The Gathering

Each year, on the weekend after New Year’s, the Mountain T.O.P. ministry holds a winter gathering. The largest group in attendance is composed of former summer staff – some from the previous summer, some from prior years. It’s a wonderful reunion for them, and every few minutes you hear squeals of delight as someone new enters the room and is recognized. The event also serves as a chance for the full-time staff to try to talk some of the former staffers into re-enlisting.

But while the 20-somethings rule the evening (and many will spend the night in camp tonight), the event is open to old geezers as well – current and former board members (I served on the Mountain T.O.P. board for a total of 12 years between 1994 and 2007, with a couple of one-year breaks in there somewhere), Adults In Ministry (AIM) regulars (I also fit into this category, although I’m not as regular as I wish I were), and other friends of the ministry.

The event was held tonight at Cumberland Pines, near Altamont, Tenn., and it was a wonderful evening. There was fellowship, a great meal, a slide show of the ministry’s 2012 events, and the reveal of the 2013 ministry theme, “Faith Works,” which is based on James 2:14-17. The theme, which features a nifty tool belt-and-nametag logo, will be referenced at camp worship services throughout the year and will appear on the year’s official T-shirt, prep materials and so on.

A special highlight of this year’s gathering was a salute to Samantha Tashman, who has served for several years now on the ministry’s full-time staff but who is leaving to marry former summer staff member Mark McGlothlin. Tonight was her last official duty as a staff member. “Sam” is the friendly face and voice in the ministry’s official recruitment videos, like this one:

She has worked tirelessly for the ministry in many ways, and will be dearly missed. The Rev. Ed Simmons, Mountain T.O.P.’s executive director, showed a slide show featuring Sam going back to her days on summer staff, and he presented her with a beautiful wash basin and pitcher as a recognition of her spirit of servanthood, the same spirit with which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.

I was thrilled to see so many good friends at the gathering – Jan Schilling, “Smitty” Smith, Reed and Deeda Bradford, Bob and Mary Margaret Willems, Doug Warner, and many others. I didn’t really need a reminder of why I love this ministry so much, but this was a reminder anyway.

I also got to see the footings that have been dug for the new second Friends Cabin, which will be located right next to the existing Friends Cabin across from the dining hall.

A wonderful evening, and it was worth the windy drive down the mountain to Pelham in the drizzle and dark afterward.