The roof is a little skewed
but so is everything else.
It doesn’t matter, really;
just a shelter for a phone
for teens on a mission.
They call home, excitedly
ablaze with God and new friends
in the overwrought drama of youth.
But smoldering beneath the flame
whose heat will remain
long after the flickering dance.
God watches over this wooden box
and all the lands around it
and He smiles at the calluses.
After a quick stop by my parents’ home to feed the cat, I’m headed to Cumberland Pines for Mountain T.O.P.’s annual closing celebration. This event honors the college-age kids who have worked for us all summer (they leave for home tomorrow) and features a great slide show of all of the summer camps and activity. The programming isn’t until this evening, but they’ve encouraged everyone to come up early and spend the day in the county.
"Uncle" Ben Neal
Originally uploaded by jicarney.
One of this summer’s Mountain T.O.P. AIM weeks took place right before my Bolivia trip, and the other one is taking place this week. Even if I had the vacation days, and I’m not sure I do, I could not have been gone from work for three weeks straight. So I had to miss AIM for the third time in four years.
I did, however, drive up for the traditional Wednesday cookout tonight. It was fun connecting with old friends and checking up on my fellow First UMC members Andy and Edna Lee Borders, who are in camp this week. I had my camera with me but kept forgetting to use it — this was actually the only photo I took. I include it here for the benefit of Laura at Fixin’ Supper, who will recognize this gentleman immediately. At this point, “Uncle Ben” Neal was doing his Archie Campbell-inspired spoonerism routine for the camp community.
I did not realize that Gail Drake, the former longtime AIM director, had been invited to give the devotion tonight. Now, of course, Gail is the co-founder of an outfit called LEAMIS with which I took a trip recently. (Perhaps you heard about it.) Amusingly, Gail and Debra have been running in different directions and haven’t actually seen each other face-to-face since the trip. I think it’s funny that I’ve seen Gail, but Debra — with whom she shares an address — hasn’t!
LEAMIS, the non-denominational group with which I take my foreign mission trips (Were you aware that I was taking a trip this week? I know I’ve kept pretty quiet about it), and Mountain T.O.P., the United Methodist-affiliated missions group which works in the Cumberland Mountains and which I serve as a board member, are planning a joint project: a relief trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Aug. 10-24. Bob Willems and Frank Schroer, who are well known to participants in both programs, will lead the trip. Click the link for more details.
There’s no formal link between the two organizations, but they have a lot of friends and participants in common — like me, for example. Gail Drake, the co-founder of LEAMIS, is the daughter of Mountain T.O.P.’s now-retired founder, George Bass, and Gail ran Mountain T.O.P.’s adult ministry for a number of years, which is how I met her.
Originally uploaded by jicarney.
This was the menu for our meal at Cumberland Pines, before we went to the commissioning. I will forgive the incorrect apostrophes on the plurals, because the food was just so good.
The newly-expanded kitchen at Pines is fabulous, by the way. Andy Piper showed me around.
Originally uploaded by jicarney.
Well, staff training worship was a great success tonight. It certainly seems like we have a great group of staffers, and it was a moving service. This is from the traditional singing of the “Mountain T.O.P.” song at the end of the evening, when we formed a big circle around Altamont Baptist Church.
When Brown Bannister wrote “The Mountain Top Song,” he didn’t have our ministry in mind. But, back in the 1980s (long before I had gotten involved), the ministry asked him for permission to use it as our official theme song. It’s perfect!
To quote the chorus:
I’d love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I’d love to stand on a mountain top
‘Cause I’d love to feel my spirit soar
But I’ve got to come down from that mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they’ll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord
More photos are here.
I’ll be leaving in a little bit for Mountain T.O.P. summer opening, which is a dinner and commissioning service for the college-aged summer staff who will run our camps. Hopefully, I’ll post some photos late tonight when I get home.
Until recent years, opening was held Memorial Day weekend, when the staff members were arriving for their training. I like holding it at the end of training much better.
Unfortunately, a scheduling fluke meant that today is also the 50th anniversary celebration for George and Rene Bass, Mountain T.O.P.’s founders, in Nashville. I’m sorry I’m not there to give George and Rene my love and regards.
Here’s a great idea: start a daily devotional blog, and then when you have written 365 devotions, publish them as a book. What a terrific use of blog technology!
Wish I’d thought of it first.
I will, however, have an opportunity to write a devotion which could have a large audience this summer. Ed Simmons, executive director of Mountain T.O.P., e-mailed me and one of our other board members to say that the ministry is going to revise its camper devotionals this year and would like us to contribute if we were willing.
I might rewrite and adapt what I call the “skillet devotion,” which I did a couple of times at AIM in 2002 and then on my first foreign mission trip in Nicaragua in 2003. It ties in nicely with Mountain T.O.P. because it has to do with Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg and the cast-iron cookware they make there. I use the metaphor that a well-seasoned cast iron skillet becomes more useful the more it’s used, as opposed to, for example, most cars, which become less valuable as you put more miles on them. I then apply this to the fact that God uses our struggles and trials to strengthen us.
I’m not sure if these new devotions will be just for the youth ministry or for AIM as well. If they plan to use them at AIM, maybe I shouldn’t do the skillet devotion because some of the AIM crew has already heard it. Then again, it’s been five years and they’ve probably long since forgotten it.
Ed is going to get back to me with more specifics about what they are looking for, and that may answer the question for me.
During late 2005, when Mountain T.O.P. was going through a time of transition, the “Support The Ministry” web site was created as a way for friends of the program to discuss the situation and their visions for the future. Now, the site has been re-launched as a place where friends of the ministry can network and converse. Check it out, won’t you?
In response to Stace‘s and Laura‘s favorable comments about the return of my header image, here’s the original uncropped photo. This is from Kaleidoscope, a one-week arts camp for special needs kids in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee which is staffed by volunteers from Mountain T.O.P.‘s Adults In Ministry program.
This was not from one of our specific arts workshops but from a playtime for the entire group, probably after lunch and before the start of the afternoon workshops.