National Youth Workers Convention

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville. Along with seeing some regular Mountain T.O.P. attendees, I had the chance to meet some former Summer Staffers from the late 80s/early 90s, some that had gone as youth for 8 or 9 years, and a few that claimed that had been to every site Mountain T.O.P. had ever run a camp out of. It was cool to hear about all the different experiences from so many different stages in Mountain T.O.P.’s history. People asked about their favorite cabin, or staffer, or how much they loved the food.

But one person that visited my table had a unique connection to the Mountain T.O.P. family. As she timidly approached the table she smiled and asked if this was the Mountain T.O.P. in Tennessee that did home repair. I could feel my eyes bug out as I practically shouted “IT IS!” at her. She walked up and began to tell me how she knew about Mountain T.O.P. She told me about her grandmother that lived in South Pittsburg and how we had come many summers to work with her at her house. She smiled as she talked about how much her grandmother enjoyed the groups that had come to her house. She then looked at our different programs to see how she could get her youth group involved.

Although this conversation was short it really started my Thanksgiving week off on the right foot. It reminded me of how big the Mountain T.O.P. family is. It is not just the people we work with this year. It is not just the campers that came through our gates in 2013, but it is the 38 years of people working to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth. I see the numbers after each program of how many people participated and how many families we worked with and it amazes me. But to add all the work that was done the 37 years leading up to this one is truly incredible.

This girl that came up to me at the conference has been a part of this family longer than I have, and has seen the beauty of the experiences on the worksites from a perspective I have never experienced. How incredible is it that the experience she had with a group on a worksite years ago affected her, then her experience and story affected me and my view of Mountain T.O.P. It is an amazing cycle of hope and compassion. And it is that hope and compassion that I am thankful for.