Click here to read the first edition of the August Newsletter!
Youth Summer Ministry (YSM) Directors
Allison Waters-Kutsch – Dubuque, IA
Lauren Taylor – Snellville, GA
Liz Egan – Hermitage, TN
YSM Program Managers
Emma Crandall – Orgeon, IL
Janelle Gernes – Rochester, MN
Jordyn Yourczek – Woodbury, MN
YSM Field Managers
Ben Willans – Whippany, NJ
Dan Eby – Saline, MI
Daniel August – Lewisburg, TN
YSM Day Camp Managers
YSM Service Project Ministry Coordinators
Alex Dutton – Mogadore, OH
Tristan Eaton – Godfrey, IL
Katelyn Egan – Mt. Juliet, TN
Samm Ellis – Kent, OH
Keeley George – Wichita, KS
Hailey Gilbert – Collierville, TN
Stein Housner – Ann Arbor, MI
Caroline Kelley – Gallatin, TN
Tripp Lanham – Summerville, GA
Brooks Leftwich – Thompsons Station, TN
Abby Mainzer – Monteagle, TN
Sarah Ruvo – Hopewell Jet, NY
Jess Semaan – Livonia, MI
Luke Wolfe – South Lyon, MI
YSM Day Camp Ministry Coordinators
Savannah Brown – Nashville, TN
Maddy Krebs – Yspilanti, MI
Austin Taylor – Hutto, TX
Adults in Ministry (AIM) Staff
Lily Finley – Danville, IN
Mary Watson – Hermitage, TN
Randi Polk – Antioch, TN
Ministry Intern/JAM Director
As of August 31st, Betsy will be departing from the Mountain T.O.P. Support Staff. While serving on at Mountain T.O.P., Betsy was responsible for all administrative functions related to processing group/campers that sign-up for our programs. She then was their main contact until they arrive in camp, so she strived to communicate all necessary information for a successful experience. She was also the primary staff person supporting all aspects of our Children & Youth Day Camp programs. Her passion and love for our day camp programs will be greatly missed on the mountain. We wish Betsy the best of luck in all of her upcoming adventures.
As of September 1st, Olivia will be joining Mountain T.O.P. Support Staff as the Program Manager of Logistics and Program Support. She is the main contact for groups as they are preparing for their time on the Mountain, and coordinates with each group from the start of the application processes through a post-event follow-up to complete all administrative paperwork. Olivia graduated from Indiana University (IU)in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management and minors in Business and Marketing. She finished up her degree interning at French Lick Resort as a meeting and event coordinator in the conference services department at the West Baden Springs Hotel. Prior to Support Staff, Olivia has been a camper for eight summers, one summer on summer staff, and most recently served on the Cumberland Pines Kitchen Staff. In addition to Olivia’s involvement at Mountain T.O.P. and IU, she also enjoys exploring new areas, water and snow sports, and considers herself to be the life of any good dance party.
This isn’t much of a Mountain T.O.P. résumé, especially compared to those who have been coming to the Mountain more years than I have been alive, but it is something. It is something special to the development of my faith. I remember 2009, when the theme was “Amazing Grace,” because that was the year that I truly understood the concept of being saved because of God’s mercy and not my own works. I think back to last summer and getting to spend 10 weeks diving into the partnership of faith + works and how great it is that we can genuinely rejoice in suffering. Then I think about this summer… what have I learned?
I have learned, every day, that the Lord is good.
I have learned that though the AIM numbers are small, the Lord is good. We have seen some of the smallest AIM communities which has hindered us from serving as many families as we would like or accepting as many Kaleidoscope/Summer Plus/Quest kids as we would like. We still have a long list of families with expressed needs and teenagers that want to come to camp… and some days, this fact can be quite disheartening. When all we want to do is serve more families, all we have is a small handful of volunteers available to do so. We start to feel like we are not making a significant difference; we start feeling like we are not making any difference. We fear people are losing an interest in the AIM program, we fear people aren’t going to come back, we fear we are failing.
But then I remember, the Lord is good.
The Lord has reminded us though our communities are small, they are still mighty. It’s an awful cliché to use, but it describes every community we have had this summer. The Lord has reminded us that small communities mean closer communities, where everyone has a chance to get to know everyone. The Lord has reminded us that each community was created according to his sovereignty.
I have learned that though the odds may be against you, the Lord is good. Leading a group of people who are the same age as your parents and grandparents is no easy task. We have struggled to find common ground, to figure out how to teach old lessons in new ways, to keep programming fresh and relevant, to meet the needs of Christians who are more spiritually mature than we are.
But then I remember, the Lord is good.
The Lord has reminded us of 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, in your faith, and your purity.” The Lord has reminded us that we have different perspectives to offer, unconventional methods to try, new ideas to share, and the command to live as an example to all believers — no matter the age. The Lord has reminded us that he is our source of boldness, wisdom, and strength.
I have learned that detail-oriented planning is important, yet, preparing your heart for the work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital. I have learned that the greatest treasures of my summer have come during mid-afternoon talks on the office porch, the quiet moments of setting up worship, and when a staff member has more happies than crappies. I have learned nothing is more encouraging than hearing a first-time camper excited about taking lessons from the Mountain back to the Valley.
All because the Lord is good.
The Lord has strengthened, empowered, and encouraged small groups of people to make an enormous difference in the lives of 2 very special ladies of Tracy City and 67 day camp kids. The Lord has guided our path as we walked the balance beam of risk-taking and experimentation. The Lord has provided countless circumstances only described by saying, “that was a God moment.” The Lord has fulfilled his promise of doing immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.
I have learned, every day, that the Lord is good.
When Olivia asked me to write something about Neighbors Helping Neighbors I was really excited. This week meant more to my staff and me than I could ever explain. Then I realized I had to somewhat put my experience into words. I am almost at a loss of words from this camp week. It was… Perfect. Emotional. Emotionally Draining. Spiritually Fulfilling. Loving. Beautiful. Passion Filled. Perfect.
I’m sure many of you have never heard of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, so here’s a little backstory. In 2013 there was an awesome idea to have people from the Cumberland Pines service area come to Baker Mountain to participate in a YSM Service Project week. The idea formed, churches were contacted, and the week happened all within about three weeks of eachother. This camp week, with 1 adult, 9 youth, and 8 staff members made such a big difference in everyone’s life that was involved that it became known as Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) and was continued this year.
NHN this year tripled in size from last year. We had 3 churches bring a total of 30 youth and adults to form our wonderful community of 38 people. The only criteria to come to NHN is that the Sunday attendance of your church must be 100 or less. Besides having smaller churches that come to NHN, this week is unique for many different reasons. The churches that have come so far (in the 2 year history) are Tracy City First UMC from Tracy City, Morton Memorial UMC from Monteagle, and St. Luke’s UMC from Chattanooga. Both Tracy and Morton are located in Pines service area, literally serving their own neighbors. And St. Luke’s is right down the road in Chattanooga (2 of their youth were from Signal Mountain, part of Baker service area).
NHN is one of the best things that could happen to this ministry, to the people of Grundy County, to these youth, and to the staffs involved. Mountain TOP’s Day Camp program has continued to grow throughout the recent years and if you’re wondering why I went from talking about NHN to talking about Day Camp, bear with me. Just like what the Day Camp Manager, Monica said, “The Day camp programs are where we are shaping the future of this community, and making a permanent change” (and if you haven’t read her post I recommend you do). Of all of the youth we had attend NHN from Tracy City, the majority of them participated in at least one Day Camp program, if not multiple programs throughout the years. And these Day Camp programs do help shape the future of this community. But so does NHN. The youth coming to do a Service Project when many of their families have been on the receiving end of these various projects…that is something that helps make a permanent change. The youth realize what they are doing. They realize that they are more capable than they ever thought.
This camp week showed the youth that came to our camp that they DO have a chance. That they CAN and WILL make a difference. That they CAN have a future. That they ARE people. That people DO care about them. That they are not nothing. These amazing youth that walked around our camp can now go home and help more neighbors. Help people by using what they learned last week at NHN in their own communities. We are helping these youth (and adults for that matter) build resilience. We are shaping the future of this community and making a permanent change just like Day Camp. We’re just doing it a different way. We are giving all of them something this mountain desperately needs, a sense of hope.
These awesome campers came to Baker and did the same thing that a normal Service Project week would. They worked 4 days out in the county, doing yardwork, construction, and painting. And they had worship, games and sharing every night. It was awesome having them in camp. I don’t think you could every find a community that was all so dedicated and invested in the week like those 30 campers (I know I haven’t in my 3 years on staff and 5 as a camper). The happiness and willingness, desire to be part of that community, passion to learn about the Lord, hard work in the county, that doesn’t happen every camp week.
It was awesome for so many different reasons but it was great in camp because we were able to do more intricate worships in small spaces that aren’t usually used. On Monday we played a game at the ‘Y’ (the piece of grass between the boys and girls cabins), we had sharing at the Prayer Dock, and had worship on the Side Porch, where we couldn’t fit many more people. The response involved everyone pouring rocks and rice into little bags for them to take. More people would have made that not possible. On Tuesday we had stations worship at the Prayer Dock, it’s normally in the ‘field’ and the intricate space was awesome. On Wednesday we had worship the front gate, a place that can work with big communities but was more fitting for the small group! The messages were so personal because we knew so much about all of the campers that we could connect it to their life.
All of the campers got so much out of spending their week at Baker Mountain. They saw my staff and me as role models. They realized they could be like us, college students and doing something we love and enjoy. But in return, my whole staff was filled immensely with love and passion. I have never seen a staff be so close to every single member of the camp community and known so much about every camper like they’ve felt like they’ve known each other for years. It was awesome getting to see the smiles on the faces of all my staff all week. Whether the smiles stemmed from seeing the campers enjoy themselves, interacting with the campers, knowing they had a place to sleep and food to eat, or anything else. Their smiles put a bigger smile of my face every single second.
This week gave my staff an awesome opportunity to more clearly see the difference we are making every step of the way. But for some of these campers, it meant they had the same bed to sleep in all week. It meant they had 3 meals a day the entire time they were here. It meant they had people looking over them, caring for them. That is part of the reason my staff cares so much about these people who were our campers. We know some of them don’t have the best lives at home. We know some of them have never been told how great they are. We know that some of them have never left Grundy County, but the important thing is they have now experienced this great week at Baker Mountain. They now know what they are capable of.
A lot of emotion came with this week, but one thing is for certain; my staff knows why we were all called to be on the mountain this summer. Why we were called to be here this week. My staff knows why the 8 of us make up Baker Evens. It doesn’t have to do with the weeks on the calendar, or the individual place we come from, but because together we form a cohesive team that was able to reach the lives of all 30 campers. The personal experiences we had been through made it possible for us to connect with campers in ways many people wouldn’t be able to.
Perfect doesn’t begin to describe the week that happened. It was the most emotional week anyone on my staff will ever experience. The importance of this week cannot be put into words. Nor can the experiences. One thing my entire staff will agree on is that this week was the best thing that ever happened not only for the youth and adults involved, but for every single one of us.
Psalm 56:3-4 sums up a lot that we learned from our campers this week, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose world I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me?”
Peace, love, joy,
-Neighbors Helping Neighbors Director
Two years ago, if you told me this was where I would be, I would have laughed. A lot. The thought of working with kids was not even an option or consideration for me. I had never been interested in teaching or anything relevant to the Day Camp program at all. I liked to build things, and help people with their physical needs, so I thought being a Service Project Ministry Coordinator was the job for me. But as we have been talking about in camp, there is a difference between a calling and a desire.
After my final year as a service project camper, I knew I was going to be on staff. I knew I was being called to be on the mountain, helping the amazing people in the county, and reaching out to our campers as a staff member. I decided to answer the call, and apply to be a Service Project Ministry Coordinator.
I got the call from Kim a couple weeks after my interview, offering me a position as a Day Camp Ministry Coordinator. It took me a good 24 hours to even realize what was going on. I had never heard of the day camp program, and I had no idea what it meant to the ministry. I did know that I loved this ministry and everything it stood for, so I accepted the offer.
The first few weeks were tough, because I had no idea what to expect at all; but soon enough the rewards started pouring in. Seeing how appreciative these kids were for such little things is life changing. This is probably the hardest job I will ever have, but it is also the easiest, because of how rewarding it is. I have never had a problem with motivation because every day, I can see the work I do paying off. It is amazing.
I now believe that Day Camp is the heart of this ministry (and yes I am a little biased). Don’t get me wrong, I do think that it is extremely important that we help the people of this area with the current physical needs they have. It is more than necessary to build some steps on a trailer so they can meet codes and keep custody of their kids, or a wheelchair ramp so that an elderly person can exit their trailer, but the Day Camp programs are where we are shaping the future of this community, and that is making a permanent change.
This program focuses on building resilience in the youth of the community, so they know how to face all of the issues that they will no doubt encounter. Not only that, but it helps to inform the kids of this community that they have options in their future. They don’t have to stay in Grundy County and live in the same house they have always lived in. They can go to college, they can become a pilot, or a doctor, or whatever they want to do. And I can tell you first hand, its working. I have heard kids after our visit to The University of the South raving about how much they want to go to college. I have been told after our visit to the airport that kids didn’t know how cool it would be to be a pilot. We are instilling motivation into them, that they will hopefully carry for the rest of their lives.
Coming into my second summer with this program, now as the Manager of the Day Camp program, I see exactly how God is working through me and why I have been called here. I’m here for the kids in this county, but I’m also here to keep growing our program. This program does not get nearly enough credit, and it is because of the mindset that I used to have as a camper. The mindset that it is more rewarding to build a porch than it is to “babysit” kids (I can assure you, it is far from babysitting). My goal is to start changing that. The program can’t grow unless we get more participants coming to camp, and only limited kids in the county can come if we don’t have enough vans to transport them. I am extremely excited that I have the opportunity to embrace these goals. I think that there is huge potential in this program, and I can see it growing already from what has been happening this summer.
Already, the first week, we had 64 kids signed up. This coming week, we have 56, and almost 70 seatbelts to fill for the last week. Last year we had to tell kids they couldn’t come because we didn’t have enough seatbelts, and this year I am having to hunt down forms to make sure kids get signed up in time. The program is growing, and I cannot wait to be a hand in continuing that.
Back in January I contacted one of our staffers to see if we could talk to her parents about their journey with her from her first time applying to now, when she is entering her third year on Summer Staff.
We know many parents have a difficult time fully digesting what a summer will look like for their son or daughter if they are on staff. So I contacted Stacy to see if her parents would talk about what their initial thoughts had been about Stacy being on staff.
They were quick to respond and wonderfully honest about what their experience has been with Mountain T.O.P. that I think are extremely helpful to those looking to apply in the coming years.
Here is what they had to say.
Mountain T.O.P. has been serving on the Cumberland Plateau for 39 years. In the 2015 we want to celebrate our 40th year of ministry through sharing the impact this ministry has had through your stories and photos. Was it your first mission? Was it your first time leading a group on a mission? Who did you meet? What made the most impact on your life? How did you connect with God? Did you hear your call to ministry here?
Share your experiences by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t wait to hear how God moved through you while you were here, and how you carried your experiences to the valley below.
Kristin Griswold – DeKalb, IL
Shellee Merryman – South Lyon, MI
Stacy Purcell – Terrace Park, OH
Melissa Weidel – Port Matilda, PA
Blake Austin – Smyrna, TN
Jacob Frensley – Gallatin, TN
Ben Nichols – Saline, MI
Charlie Smith – Thibodaux, LA
Robyn Alderson – Schaumburg, IL
Emma Couch – Dayton, OH
Tyler Pearson – Mt. Zion, IL
Mylie Winger – Winchester, IN
DAY CAMP MANAGER
Monica Welcker – Dublin, OH
DAY CAMP MINISTRY COORDINATORS
Amanda Hyssong – Franklin, TN
Erika Roberts – Dublin, OH
SERVICE PROJECT MINISTRY COORDINATORS
Daniel August – Lewisburg, TN
Samuel Batson – Lilburn, GA
Kimberly Bowman – Plain City, OH
Norma Calicott – Wilmore, KY
Hank Cohen – Lawrenceville, GA
Tim Cook – Whippany, NJ
Andrea Decker – Dublin, OH
Mallory Dorton – Livonia, MI
Dan Eby – Saline, MI
Chris Guerrant – Dunwoody, GA
Abby Jenks – Ann Arbor, MI
Cody Jorstad – Snellville, GA
Alex Lister – Loganville, GA
Chad Pasinger – Whites Creek, TN
Austin Salinas – Snellville, GA
Jon Saxton – Terrace Park, OH
Caitlin Stephenson – Atwater, OH
Lauren Taylor – Snellville, GA
Allison Waters-Kutsch – Dubuque, IA
2014 ADULTS IN MINISTRY SUMMER STAFF
Brooke Freeman – Snellville, GA
MHR FIELD MANAGER
Ben Aastuen – Northfield, MN
Rachael Osborn – Winchester, IN
SUMMER PLUS, KALEIDOSCOPE, QUEST MANAGER
Alli Heisner – Cedar Park, TX
SUMMER PLUS, KALEIDOSCOPE, QUEST ASSISTANT MANAGER
Andy Wegg – Winchester, IN