Below are a few stories or testimonies that have been shared with us. There are many more that we have never heard. If you have a story, memory or testimony of how God worked through SMRM please share it with us by email.
“Only in American 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.
“Thank you for making us believe”
Good evangelism generally does not include the idea of “making” someone believe in Christ as their Savior. We cannot make the decision to follow Christ for someone else nor can we force them into their profession of faith.
We can, however, create an environment of love and a clear message of salvation that leaves them with no other response but to say “yes, Lord” with their lives. We can reveal God’s love so real that they have no other possible choice.
Two of our friends from Brazil made just such a choice recently. Their goodbye note to us included the phrase “Thank you for making us believe.” They had worked at Ober Gatlinburg for the winter and were part of our internationals ministry there. Bill had loved on them in Christ’s name through taking them to a Christmas Dollywood worship service that opened their hearts in a fresh new way. Joey and Katy hosted them in sports and dinner activities. One of our volunteers shared with them all through the winter. Bill taught them in Bible study. Finally they said, “I believe”.
“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.
On a winter weekend, Sean skied up to me and re-introduced himself. I (Bill) had not seen him in twenty years when he and his family used to ski in Gatlinburg and attend our ski services. He told me of the impact those services and my witness had on his life as a 13 year old boy and how he became a Christian. He also told me he was able to lead his father to Christ before his father’s death. That same weekend, another man at the ski resort stopped me and introduced himself. He told me that 10 years earlier when he was 17, he had run away from home in Georgia to Gatlinburg. He found us through our ski ministry and he said that I “had bought him a meal and counseled him, put him up in a hotel for a night, bought him a bus ticket, and helped him return home.” He went on to stabilize his life and family relationships through Christ and was now living in Gatlinburg.
On the following Monday, I conducted a memorial service at the top of the mountain for a former ski instructor. One of the attendees looked around after the service and said “it was right here you invited me to your skier worship services the first time –and the second time –and the third time –and ….” She became a Christian at one of those services. She told me “God cleaned up my life. I now have a family and I am a grandmother.”