SMOKY MOUNTAIN RESORT MINISTRIES
MISSION TOLD THROUGH STORY
The numbers are simple. Two resort towns with 4,000 locals in each. Two resort towns with bed space for 50,000 people per night. 10,000,000 visitors per year. Thousands of employees working in a major resort industry. And now, over 2000 international employees working year round or seasonally in that resort industry. This is our parish.
Why is it important to have this ministry?
Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have long been major tourist destinations. Over 10,000,000 people per year come to experience these mountains and their attractions. SMRM has served to reveal the presence of God to those who live, work, and play in the resort settings of Sevier County for thirty years. In recent years, God has brought the world to us through both our visitors and through internationals who come to work in our attractions. Resort missions is communicating the Gospel to people involved in a leisure lifestyle and here we are provided an amazing opportunity to impact the world for Christ as they come to us and as they go home after their work season.
How do you see God using this ministry?
Our vision is to creatively share Christ with others, minister to their needs and hopes, and grow the Church through mission involvement. Through the addition of our Internationals Ministry Program, God has deepened our commitment to missions and broadened our understanding of the possibilities before us. Where we fit in the Kingdom of God has expanded as we have touched lives and as the Holy Spirit has changed lives. These people go all over the world now knowing God’s love. We are much more excited about how we touch the world.
“Only In America Can I Get A Bible In My Language”
One of our first connections with the international employees as we meet them is to provide them with a Bible in their language and, usually, one in English. As Bill Black gave one to Jeremy, a friend from the Czech Republic, he responded with tears in his eyes and said, “Only in America can I get a Bible in my language.”
Bill Black was leading a gifting of Bibles and explaining how to read them to a large group of 65 internationals who had come to a dinner at Gatlinburg First Baptist Church in their honor. We read Scripture verses in Portugese, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Polish, and English. Then Bill would share in English about their meaning. At the conclusion of his sharing the plan of salvation through Scripture, a Brazilian girl stood up and asked, “Can we do more?” This led to an ongoing Bible study for many in the group and to several decisions for Christ.
Lizzy Sessions, SMRM’s USC-2 missionary and Coordinator of our Internationals Ministry Programs, provides van rides to shopping for the internationals. These relationship building events have led to deep personal conversations about the meaning of being a Christian and have shown the love of Christ in a caring ministry.
A 19 year old friend named Mara who is from Argentina was injured in an accident in Gatlinburg. She spent a month in hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Knoxville. Marci Claude, a SMRM volunteer, became our key minister to Mara and her mother (who spoke no English). Marci’s pastoral care taught them of the love of God, the power of prayer, and the commitment of the Church to support those who are in need. They now hope to continue the relationship as Marci and her husband visit Argentina.
“Want To Know About Your God”
Cassi, a SMRM summer volunteer, spent a summer sharing Christ with internationals from many countries in Eastern Europe. She led many to the Lord. On her last night in Gatlinburg, Cassi worked with a group from Poland and celebrated as another girl made a commitment to Christ. As Cassi was getting in her car to leave for the summer, she received a phone call from a girl who said, “you do not know me but I want to know about your God.” Cassi went to her place of employment and shared. This Russian girl made a decision for Christ. Now Cassi continues her relationships through email and prayer exchanges. She and her husband have hosted many of these same Europeans and their friends as they visit in the Washington, DC area where Cassi lives.
The week of the 4th of July is always a busy and powerful time in the life of Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries. Most years the ministries include 10 day camps, 15 family evening programs, 6 campground youth and children programs, 2 campground parades, 24 worship services, three staff Bible studies and devotion times, and two hours of pre-parade entertainment and evangelism for 80,000 people just before Gatlinburg’s July 4 Midnight Parade! God used our team of local volunteers, 12 summer missionaries, and three mission groups throughout the week to enable 67 people to make professions of faith in Jesus.
“Long Term Care”
A significant story in my life is the salvation event of my friend Brian. Brian is a 12 year old who lives in a local campground and has been coming to day camp and worship for several years. He has heard the Gospel countless times. We have talked and played together countless times. After much time in preparation and prayer, God’s call came to him in a way that touched him and he said “yes”.
“The Pick Pocket”
A second significant story is the salvation of a man attending a family evening program in the campground where he was staying. The crowd was about 200 people and he saw it as an opportunity to ply his trade –that of a pickpocket. He tried twice to steal the wallet of one of the adults from the mission group but was unsuccessful. He stayed to look for more opportunities and began to listen to the message and the energy of the group as they sang. Their final song was entitled “The Plan” and made a fast-paced and personal presentation of the Gospel with many youth sharing testimonies.
During that song this man felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit on his life and burst into tears. Our invitation to speak to any of the group members after the program led him to the adult from whom he had tried to steal the wallet. He confessed his action and asked for God’s help. The mission team adult shared with him the promise of God’s forgiveness and he asked Christ for that forgiveness and salvation. For creative presentation of the Gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit, I give thanks. For
the hope of a new life in Christ, I give thanks.
“Don’t Let Anything Stop You”
During a mission trip with Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries, a group of Acteen Activators (Baptists high school youth) committed themselves to not letting anything stop them from sharing the Good News of Jesus. On Wednesday night of their week, the girls were doing a program in Tremont Hills Campground and the leaders drove back to their cabin to get extra supplies. While there, the leaders got their van stuck in a ditch and had to wait for a tow truck. As they sat at the cabin, one of the girls came hiking up the mountain and reported that she needed eight Bibles for children who had just made professions of faith. After she left, another girl hiked up and asked for two more Bibles for the parents of one of the children for they, too, had been saved. Not enough supplies? No leaders? A half mile hike up a mountain? No problem!
These Acteens would not let anything stop them from their mission and we thank God for them, for those who made professions of faith, and for their WMU leaders who prepared them so well (even if they can’t drive in our mountains—they were from Texas). We would all do well to learn of their heart and style!