People usually have a lot to say about turning 40. It’s a big milestone in the life of a person and people handle it a number of ways. Here are a few of the more popular reactions:
Forty isn’t old, if you’re a tree.
I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.
Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed. – Charles M. Schultz
Life begins at 40 – but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times. – Helen Rowland
Here on the Mountain as we look back over these 40 years there a lot of things we could say about turning 40. The life of MTOP has had its ups and downs. The programs have grown in number and in size. The needs of the community have changed through the years and we have done our best to adjust. We have taken turns I don’t think anyone could have ever expected and have gotten where we are today because of those turns in the road.
I think the only thing to say is how grateful and humbled by where this ministry is today. At the George Bass Brick and Mortar Dinner at the end of February we had speakers from every decade of Mountain T.O.P’s history speak about the changes and growth in that time. Every single speaker shared about how incredible it has been to be a part of what God has done in this ministry and how no one could have imagined where we are today.
As a way to celebrate all the good work that has been done, all that God has provided, all the lives changed in and out of camp, we wanted to show a glimpse of the past 40 years in a slideshow. Not only can you see some incredible pictures of families, worships, staffs, and camps, but also some incredible ’80s hairstyles.
Keep sending in your pictures to email@example.com of your time on the mountain. Be sure to include what year it is from and what program it was. We’ll be sharing more pictures and slideshows throughout the year!
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.
I smiled when I read your email to Stacy. I certainly do remember how I felt when Stacy told us she first wanted to serve on staff two years ago (seems like a lot longer than two years!). I was very apprehensive. Very frankly, I was a little put off by the emails that came to prospective staffers: they seemed very slanted to all the things that Mt TOP required of candidates. You must do a pile of paperwork all due at very specific dates, you must commit to an uninterrupted eight week service (Stacy’s grandfather was quite ill at the time), you must earn half of your salary, you must arrive with a car, and (oddly) you will need to make your own accommodations and pay your own way for the alternate week breaks. I was pretty hesitant. We weren’t at all sure we could promise her a car (we had four teen drivers sharing two cars at the time). And to top it off, Stacy goes to college in Massachusetts and even if she convinced her professors to let her take a couple final exams early, and if her dad flew one-way to get up there to help her drive home, and if she only spent one night at home in Cincinnati at the end of spring term, she would still be arriving two days late for training. And also, why would I want my 18 year old daughter to go to rural TN and drive throughout the counties knocking on strangers’ doors and going into their homes by herself? At the time I had no idea how respected Mt TOP is in the area. Stacy told me she would always wear her staff shirt and name tag when she was out in the counties, and I didn’t have any idea how influential that could be. I remember thinking that she was very very naive… a shirt and name tag didn’t really seem to provide much protection for a young person out on her own. Even though our church had gone for many years to Baker, and all four of our kids had enjoyed four years as campers, in February of that first year, it still seemed like there were many more concerns than it was worth. Surely Stacy could find something else meaningful to do with her summer.
But Stacy begged us. And then the adult leaders from our church who knew Mt TOP called me. And then I got up my nerve and called and talked with Ed’s wife, Glynn. And later I had a second call with Ed. Everyone offered reassurance. It was explained that there are repeat host families that offer housing to the staff on the off periods. Staffers stay in pairs or groups and not entirely on their own in others’ homes for these breaks. They assured me that Stacy would be welcome even if she arrived a couple days into the start of training. The homes that Stacy would be entering had been pre-evaluated by full-time staffers and they told me that the staff is well-trained about not going into homes that don’t appear safe. They were patient with my concerns and there was a kindness and welcoming attitude in their voices that I hadn’t sensed in the group emails to applicants. Slowly I began to let go and get more comfortable.
Stacy has gained so much from her two years on staff. She has become very self-reliant. She has learned to multitask and prioritize her day. She prepares for what needs to be done but she doesn’t get rattled when the day doesn’t go entirely according to her plan – adjustments are made and the day is not a loss. She can speak almost effortlessly (it seems) in front of our church and other groups. She has also learned simpler more practical life skills like writing fundraising letters, office skills, driving through unfamiliar areas, meeting new people, working in groups, and introducing herself with a sense of ease and humility. She has learned to deal with people of very diverse backgrounds, she has engaged in more than a few conflict-resolution situations, and she has become much more mature and at ease with herself and others. Some of this is likely from just being two years older and two years farther into college life, but I really believe that the lion’s share of the changes in Stacy is due to her two summers on staff at Baker. She has grown into a much more confident and (as her mother, dare I say) accomplished individual, and for that we give thanks to those who have guided her and led her at Mt TOP. And, maybe the icing on the cake is that she has loved her time on staff in Tennessee, made lifelong friends of other staffers, and deepened her personal faith immeasurably. That is a treasure she will always appreciate.
So, in conclusion, I had a lot of misconceptions. I had a lot to learn about how Mt TOP works. And I’m eternally grateful that it has played such a significant role in Stacy’s last few years. Stacy is spending this January interning each day with a church-run coalition that assists homeless Cincinnati families (Interfaith Housing Network). She leaves for 15 weeks in Bolivia on January 28th but she has already begun a packing pile for TN in her room. As I write this she is in her room writing partnership letters and thank you notes that her Dad and I will mail out in March when Mt. TOP announces the summer staff choices. And later this week she will get her health physical and prepare to submit some of Mt TOP’s forms and paperwork. When she returns to Cincinnati in May she will have just two full days with us here at home before she heads to TN for training. There’s not enough time for all these tasks, and as her mother it’s sometimes tough to see her working so hard. Preparing to take this summer’s position will be demanding, but this time, instead of me being filled with concern and doubts, I am thrilled that she has the opportunity and grateful that she will have the chance to grow her skills even further while continuing to serve the families of the Cumberland Plateau.
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.
The Big Payback is a community-wide online giving day on May 6, 2014. From 6:00am on the 6th until6:00am on the 7th, Mountain T.O.P. will join in a friendly competition with hundreds of other Middle Tennessee non-profits to see who can raise the most for their cause. There are many prizes throughout the day for getting the most money or the most donors during a given time frame (click hereto see a list of prizes). You can help us out by giving during the 9:00am to 12:00pm time slot!
We are excited to use this giving opportunity to raise funding to support Sherry Hinerman in remodeling her bathroom, which is badly in need of repair. Sherry lives alone and is no longer able to work, which means she was unable to repair her home as it literally fell in around her. Several weeks of AIM campers last Fall were able to repair her roof and replace flooring in one of her bedrooms, while some Spring Breakout campers helped to demolish a portion of her home that was no longer usable. Sherry is exceedingly grateful for the Mountain T.O.P. community’s assistance in getting her home back in shape, and remodeling the bathroom will be the last step in making her house livable.
Our goal is to raise the $1,500 needed to complete this project through The Big Payback. Please join us in this effort! Click here to learn more about the Big Payback, and here to see Mountain T.O.P.’s Big Payback profile. Stay tuned for more info on this exciting giving opportunity.
I’ve been going to MTN TOP for 11years, and each time I go I leave a little piece of my heart in Grundy County.
MTN TOP allows me the opportunity to partner with families in the area to reach a common goal- whether that goal is an addition to their home, or renovation of their current living conditions. The relationships I’ve been able to develop with my families are invaluable. Not only does MTN TOP enable me to meet their physical needs, but to assess and meet their spiritual and emotional needs as well. The families of Grundy County are determined, hard working, humble, and have always responded with such an attitude of thankfulness that overwhelms me. It is truly a privilege to work with them and build those relationships.
Speaking of relationships, Ive made friends through this ministry that I know I’ll have for eternity— from staff to fellow campers across the U.S. We may begin the experience as strangers , but we leave as family.
There’s something so special about a group of strangers separated by so much—age, gender, geography, experience, and a million other factors—-coming together for a common goal: to improve the lives of the people in Grundy County all in our Savior’s name. As a RN, construction work is way out of my comfort zone. That’s when I know I have to fully rely on God for the results. It’s amazing what He can do with someone with few skills, but a willing heart.
MTN TOP is more than a ministry or a place. It’s an attitude of serving, caring, and giving to others that I can practice there and also when I’m back at home in my everyday life.
I’ve been going to MTN TOP for 8 years . Every year I come home thinking that is was the best trip I’ve ever been on, and then the next time is even better!
I’ve had some construction experience before coming to the Mountain, but it’s been amazing to see how a team can come together and accomplish what we do in just 2 days. The last few years, I’ve been asked to be a point person- this is just the person who oversees the project. I’ve learned so much from this ministry that back home I’ve stepped up and done some work on my own.
MTN TOP has opened many doors for me. I did my first devotion at MTN TOP. I really enjoy coming back every year to see what God has in store for me and what things I’ll learn. I’ve gained many friends from the Mountain and have shared God with people on my different teams. It’s so amazing to see the family’s faces on Saturday when we leave, that the little work that we do makes their life easier.
I hope MTN TOP will be here for a long time and continue to help others.
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.