, and rightly so has a religious connotation to it, of like proselytizing bringing the gospel. That is your mission from God type thing. But it is important to know that is not always the case for something like this.

And overseas as well. I’ll explain that in a story here in a minute, but I did want to point that out because a lot of the commentary we saw on social media was I think viewing it. From a frame of reference that was like religious proselytizing and by proselytizing, trying to spread the gospel of trying to convert people, trying to make it a religious mission and impart religious principles onto people in a foreign part of where you’re not from.

Important to make that distinction. Now, some of it is, I will say that, but I’m okay with the partially. So I come down on a interesting fitting on this. I don’t like the ones that are proselytizing at all. I don’t think that’s appropriate. It’s just not my thing. I understand why people in religious.

Backgrounds want to do it, but I don’t like it. And I don’t think it’s helpful. And I think that when it comes to gender, I’m going to speak generally about those we can get into in more detail later. But when it comes to like service oriented things, I think it, it really depends because I’m not gonna, I’m not going to tell a local part of Eastern Kentucky or Southern West Virginia, who the local community wants people to come in and help them like build something or repair something or help their community out.

I’m not gonna tell them that’s wrong. I’m gonna, I think it should be their decision. If it’s something that’s coordinated locally at people’s want, then I don’t see the harm in that. If that, if they get what they want. and if the group, the mission group comes down and says, they’re going to build houses, and then they come and they build houses and the community wanted them to come to build houses.

Who am I to say that’s wrong? It’s to me, I don’t care. I think that’s fine. But I think it, there, it just, there’s a lot of a lot of variation between them. There’s a lot of them that are very there’ll be service-oriented, but they also want to book in that with the religious undertone and want to try to talk about the gospel too, which I don’t like at all.

So it’s, there’s a spectrum. I think I would say. So that’s like where I come down on it I’ll go into more detail later.

Chuck’s experience in Kenya

One thing I did want to say is I have technically been a missionary because in 2010 I traveled to Kenya to work on behalf of the Episcopal church, diocese of West Virginia who partnered with the Anglican Church of Kenya, which was the functional equivalent Anglican as close as you get to Episcopal pretty much anywhere overseas, but we coordinate with them and I went over there and helped a family friend and a guy that was used to be the pre-cert church essentially help build computer labs for rural schools in Kenya, help them get up and running and teach kids, school kids, and some adults and teachers, how to use them and how to do basic word processing write emails, get their emails, set up that type of thing to help them learn on 21st-century technology.

Absolutely no discussion of God at all because that was not our goal. It was very clearly stated that it was not our goal. Isn’t it was an education project and it still does that. But two, because honestly, the people in Kenya that were there were more religious than I was.

So there was that too. But I wanted to say that because they’re like even overseas dare our mission trips, quote, unquote, that are not necessarily the purpose is not necessarily to convert somebody to a religion or to proselytize or to push something on someone. And I wanted to make that sink because that was what I did.

I was technically a missionary for the purposes of being able to travel safely. 

Big John: I get it. Which, I understand, I think there are a few things that are, I think are inherently wrong with all missionary trips. The number one for me is being expensive for the people to go. Yeah, I think that’s always been an inherent problem with mission trips.

Like when it comes to overseas, it’s far more expensive, but even the mission trips in Appalachia that like they’re coming those people still have to put up $350 to get on the list. They’re still putting up money to come here. Which to me, I’m like, wait a second. This, I give the things cost money.

But if it’s a mission trip, you would think that they would have some type of maybe some backing so that people don’t have to put up their own money. I just, that’s always been a big issue with me is the mission trips are expensive. So to me they’re more like a study abroad trip than they are a mission trip.

That’s always been something that’s been on my mind. 

Chuck: Yeah. I can see that. Now I don’t know if there’s really a workaround to it, but there’s probably not. I know that there are some, I know there’s some of them have like foundation backing or I know of some that have been run through a church where the congregation will help finance trips for people.

And again, that, that kind of like really varies based on the church and what their mission is. But yeah, it’s, that’s it certainly is cost-prohibitive. Another 

Big John: thing that I don’t think people think about this. This is something that my weird brain thought of because I’m constantly trying to think of like, why.

Why government isn’t doing something. So my opinion, mission trips to Appalachia into rural Appalachia and those places, it allows state, legislature state legislatures and the federal government to ignore the real problems in Appalachia because they have somebody else doing the work theoretically.

But in actuality, that work is only minimal, but it’s are, it looks like it’s being done. And that’s been a huge issue, at least for me when I think about it. Cause I’m like if people are going to come in and do this work, that’s great. But a lot of the time the work is very minimal. It’s like we put a, we fixed a roof on one house and that’s great, but that’s not helping Appalachia.

That’s helping an individual in Appalachia, which is again, it’s great. But to me, allows us to ignore the real 

Chuck: issues. Yeah, no, I think that’s a valid point. And at least Gibbs. Lawmakers may be an internal permission structure to to ignore problems. My, I guess my pushback to that is that even if it wasn’t happening, would they actually do something?

Cause there’s a lot of other problems in Appalachia that go unaddressed every day where ma quote unquote missions, aren’t coming to help that they’re not doing anything about 

Big John: it. I don’t know if I think that there are issues, but I’m just saying that I think it gives them another escape route, which they don’t need any more.

Chuck: No, it’s sure as shit don’t I guess I don’t need them in general at this point. They just do whatever the fuck they want. Yeah. I think that, I guess you could take it that though and apply it to like pretty much anything that a lot of nonprofits do. Which is also a problem though, because there’s a lot of nonprofits that are associated with feeding, hungry people.

And what is government for, if it’s not for taking, it’s not for helping people reach the basic necessities of life, it’s a shit system in general. I guess I don’t know that removing, that would necessarily create the sense of urgency that we would want. 

Big John: I don’t think it does either. I just think that it allows it, it creates at least an excuse I, or at least some subconscious excuse.

Outsiders

Chuck: Okay. Yeah, no I feel, yeah. One thing that, and we can read some of these examples too. I know that I didn’t read through all of them, but basically for context, for our listeners, we posted a question about this on social media. Just what are your thoughts on mission trips, Appalachia, period, and what I saw, there was a lot of mentioning of outsiders coming in. That type of thing. Like people not from the region, which I have a sympathy for that argument. And, but I also, I know a lot of what I say, people are probably gonna be annoyed with. That’s fine. We’re allowed to diverge a little bit.

So I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the term outsider because I feel like it, I hate the word gatekeeping too, but I do think it carries with it. Some sort of keeping thing of you’re not from here. Like you don’t understand and that’s, that is true for a lot of it. But I think part of the problem with that is that you’re also, I think creating a.

A wall up for people to be able to understand Appalachia. And again, I will always premise this by saying it varies. And I am not for most mission trips. I will say that one a hundred percent, but I do think that an and let me just, I’ll sit back up and say that the history of Appalachia makes being skeptical of outsiders.

Very warranted. And I definitely not ignoring that either. But as who has moved out of the region and moved into places where I was an outsider, I have seen both sides of the token I’ve seen I’ve. I felt very It feels really nice to have people that welcome people who are outsiders to feel like, learn about a place and feel like they can belong somewhere or feel like they’re not shunned for coming to a place, but I’ve also felt it as someone who has directed that attention towards me of the year and outsider, you don’t understand this place.

Why do you feel entitled be here? Nashville? That happened a lot. Because in Nashville, there are a lot of people that move into that city. A lot of people that move in and it’s actually hard to find native Nashvillians. So people who aren’t native, Nashvillians very similar to Appalachia.

Have a lot of inherent skepticism to people coming in from the outside because there’s a lot of like people coming in spending a lot of money, gentrifying the neighborhoods Coming in for really high paying jobs in different neighborhoods and not really respecting the culture, I think. And so I understand that from both sides, from both ends of that spectrum, I wanted to state that because even I take issue with the term outsiders, I think it’s, I don’t think it’s productive or helpful.

I completely understand the feeling and I’ve, I felt it on both ways. So it, I don’t know how I’m not sure how you feel in that. And it was probably a really long winded explanation which I’ll get into why I talked about it. But anyway, that’s my 

Big John: I think that’s fair

Now I use the word outsiders, but I think it, sometimes I think people use outsiders just because what else are you going to say? I, I always try to put in people, not from Appalachia, but it kinda is they all are out. Outsiders, but I get what you’re saying.

Like it does have a negative connotation 

Chuck: to it. I was going to say usually when I’m talking about it’s in the context of like negativity, it’s not Oh, that’s that’s Billy Ray Cyrus. He’s an outsider. He’s not from here. So where that’s Billy Ray fucking Cyrus. He’s an outsider coming into to, take advantage of us.

Yeah. I don’t know why. I don’t 

Big John: know. I don’t know where the hell I get what you’re saying though. And it does make sense. My, I guess my pushback on that, which I know that you agree with this is like just looking at the history of Appalachia. Outsiders have taken advantage of this region.

Tire existence of it. I think that’s, it’s culturally entrenched in our way of thinking, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy way of thinking and it doesn’t need to change. I agree with you on that that, that we do need to come up with some, a way to really talk about it without devaluing someone else’s existence.

Because that, that, to me, the term outsider does devalue someone else’s existence in the region. Yeah. 

Images of rolling mountains in Appalachia
Photo Credit: Dan Sniegowski via Flickr

Chuck: When I think the way I like to try to look at it is especially because of the history and just in general with how Appalachia been treated by outsiders, like viewing it in terms of skepticism is smart and is very much warranted.

But I don’t think that I think people should be skeptical, but not close the door entirely on people who want to come and learn about Appalachia. Number one, And who may want to come and help people in Appalachia who want to, who have been coordinating with local people, not just people like, Oh, I want to come be a like white savior complex type thing.

So yeah, I like, I think that’s where I come down on it because you’re fighting history with the need to embrace current reality. And that’s always difficult. I know that we’re like, got off topic with actual mission trips, but I do think it relates because most, if not all of the mission trips are people outside of Appalachia coming in.

And I think that in order for a mission trip to be what I would approve of, it would be someone leading it who has a local connection who has coordinated with local people and has, and knows like what they want out of this and knows what they need that they can’t get right now. That’s the thing like when you have people, like in a Mingo County or McDowell, for example, West Virginia, when their immediate needs aren’t getting met, that may be the only resource for someone to get a new roof on their house.

Now it’s not going to help Appalachia, but it might help that person and I think that’s the way I try to look at it, but I also understand there’s a lot of bad shit associated with mission trips in general, with colonialism, that type of thing. And there’s a lot of ignorance too. And I think that’s part of the problem is like, there are some people who feel like, oh, I’m doing this because it will help my own.

Self-esteem make me feel good. Like I did a good thing for somebody and Pat myself on the back and then take pictures of it and post it on Instagram for likes. And that shit’s disgusting. And I fucking 

Big John: hate it. Stop calling them mission trips. That’s another issue I have with it. Just stop saying that like one, because to me a mission trip signifies that you’re going to a.

In an impoverished area or an undeveloped area, your coming into save the day. And the fact is you’re not, when it comes to these Appalachia mission trips, they’re going and putting a roof on someone’s house, they’re essentially fall into your contractors. That’s what they’ve become volunteer contractors.

Who’ve come into the region and who help a single person out, which is great. Like 

Chuck: they’re Blackwater 

Big John: there. Look, they are, 

Chuck: They’re not quite that bad, I don’t 

Big John: think but I get excited. But anyway, the look stop referring to them as mission trips. They’re not mission trips.

They actually really, in all honesty, the mission is very individualized. It’s not to actually help a part of the region it’s to help an individual in the region when I, especially when I’m searching through a lot of them are just that the big thing too is and you mentioned a little bit, which I think.

It makes me think about it. To me, these quote unquote mission trips they have, they’re not about the region at all. They’re about the people on the mission trip, a hundred percent there they are 100% about the people on the mission trip. It’s either that they have the savior complex, that they feel like they need to go somewhere and help people.

Or it’s the fact that like what you mentioned that people want to learn about the region, which is great. Come learn about the region. Don’t do it as a mission trip because the mission trip, it essentially makes Appalachia look weak. They, in my opinion, it makes us look like we are the stereotype.

We can’t take care of ourselves. We can’t do all these things. And that, that to me, I think is a major issue when it comes to Appalachia and you hit on it too, which I really liked this point, like them working with a local group or, a local person, but to me come and volunteer for that group.

Come help them bring you, bring your resources. If there’s a non-profit let’s say your mission. Maybe your mission trip is harm reduction, which I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I’ve seen that many on that, but let’s just say it is, and there’s a mutual aid group. Go volunteer with them. Go help them, bring your resources.

That’s the type of shit that changes things. 

Chuck: Give them money. 

Big John: Bring your resources. That’s where you’ll make change. And then you’ll have me, you’ll have me as a winner right there. 

Chuck: Yeah. Bring the resources. Don’t take them. And I would also say, yeah, I would agree with you though. I think a lot of these groups are solutions in search of a problem type organizations.

That’s a good way to yeah. And I’m with you. I think I think that’s wrong – I do – and I want to be crystal fucking clear here. I’m not like I’m not trying to be a Joel Osteen of Appalachia or anything. I wish I had his money though. That’d be great. Yeah. But what I will say is I think that part of learning about the community is interesting.

And I think you make a really good point about it. Making Appalachia look weak, which is why I would suggest that you’re going to do that, make it an exchange program. So if you’re from, let’s say you’re from Massachusetts, upper North, Northeast, Send some Appalachian people to go up and experience what life is like up there.

So they can learn about it. They’re at while people come experience Appalachia, it doesn’t have to just be like, don’t use it as poverty porn. Don’t use it as Oh let’s learn about these foreign people that nobody knows about. It’s yeah, you may not know that Appalachians, but Appalachians might not know shit about you.

And that’s probably the same for most of them. This country shocker is that we don’t know much about each other because we don’t experience living where other people live. And as John, it’s a huge part of your human construct. Even like grandpa in Parkersburg versus Morgantown is completely different.

So that’s what I would say. I think, because I think my whole point is there is a way to allow people from outside of Appalachia to come in and have it be a productive experience. Whether it’s doing a service project, that’s coordinated locally by people who want it and who need it, or if it’s.

To try to learn more about a place they don’t know. I don’t see harm inherently in those two goals. And I almost called the missions. I didn’t though because I think you’re right, because the connotation of mission trip is a spoiled connotation because it’s steeped in history of colonialism and religious proselytizing.

And that’s that, ain’t cool. A lot of people that listen to the show and, especially like a lot of people, I think this is, let me just dial back a second. Cause I found this a lot in Nashville. A lot of people who were very much like anti outsider gatekeeping were always extremely pro immigrant.

Like we should be welcoming of people coming into this country, which I’m obviously for, but to me, I almost seem like a little bit of a hypocrisy on my part. I know that those two dynamics are completely different, but. If you’re willing love thy neighbor goes for a local level as it does for national, I think in some respects.

It’s understandable to be more skeptical at a local level because like places like Nashville have been exploited, people like native Nashvillians have been exploited just like Appalachians have, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who want to learn about Appalachia and who want to do good by it and who wants to help people.

I don’t think that we should inherently be shunning that if it’s for the right reasons and if it’s something that people in Appalachia want need and welcome. And I’m just saying that because I can sit here and talk all day about something, but. If somebody’s in, people in Rand, West Virginia, who got their houses damaged by it by a storm who don’t have the resources to fix themselves, who there’s not a local habitat for humanity chapter that can help them rebuild their houses.

And there’s people from, I don’t know Bed-Stuy Brooklyn or somewhere that want to come down and help and want to coordinate and be able to provide resources. Then to me, I don’t see the problem in that. And I think that being open to that is not a bad thing. 

Big John: Yeah. I get what you’re saying.

I think that there’s a difference though, between saying outsiders, when it comes to mission trips and saying outsiders, when somebody’s coming to visit. Like it, I think that there’s more of a negative connotation when people like coming on a mission trip and that being more of a pushback than there is people, there are places in the region that, that, that does happen.

But the whole, this is not even, it’s not even volunteerism anymore. It’s voluntourism. That’s what it’s become. It’s essentially a term now it is a real term and that’s what it’s become. Now I think I focused a lot on the negative parts of it. Obviously there are some positive parts to it.

One people do get, somebody gets resources, somebody gets something that they didn’t have before. So that is a positive thing. We do know that the other thing is if depending on the area, they may want religion to come into their community. Who are we to say? They don’t like, I don’t know. I know that there are some places that really do, but the funny thing that always cracks me up about these, this is off topic, but it’s still funny is that the United States of America is at least at one time, it may not be anymore, but at one time it only was 79% Christian.

And it was less than the places they were going to take Christianity to, like when they’d go from Mexico and be like we’re taking Christianity down there, but Mexico is 91% Christian. Like it’s just that kind of stuff that like, blows my mind and Appalachians, there are a lot of parts that are very, it’s the Bible belt.

Like it, it is to a point religious. 

Chuck: Yeah. Yeah. You look yeah, I think that you and I are in agreement Cause the biggest thing for me, the anchor to all of this is I’m not going to tell people who want something that they shouldn’t have it because of a generalization I have about something.

I’m not going to tell people in Eastern Kentucky that no, there shouldn’t be people coming down to help you rebuild your house or help you understand God more. Because I don’t agree with it or I think it’s bad. And, but I think the whole point is that it has to be something that people in Appalachia want and have expressed desire and interest in.

And I don’t know. I think that’s where I fall on this issue. That’s where I that’s why I’m not totally closed off to the idea, but it is something that I think has been steeped in a history that has been unhelpful. And so that’s really, I think that’s the biggest problem is that I would say, I don’t ha this is anecdotal.

I don’t have any evidence to back this up, but I would say the majority of mission trips have been motivated a lot by self-interest, more so than interest in how maybe both. I don’t know, but at least it has appeared that way. So I think whenever it comes to considering something like this, it has to be considered and what do people actually want in Appalachia?

That’s oftentimes not been part of the conversation, the part of the conversation, and a lot of the times, at least nationally has always been, what do other people think is good for Appalachia? Instead, it should be what do Appalachians want? And if they don’t want people coming in and doing that shit, then they need to fuck off like this.

People need to not come in and do that shit. 

Big John: Yeah. 

Chuck: Before my big bold philosophical 

Big John: take right there, before we move on, I want to share some of the responses we got, because I do think some of them are interesting. So one of them that we got, which I found to be probably the most interesting, or at least one of the most interesting was let me see from actually I won’t say people’s names cause I don’t want people to feel like I’m, but anyway here’s one, I’ve met a bunch of people who fell in love with West Virginia because their place of worship took them there on a mission trip.

So antidote quickly I’m about them. And then they were also replied to their own comment and said, by the way, it’s good to see so many folks on this thread looking a gift horse in the mouth hashtag so brave 

Chuck: was that I’m assuming that was. Sarcasm. 

Big John: No, I think that, Oh yeah, they’re saying, yeah.

They’re being sarcastic. They’re saying that looking a gift horse in the mouth. 

Chuck: Yeah. And okay. Yeah. That’s like shunning something that was 

Big John: good. That’s a good thing. Yeah. Which, yeah, which again is great. I love the fact that people came here to West Virginia and fell in love with the area and fell in love with the people.

But they didn’t need a mission trip to do that. They could have taken a trip here that a group could take a trip here. That’s great. And I love that the fact is on the 

Chuck: Potomac Eagle, you’re on the Potomac Eagle and get a training 

Big John: your baby. But again, this soul, this is exactly the comment I was looking for to the second one, looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Because to me that says, not only do you need this, but you should shut up and take it. And 

Chuck: that I saw my mom said when she tried to give me Dimetapp when I was a kid, 

Big John: right? That’s, ah, sorry, this was the Pepto. This mall of answers, shut up and take it. And you take it when you have to have it.

Anyway, I do. I like the first comment that people came here and fell in love with the area. That’s great. But to say that it’s a gift horse, isn’t true. These mission trips are not gift horses. They’re helping individuals get something that they didn’t have before, which is great for that individual. It’s not great for the region.

Stop, pretending like it is now when they come and work on the water system in Kentucky, or donate money to help people actually have clean water. That’s looking to give tours to the mouth, but they don’t do that. They collect money and then come. Put a roof on someone’s house.

There was some 

Chuck: metaphor, which is again yeah. There was some metaphor there about taking a gift horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it, but I don’t know what it was. I can try

Big John: another one that we got. And Lee, do you want 

Chuck: to comment on that one, one that I was going to point out, but if you get another one go for it and then I’ll this is from a friend of mine who I know has done one. She said I went to Southwest Virginia. So Southwest Virginia, because I had to enunciate that.

Cause I got that very confused when I was kid for a few mission trips in high school, mostly did small construction projects, building ramps, ceiling roofs, drywalling, one adult in particular, organize them, put on a big emphasis on educating ourselves about the region beforehand. And I appreciate that.

She wanted us to know that we were gaining some perspective and weren’t there to be saviors, no proselytizing from a religious standpoint, but every group who visited, spent an evening listening to a presentation about how coal companies were doing good things for the environment. That part of that specific program was weird, which I I thought that was interesting.

And also really telling, I’m wondering, it makes me wonder if coal companies were funding that, which is very troublesome and just shows you some of the problems there. So that was clearly that comment was a very mixed bag. 

Big John: Yeah. That’s fair, but again you’re right.

Like that makes sense. Sure. Like antennas go up, like, why is this happening? I wanted to read one from another person who went on one, right? I took two youth groups on mission trips to Appalachia with Appalachia service project over 10 years ago. And I think the organization is well run and provided in actual high quality service.

It parentheses home repair and parentheses to the homeowners, all their religious base. We chose ASP specifically because they did not they push religion to the people whose homes we were working on. I would really love to know how ASP is viewed by locals. I think again, ASP is a 

Chuck: ASP was Appalachian service product, 

Big John: And it is a more well known mission form of quote unquote, mission trips again, though. This group could, if you really want to help. And I’m not trying to continue on this, but like home repair is one thing and I get that, but again, it seems redundant that all of these groups are doing the same thing and crazy enough.

We’ve had mission trips to Appalachia for what the last, at least the last 15 to 20 years and crazy enough infrastructure is not any better. People are not coming to the, they’re not moving to the region. We don’t have skyscrapers in all the cities. Like it hasn’t done anything, 

Chuck: no flying cars yet. I do want to see like a mission trip where there’s just like an army of people with some Bobcat’s and ditch witches that come and just start like doing like power cuts and shit.

That’d be pretty cool. If it was desired. 

Big John: Yeah. Again, I get that and there are certain types. Like I do think that obviously it’s, it is nice that people are coming in and building ramps for like handicap people and stuff like that. That’s great. Again, I don’t know why we have to call the mission trips because again, it does make Appalachia look weak.

And I think I’ve already harped on that enough. And the last one, I thought that this was interesting, cause I didn’t think about this. This this person said I went to a school where the Appalachia mission trip trips were a cool thing to do. And being from Appalachia myself, it was awkward, but I definitely feel a lot of those kids needed their eyes opened, which those trips provided.

And I agree with that. I do think people need to open their eyes. However, again, I think the mission trips benefit the people on them rather than the people that they come to help. So that’s a great thing, but your mission isn’t to help people, your mission is to learn about the region and that’s fine.

Chuck: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s also like how they’re defining it for themselves too. The mission can help you, but it should be helping the Appalachians too, and they should want it. Yeah, that’s, this is a topic that has come up before, and it’s really interesting because it requires some self examination of our region and the struggles that it’s had, but it’s also, it also is it can often be another form of exploitation that is masked as something that something nice and welcome.

So it, I think ultimately for me, it’s, I don’t want to paint the concept with a broad brush and say that all of them are bad. But I do think that. Number one, they need to be rebranded from mission trip and two, it should always be S like Appalachians are calling the shots that are, that, that are Appalachian should always be the ones that should be front and center making the decisions.

This is, this something we want is something we need. And go from there. And I don’t know. Cause I think that, like I said before, the they’ve often been taken out of the decision-making role and had their decisions made for them. 

Big John: Are these problems not existing in the States where these people are from?

That’s the other thing that kinda makes me irritate about this, like getting wheelchairs fixed and or wheelchairs getting wheelchair ramps, put in, getting roofs fixed. That’s not an Appalachian issue. It’s an issue. They could literally walk down the road and help somebody. But that wouldn’t be interesting.

And that’s, I think what makes me so angry about it is like, these are not Appalachia mission trips. Like it’s just a trip to Appalachia where you’re putting it, you’re doing a roof. Like you could do that in your own state. These are not Appalachia. 

Chuck: Yeah. I guess I would say the rub for that with them is that they’re I guess the positive spin to that would be is that they gives them an opportunity to learn about a place they don’t, aren’t familiar with.

And again, inherently, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s often, again, as you mentioned done in a self-serving way, that’s more focused on, Oh, what am I going to get out of this and not, what am I going to be due to? What am I going to be doing to help someone else? And this is something they truly want. But I don’t know 

Big John: which hashtag which hashtags can I, yeah.

For my picture in front of the house I’m working on and I’m holding it, I am, or, 

Chuck: yeah. Do I need to bump up the saturation on this to show the color that I painted better? I’ve got an idea for you, ramps for ramps. All right, here you go. This is where you combine culture and service build ramps in an exchange.

You’re going to learn about a cultural staple of Appalachia ramps, the wild onions. And and there you go. Everybody has helped. And Can you take a little bit back with you that you learned 

Big John: and then the religious ones can be morals for moral. 

Chuck: Yeah. I would take issues with credit, with religion, preaching morals, but I’m there for it.

I think that the alliteration is strong. 

Big John: Yeah. That’s true. Add think everybody’s got morals. No, that’s not going to work, but anyway, the sister to that program can be morals 

Chuck: for morals. All right. That, I think that ends our discussion, at least for now on Appalachian quote-unquote, mission trips, let us know what you think.

And how much you hate me for this conversation. If you hate me at all, or maybe you agree with me? I don’t know. Who knows? I don’t know what people think. I just express my opinion like it every week. And apparently, some people think that’s not completely intolerable, so that’s cool. Anyway, let’s move on.

Beef with Big John – Tok Block

The last part of the show, It’s not stew season, but I always like a nice stew. I don’t know about you. You bust up the Crock-Pot you always get a crockpot out on a Sunday night. Like when we record put in your vegetables, some of your carrots, some of your potatoes, but I always like to put a big, Oh, helping of.

Chicken. No, I’m kidding. I’m a big old helping of beef. And who else to consult on that to make a big beef stew than the legendary beef master general himself? The five-star general of bovine beef with big Johns.

Big John: it’s. All right. First off, I got to start out with who I don’t have beef with Chuck. I don’t have beef with you. Cause that was a great intro. So great work there. Second. I don’t have 

Chuck: that’s. The whole purpose of my thing was to avoid that. 

Big John: It’s you gotta be careful. The second one, I don’t have beef. We got a postcard in the mail and I wanted to bring it up.

Oh, I want to bring it up. I forgot. I’m so sorry. It’s downstairs during this recording, I’ll post a picture to Instagram and stuff like that. But Chuck, that it sends a postcard, which had a really nice message on it. Say, saying how they found West Virginia and stuff like that and how they loved it and how they loved Appalachia.

But on the back there, there are these two lobsters, and one of them is standing up, and the other one’s like kind of stuck in can’t get out. But the one that’s standing up has an I’m with a stupid shirt on pointing to the other one. And in my head, I was like, are they trying to tell us something like, are they trying to tell us that like one of us is 

Chuck: stupid?

Boy, that’s a great question. I think I’ve actually seen that on a big dog shirt before. 

Big John: You definitely have seen that on a big dog shirt, maybe. 

Chuck: Maybe it’s more introspective than that, 

Big John: or maybe both of us are the person that’s caught and they’re the person that 

Chuck: sure. I’m going to leave that up to the gods to debate.

I don’t, I look at the beauty about art is it’s all in the eye of the beholder. And I don’t want to try to interpret what the artist in this case, the male ER was trying to say so. 

Big John: Yeah. So anyway, if you want to send us some PO box 24 66 Parkersburg West Virginia, two six one Oh two, we do really like getting them.

And when you send stuff, I don’t have beef with you even when it’s like a cool letter. Like we just want to hear beef about your day. Yeah, Gabby free card. Anyway, what do I have beef with this week? Chuck? I got beef with Tik TOK. Chuck, we recently joined tick talk. I don’t know if people know this, but we recently joined tech talk where we’re going to do some stuff on there.

Some content. We’re still trying to figure out if you got any ideas, let us know. And part of it is I, we both made we both of us made an individual one as well. He’s at Chuck Corp. I’m at big John Eisner and of course that average 

Chuck: anything on it. I only do it to follow people. 

Big John: It’s okay.

One time he will probably something anyway, they, maybe we should do a follower goal and then you’ll do, 

Chuck: Oh, if we get like a hundred followers or something, I’ll post. Some 

Big John: yo you’ll do a, you’ll do a trending. I’ll 

Chuck: do it. I’ll do a stitch of me. Responding some bullshit. I can’t eat set. This is how much I fucking, I can’t even.

Yes, if we get all right, so here it is folks. All right, you ready for this? We’re going to get to that beef, but if we get, I’m going to make this boat, we get 500 followers now. Hell fuck. That. When we get to a thousand followers on Tik TOK, I will make a tick-tock video. We are at approximately 44 right now.

So get to work. 

Big John: All right. Anyway. So when we get to what’d you say a thousand we’ll get to a thousand tick he’s. Chuck is going to do some, I think he’s going to, I think what it would be best is if you did a duet. With something that’s trending. Just really bring it home for everybody. But anyway, we’ll get to that point.

All right. Anyway, why do I have beef with Tik TOK? Here’s why, because there are a lot of videos out there that seem to be pushing Appalachian stereotypes. There’s a lot of jokes on there about a lot of skits. There’s one that I had, I posted a response to. I took it down because the person did put up a response video saying that the reason they were doing it was they wanted to show that they were a person of color.

And this is like how they felt, which is great. But I wish that would have been in the video that they posted. Because the video that they posted was this quote, unquote mission trip to Kentucky, that it, they didn’t have clean water, which some places that’s true. But also they said like they didn’t have, they’ve never seen a toothbrush or mouthwash and like stuff like that.

It’s not funny to me. And it’s also, to me, not a great way to make a point because if you’re trying to draw people in. That’s not how to do it. Our region has been through enough. I think that we can have this discussion on different terms, but that being said, there’s also other things like just jokes in general about like people being each other’s.

Like if you’re Appalachian and you’re married, like your marriage, your cousin Rob, stuff like that. Now it’s idiotic humor; It’s low hanging comedy as what I like to call it because it’s a low hanging fruit. It’s an easy joke to make over and over again. It has actually no quality to it.

No, it’s not really funny. It’s not something that people would actually care about but it’s really just for a quick reshare or whatever the hell it goes on there. Tik TOK has become such a big platform that when that constantly gets pushed, that’s going to bring up stereotypes for a younger generation because our whole point is we can’t fix, we can’t fix the old heads check, like the people who are entrenched in the way they think we can’t fix them.

But you know what we can do. We can ensure that young Appalachians and young people don’t have to go through these stereotypes and don’t have to learn about them, or don’t have to know these stereotypes. But when Tik TOK allows this kind of stuff, or just like when people edge it on, I should say allow, but edges is on.

That’s a problem to me – it’s dangerous for this region and it’s going to set us back, especially with younger people. And I think that it’s something that has to be challenged. And I think there are people on there challenging it. I just want to hear more of a challenge and I’m not laughing at the tech talk thing.

I’m laughing at Chuck because he’s messing with his mic and it keeps falling. Anyway, So if you have a tick tock and you see an Apalach video challenge, that thing do a stitch, I learned what that is a stitch where you can show their video and then you can respond to it, do something like that.

Tell people why it’s wrong, show people why it’s wrong. Show them that you’re not the stereotype or why the stereotype actually doesn’t exist or, just push back. We need that. And I think we do a really good job on Twitter. I think Twitter is great in terms of that. Twitter’s got it. You’re on mute if you’re trying to actually talk.

Okay. They. Twitter’s got it. Facebook, eh, we’re never going to win. They’re probably, but Tik TOK is something that does need pushback. So go ahead. Push back. I’m going to push back on my Tik TOK that those are probably gonna be my primary ones that I do. I don’t like doing anything else. So make sure you follow Appalachia at big John Eisner at Chuck Cora, because at 1000 followers, Chuck is going to do something great for Tik TOK, 

Chuck: 1000 on the pot.

I don’t give a fuck. Don’t find that follower, our podcast account 

Big John: full all of them because. You may fall in love with it, Chuck, and then you’re just, you’re cranking them 

Chuck: out. I will. So if you get iPod latch up to a thousand followers, I will make a Tik TOK video. This is really going to test people’s general level of interest in my content, which I, if it takes us a long time to get to a thousand, I’ll be very telling.

John, as they always say space is the next great or the last great frontier, I would do a hard disagree and say for us, it’s tick talk because our stereotypes exist. It’s a shameful place and it’s a dirty place, a filthy win. And you need people that are the disinfectant of porn and narratives to come in.

And Mr. Clean the shit out of that place. And I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do, but we might throw a couple videos at some point. So there you go. But yeah, 

Big John: Our Appalachia 

Chuck: has videos. I know it does. What what I was going to say at a serious notice that you didn’t make good points.

And and that is a really, as much as it’d be grudges, me and I hate social media is extremely influential platform. One that, that people’s eyeballs are on constantly. And one that is influencing the way that people think and view different places. And so here we go again, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Big John: Yeah. Yeah it’s dangerous. That’s all I’m saying. 

Chuck: We’re we’re we’re Banditos in the wild West, come to your rain at all, and, but anyway, With that being said, we will end the episode on that note, do all the social medians, including tick talk and all the other ones or talk tick or Dick sock, all those good ones.

Friendster my space. Zenga, 

Big John: My mom tic-tac she ain’t wrong. I saw it. I saw on NBC, they were talking about that tic-tac app. 

Chuck: Like which one? Peppermint orange ones are the best, but yeah. So do all of that. Check out store, check out the website, check out starry eyes, media, and check us out next week.

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