Tag Archives: hooked

First Impressions of the Mountain: by Kyera (SBO)

I am currently a member of a local youth group organization in Connecticut that strives to perform community service acts in order to meet the social, physical, and emotional needs of others. This group, Pilgrim Fellowship (PF), has had the amazing privilege to meet our criteria by being elatedly welcomed by Mountain Top’s staff. To say the least, I was instantly appalled by not only the beauty of the campus, but the overflowing personalities emanating form the Mountain Top staff. 

Within seconds of entering the dining area, I was warmly introduced by a few of the team who made my stay unforgettable. As they spoke to my youth group, it was evident that their focus was clear: to serve God by loving and showing compassion to those around them. There was never a member without a smile on their face or an intention that was not to serve the Lord.

Throughout the week, there was a constant talk of the Mountain Top’s hospitality. The variety and quality of food proved to be exceptional. They would even take into consideration any dietary necessities. So much so, that one of PF’s veteran groupies admitted that MTOP were the best hosts that they have experienced. Our hosts were amazing but the campus itself is another topic. If we were not working, there was always something to do such as volleyball, basketball, or just simply laying out in the fields of the relaxing grass. One of our members had visited the campus this winter while it was snowing and they said that MTOP was equally as beautiful in the winter as it was in the spring. That was hard to believe.

But though others in PF have had the luxury to assist in numerous mission trips, this was my first one due to financial struggles that did not fully count to the cost of the trip. But by the grace of God, I was able to seek financial aid and have the experience of a lifetime. I know in my heart that God called me to receive the blessings, given by Himself, in which MTOP had to offer. Just having the capability to give back, impact the lives of others, and viewing this country in a new perspective was more than humbling. The relationships formed throughout my one week stay have honestly been heart rendering and fully satisfying. This would not have been even close to possible without the generosity that MTOP has showed my PF group.

My experience at MTOP has gifted me with a revelation: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10) I now am fully aware that both MTOP and I have callings on our existences to serve and love all of God’s children by using the blessings God has given.

If I have the opportunity to go back to Mountain Top again, there is no part of me that would not do everything that I can to come once again. Thank you for everything!

-Kyera Bryant

Preparing for Summer Staff by Shelle Merryman

shellee blogIt’s April and I’m preparing for my third summer on staff. My third summer, I don’t know when that happened. I never even thought I would be on staff for one summer, let alone three. In 2007 I answered God’s call to join my church on this crazy new adventure (new to my church and me). I came to Mountain T.O.P. for the first of five times that summer, and have been involved in the ministry some way every year since.  In the fall of 2011, I continued to hear God calling me to spend the next summer doing His work on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. I was a freshman at the University of Tennessee, eight hours away from where I grew up in South Lyon, Michigan. So I was used to being in new situations. Used to not being ‘comfortable’ and going beyond my comfort zone. As I heard his call, I questioned if it was right (because we all like to think He can be wrong). I wasn’t questioning Him because I didn’t want to do something new, but because I never felt like I could do a good enough job. I ended up applying and eventually being accepted to be a Ministry Coordinator. I spent my first spring semester as a college student preparing for what I thought was going to be an amazing summer filled of love, God, and campers (and this didn’t disappoint!)! But I also thought I was going to change so many people’s lives but boy was I wrong: instead, every county person, camper, and fellow staff member I encountered changed mine.

shellee blog1The unbelievable experience I had as a Ministry Coordinator (MC) was completely due to my staff, my campers, and the county people. The job of a MC is nothing like what I expected. I knew it was going to be hard work, but I didn’t know that would include the amount of paper work, driving, and late nights that were experienced, but I wouldn’t change one minute of that entire summer. Even if I was running around pretending like I knew what I was doing when I had no clue and solving issues that I didn’t even know existed, I wouldn’t have wanted to be doing anything different. Of course there were times I questioned what I was doing; why I was okay with the minimal amount of sleep, okay with being so far from civilization, okay with the crazy requirements of my job, but then you experience all of those rewarding moments. Giving a message to your favorite camp community, having an amazing YRG build a porch for one of your favorite county people, laughing with your staff at anything and everything that is said, those are the moments when you know the reason you’re there. Where else in the world is it socially acceptable to act like an airplane driving down a windy road? It’s not easy to ALWAYS be 100% yourself, but it is on the Mountain. Where else can you be crying one moment and the next be laughing so hard you’re crying for a completely different reason? Praying the way my staff prayed instantly puts a smile on my face just to think about. All of these experiences showed me what it’s like to truly be immersed in faith and servant-hood, but it doesn’t end there.

shellee blog2God knew all of these amazing experiences meant more to me than I could say, so he convinced me to return last summer as a field manager. I knew it was going to be hard work, I knew that I wouldn’t have the same experience I had as an MC, but I also knew that my love for the county people could not be compared to a love I had for anyone or anything else. Simply put, I would do ANYTHING for these people. I love them like my family, so I knew I had to come back as a field manager, to serve them again. The hard work that came with this job was more than I imagined. The limited amount of sleep and amount of work I had didn’t compare to another job on the mountain, but once again, I wouldn’t wish for one of the moments all summer to be changed. My staff helped shape who I am, and the work in the field put a smile on my face all of the time. Even with a different role as the summer before, I knew that I belonged on my specific staff doing my job and look back and see why I was placed there by God, doing His work.

shellee blog3As I said at the beginning, I’m now preparing for my third summer on staff. I have the amazing opportunity to return to the mountain as a YSM Director. I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity! Once again I’ll have a role that is not even close to one I’ve had in the past, but I get to do God’s work in a different role. Being a director requires me to lead my staff, to have a successful staff and camp weeks and I couldn’t be happier to have this responsibility placed on my shoulders. With God guiding me along the way, I know that He will help my staff and me be successful and lead us to do His work. Even if we’re not anywhere close to civilization, even if I have the hardest job I’ve ever had, even if I don’t get nearly enough sleep every night, I know that I’m doing His work and fulfilling him. I’m fulfilling Him, so he is fulfilling me in return. I get to do His work and there is no place I would rather be. I love having the opportunity to live on a mountain top and I wouldn’t ask for anything else.

God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good. He called me to the mountain in 2007 with a servant heart, and has fulfilled that heart experience after experience.

Something Special, Why We keep coming to MTOP: by Chad and Angela Cooper

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.

Chad and Angela Cooper

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.

                                                                                                                                                                           Angela Cooper

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.

Chad Cooper

Hooked: Thoughts from Returning Summer Staffer, Emma Couch.



I’ve been participating in Mountain T.O.P.’s ministry in some capacity since the summer of 2009. Last year, I felt strongly that God was calling me to spend my summer doing His work as a summer staffer. As I was finishing up my sophomore year at Ohio State, and preparing for a summer spent in Tennessee, I had a lot of ideas about what my experience was going to be like. A summer spent in paradise, where I was the hero, changing people’s lives and making some awesome new friends. What I found was that I was completely wrong; once my summer was complete, I found that my life was instead the one that had been changed, by the people I encountered, and the unbelievable, all-encompassing love I experienced.

Those of you who have been on summer staff will understand me when I say that our job is HARD. While I had expected a happy-go-lucky, super relaxing job, half the time I was a Ministry Coordinator, I felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to fix this problem or solve that issue.  Sometimes I became frustrated, sometimes I wondered why on earth I would have chosen to spend my summer in a place whose closest Wal-Mart was 40 minutes away, and sometimes I thought that maybe I should just go home. But then came the quiet moments, whether it be during a staff worship during precamp, or a daybreak on a worksite, or quiet moment with a family at a project. In those moments, I realized that Mountain T.O.P. was an unbelievably important place, and that I was lucky enough to get to experience that crazy thing we call staff life, seeing God in everything I encountered.

263335_10152866676135707_1682585318_nThis summer, I get the opportunity to return for my second year on staff, as a YSM Program Manager. I’ll be taking on a much different role than I did last summer, and I have a lot of nerves about my abilities, the experience itself, and what the summer is going to look like. I had my doubts about applying for my second year, as I’m getting ready to go into my senior year of college, but after a lot of prayer, and some gentle nudging from God, I realized that my heart wouldn’t be satisfied until I returned to the mountain to continue His work. I already know that my job will be hard, and sometimes I’ll be sad there’s no Wal-Mart, but if I learned anything from my staff experience last summer, I know that every moment of stress will be worth it, because there is absolutely nothing better than being able to live (and work) on a mountain top.

Hooked: Reflections from a Spring Breakout Group

“As the Campus Minister for the students going on this trip and as the primary coordinator for our annual Spring Break mission trips, I am always looking for ways to stretch my students. All too often, they get into the mindset that their way of doing something is the *only* way to do something. This is why I chose Mountain T.O.P. as our service site.

Group putting together bunks for new cabins
Group putting together bunks for new cabins

 I have traveled to MTOP in the past and I loved the diversity of Christians who serve the Lord and bring their own prayer styles to the community. When you are at MTOP, you are one serving body of Christians, each with his or her own gifts to bring to the community. Further, MTOP entrusts their participants with a great deal of responsibility in accomplishing their given projects. Our students grew in confidence and knowledge as we accomplished our projects and our hearts were opened to the wonderful diversity that the Lord works within his Church. We prayed, ate, laughed, and served together – just as I imagine it will be in Heaven. Mountain T.O.P.’s Spring Breakout is a wonderful experience that our students will not soon forget!”

Love Come to Life

Drewry MPT
Drewry MPT

Certain places have a way of cementing their significance in our lives when introduced during our formative years. For me, it is this hidden land off I-24, off the Pelham exit, up HWY 56 where I first experienced real love. You know, the kind of life-altering, soul-shifting love that, when experienced, redefines everything you’ve ever known about it previously? Real love. The first time I came to MTOP was the summer I was thirteen. My experiences working with the families of the Cumberland Mountains taught me about putting others before myself in the most basic of ways. For the next several summers, I came back to this special spot on the mountain and poured my heart into the work I was allowed to do and into the people I met. The love of Jesus became real for me. I saw the love of Christ come to life on that mountain, and a desire to get these experiences to translate into life in the real world down in the valley below was born within my spirit.

Fast forward a few years. I had the opportunity to serve on summer staff at MTOP for three years while I was in college. These summers revolutionized the way that I operate at an almost cellular level. The end of the summer would always leave me riding high and determined to carry what I had learned down the mountain and into everyday life back at home. Months would pass and life would knock me around a bit, and before long my thoughts would be consumed with making myself feel better. However, an egocentric life has a way of paralyzing any sort of service for others. There is no sacrifice when we are focused on ourselves and not on others. There is no room for Jesus to work. College graduation came and I entered the workforce, but rarely would a day go by when those summers did not cross my mind or come up in conversation with someone else who had experienced the magic of the mountain. Yet, I often found myself really struggling with the fact that I wasn’t fulfilling my end of the bargain. What was happening on the mountain was not translating in the day to day. I felt unable to make the kind of impact or incite the kind of change in the valley that I had spent years witnessing up on that mountain. What was I doing wrong? However, there is the problem.
The weekend of October 18-21 provided me with another opportunity to roll into Camp Cumberland Pines with a group of eighty-plus volunteers for a weekend of service. I was unprepared for the impact that this experience would have on my life. Really, I should know better than to think that I can’t be surprised by what the power of God can do to a heart. I’ve seen what He can do. My weekend at AIM was shaped by 1 John 3:16-17 which states, “This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears and you made it disappear.”  Boom. That’s it. That is the moment. This scripture opened the door and revealed the missing piece for me. It is a shift in focus.
My MPT worked with a lady named Deborah over the course of the weekend. When we broke into our groups and were handed our notebooks with our jobsite information, we were all moved by Deborah’s story. The last few years had not been easy for her. The tragic loss of her husband in 2008 had been understandably difficult for her. It was apparent upon meeting Deborah that the biggest thing our group could do for her was to just be with her. Over the few days we were on the mountain, there was a lot of discussion of the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t know about you, but that guy is tough to nail down and describe. Is it a feeling? Is it tangible? You get the idea. Our group was really lucky to be able to do some nice things around Mrs. D’s house that weekend. We painted a little. We defrosted a freezer, which I might add made us question our positions on global warming. This ice was thick. We put in some new flooring in her living room. All of these things were great and we were thrilled to do as many tasks as possible in the short amount of time we were given. But the best parts of our time together took place in those quiet moments of prayer, devotion, and conversation, when it became increasingly clear that something much bigger than ourselves was working amongst us. The Holy Spirit was present and he was creating a stir within all of our hearts to show us what it means to love. It didn’t matter that we had only known each other or Mrs. D for a matter of days. When our time together was finished, we knew that we had been a part of something really remarkable. We all sacrificed a little of our time and energy over that weekend, but what allowed Jesus to come in and work was the fact that we all, including Mrs. D, allowed that part of ourselves that we sometimes let stand back on the outskirts of life to come out and take action. We loved. We worshipped. We sacrificed. We served. All of us. When we open ourselves up to the possibility that we each carry something that is of value, to someone, it is really powerful to see what the Lord can do. Synergy is a real thing, and I know that the sum was truly greater than its parts that weekend. The Holy Spirit showed us how to love by sacrificing for another, physically and emotionally. We all rolled up our emotional sleeves and got our hands dirty.
So, how do I take the magic of the mountain down to the valley below? How do I continue to be a conduit of grace and love for Jesus? It is a moment by moment choice to take every situation and every interaction and pump it full of the love of Jesus by sacrificing of myself in some way. In every way. If someone is in need and I have something to offer, I have to use that as an opportunity to serve. The moment to serve someone is not hidden behind some big picture, grand vision, or massive project that I have to wrap my brain and heart around first. It is in these small interactions with others where I am given endless opportunities to serve and to share the love of Jesus. That is how to bring the mountain down into the valley. That is real love. We are called to live and love sacrificially just as Christ did for us. Real magic happens when the focus shifts to acknowledge the needs of others before our own and we allow Jesus to work.
Stephanie Holland, Crievewood UMC

Hooked: Grundy County Art Teacher shares about leading Day Camp Workshops

Day CampWhat I enjoy about doing workshops for Mountain TOP:

I am always happy to do workshops for Mountain Top. It allows me to participate in one of the most important ministries in our area and spend time with children I teach art to during the school year. I enjoy having them come to my studio in the mornings. I then go onsite in the afternoon. It is a very fulfilling time. I also have a special affinity for Mountain Top. In 2009, volunteers from all over the United States worked in the winter weather to get my uncompleted studio dried in and donated tons of art supplies to my school program, which was a God send considering a very meager art budget. By opening the studio I have also been able to offer extended art lessons to my students who really love art. Because of their generous gift of time and materials, I have been able to teach art to homeschool groups, hold greatly reduced art workshops by professional artists and have a place where artists and learners can come together. While I am not a 501 c3 (yet), I have been able to serve people who would not be able to go out of town for quality art experiences. Mountain Top is has been a blessing to all of us in Grundy County and I am honored to be part of their program.

Jana Barrett

Grundy County Art Teacher


For many of our campers, a week serving alongside the people of our community can be a life-changing experience. Going home after that week of service, community building, and having the opportunity to get to know families, can be a difficult transition. I know it has always been difficult for me. My first year as a camper I was 14 years old and painfully awkward. I went because one of the ladies at my church said that when her son went to Mountain T.O.P. he made a lot of friends, and I was all about that. I was all about service and making a difference but what I really wanted was to take BFF pictures with a bunch of new friends. So, I went.
Yep there I am, airbrush shirt and all

My first trip was at Baker Mountain. Over the course of that week I grew tremendously in my faith, as well as developed a new view of myself. Not only was I awkward, but I was a child of God. I realized that I was important in God’s eyes. That week when I used a power saw for the first time, and I saw the end product of our work, I couldn’t believe what I was capable of. Doors seemed to be opening right before my eyes.

Mrs. Jones, the lady we worked with for our two day project was 95 years old. She moved slowly in and out of her house. Her steps were too step for her to walk down and since she lived alone she spent most of her time sitting on the front porch sewing. We were there to build her a ramp so she could get out of her house. During those 2 days she sat on the porch and sewed 110 pieces of fabric together to create a pin cushion. Every so often we would stop and help her rethread her needle and she would continue her work. At the end of the 2 days we bought it from her and it still sits on top of my bookshelf in my bedroom. For a long time that blue and red pin cushion has reminded me of the importance of caring for my neighbors. Mrs. Jones sat out in the 100 degree weather just to be with us. Just to talk to us. Just to thank us and to love us.

My 14 year old self was completely overwhelmed by that kind of love and kindness. From that moment on I just wanted to be at Mountain T.O.P, or talk about Mountain T.O.P, or look at pictures from Mountain T.O.P, because the mountain symbolized restoration in my life, which I think is true for many of our participants. I wanted to forever give back what I had received that summer.

When I got home from that trip I sat in my driveway for hours, not wanting to unpack. I figured if Mrs. Jones was living without air conditioning, I could too (that didn’t last long). How could I be at home and still be involved at Mountain T.O.P?

I’m sorry to say that this post does not reveal how a person is able to be in two places at once. But through my involvement in Summer Staff and now full-time staff I have learned ways to stay involved throughout the year. Things that our community can do to help continue these opportunities for restoration.

You can provide resources to the ministry, so that we are able to provide resources to our community. As Ed said in his letter sent out earlier this year, every dollar given is worth 4x that. For every dollar given you are contributing to the restoration of homes, families, campers, children, churches, and the community. You are providing resources that would not be available. You are showing love and compassion, and providing hope. You are providing the opportunity for 14 year olds like me to realize that they are capable of amazing things.

$10 will make a difference. $25 will make a difference. $100, $500, $1000, any amount makes a difference for Mountain T.O.P. and our community. It is a way to participate in the various ministries throughout the year even when you are not up here on the Mountain.

Give a gift at Razoo and your gift will immediately help Mountain T.O.P.

Just Go – A Reflection by Curtis Clarke on his MTOP experience

“You just have to go and experience it for yourself” Those were the words my pastor told me about Mountain T.O.P. Similar advice was reinforced by other members of my church who had spent a week on the mountain; “I can’t explain it to you, just go”.
It was 2008 and my wife and I had been working with the youth at our church since the previous fall. I had been on a mission trip in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina a few years earlier and was excited about “getting blisters for Jesus” again. We had done all the fundraising and training needed for the trip and as I said goodbye to my family and friends for a week, I had no idea what I was doing or how my life would be forever changed by my time on the mountain.
During the course of the week, I soon discovered that time on the mountain is more than just a mission trip; it’s more than just swinging a hammer or running a saw. It’s an immersion in a culture and it’s the building of a community. My first week at Mountain T.O.P. taught me that each and every one of us has a gift and talent that can and needs to be used in the service of others. It restored my hope that there is a generation that is willing to sacrifice and commit to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It also brought about a stirring in my spirit that led me to answer God’s call on my life and go into pastoral ministry full time, and for that I am forever thankful.
The joy I have now as a pastor is being able to introduce others to this ministry and to be able to see the change in them after a week on the mountain, both spiritually and emotionally. I often tell people, “time on the mountain doesn’t change you; it reveals who you really are”. When someone asks me what a week in camp is like, then only thing I can tell them is; “You just have to experience it for yourself”.
In His grip,
Rev. Curtis Clarke
Pastor, Armada UMC & West Berlin UMC