“That was the most scrumptious piece of pie I have ever had in my life.”
“You really told them, preacher. That was the way to step on their toes.
“Why, that was the best sermon ever been preached.”
“Won’t nobody never see another sunset more spectacular than that one.”
“Sit down, preacher, you done said it all!”
We in the South are known to sometimes use Southern superlatives to overstate our case. We recognize them for what they are and accept them as statements of affirmation and love. We know they hold a kernel of truth within that is to be received as blessing. They may be overblown, but we understand the heart within them. Hear, then, these superlatives about our God; Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries, and our ministries in 2017.
“To bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes …”
Isaiah 61: 3
Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries’ response to the fires of November 28, 2017 has focused heavily on those who are “living outside the camp.” Everyone in Gatlinburg is deeply affected by the fire yet many did not qualify for help agencies. Those “living outside the camp” may or may not have lost a house but have experienced other losses: jobs, vehicles, rental apartments or houses, or income due to a depressed season. They may have gathered extra expenses: health related problems from the fire, replacement of household goods, cleaning that was not covered by landlord or insurance, vehicle repair, increased rent, or lack of insurance or denial of claims by insurance. Maybe they are afraid to apply for any systematic or program assistance. They are on the outside.
Our responses have moved through emergency moments to immediate needs to transitional help and on to restoration and recovery. We are now deep in that restorational help and God has held us with those who find themselves living on the outside of the camp.
Our responses remain individual. Our giving is face to face. Our conversations are personal. Our actions are rent help, gift card help (food mostly), new household appliances and items, vehicles gifted, medical bills paid, mattresses replaced, and so on.
We remain in the guide of the Holy Spirit: stop here, listen here, respond here, speak here, do this now. We find that if we commit to a need, the money or materials for that need arrives. When we hesitate, God holds back. When we act, God affirms.
We are the quiet ministry working as God leads. Don Hammonds taught me (Bill) to “do what is right and don’t tell anybody.” Paul Hall taught me: “it does not matter who gets the credit as long as the work gets done.” We have followed these lessons and acted within them. We are doing a valid and valuable ministry.
Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries is a part of a movement in the area to recover life and to love one another and to share God’ love. It is an honor to be in this team with so many others of all different styles and expressions. My affirmation is that it is an honor to be part of it all. We are working accurately as God is leading us.
“We ain’t never had no summer better than that one.”
I (Bill Black) have been here since 1981. I have worked with many staffs, mission teams, and ministry programs. The summer of 2017 was a complete joy in all of those areas. Our volunteers were committed to serving God and growing as missional Christians. Our mission teams were creative and deep into caring for others. Our ministry programs were well received and lives were touched and changed by God. It was a summer of grace….why, we were standing knee deep in grace! And God knows we needed it and received it and shared it and loved it.
“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t of seen it myself.”
This has been a year of professional growth for SMRM. We doubled the size of our Board of Directors and hosted a professionally directed Board retreat last April. We know our work and have accepted accountability for that work. Linda Johnson, a long-time resort minister and professional fund developer for ministries, joined our team in April.
Her personal ministries have brought Christ into the lives of many in our community through Bible studies and intentional witnessing. Her professional ministries have led us to a much more stable financial situation. We are now working to establish a continuous giving stream that enables us to maintain our ministries and embrace an exciting future.
“We did more than you can shake a stick at!”
288 worship services this year with over 6000 people in attendance
200 days of children’s day camps through the summer
200 bags of homemade cookies given to the crafters of the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
400 volunteers taught, enjoyed and put into ministry
4 vehicles given away to Fire survivors
150 new mattresses given away in 12 days after the Fire
Months of restoration work in people’s lives after the Fire
22 days of children’s Christian craft booths at various locations
6 summer missionaries who served 10 weeks non-stop
Relational ministry to 59 Appalachian Trail thru hikers
40 meals to international students with over 1100 students
Only God knows how many intentional witnessing and ministry moments
And God knows (as do we) how many came to know Christ as Savior and Lord
—and God smiles with us on this one.
“I’m as happy as a feist in rye!”
(Bill quoting Glenn Cardwell)
I cannot think of a time when I have not been as happy as I am now in this ministry. My personal devotion and preaching have been so meaningful to me. The challenges that we face are being resourced by God. The dreams and demands of the future of this ministry are being clarified by a Board that prays and dreams of God’s leadership. I continue to be in place and in this ministry with my life quote:
“Thanks be to God.”