Tag Archives: Live Worthy

What is Giving Tuesday?

What is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

You don’t have to be a world leader or a billionaire to give back. #GivingTuesday is about ordinary people coming together doing extraordinary things.

So what does this all have to do with Mountain TOP?

On Giving Tuesday, we have a goal of raising $5,000 on that day alone, that will go towards our 2014 Annual Giving Fund.  The money that goes into the Annual Fund goes to the area of greatest need at Mountain T.O.P, whether that be lumber, snack packs, Fall Festival items, metal roofing, keeping the lights on, facility repairs, or anything else that enables this ministry to fulfill our mission.

On Giving Tuesday, based on the number of gifts, amount given, unique gifts given, Mountain T.O.P. can receive additional funds from PayPal, Razoo, and the Giving Tuesday Campaign.  So we can potentially turn that $5,000 into $6,000, or $10,000 or more!

What can YOU do about it?

1. You can give a gift of at least $10 on December 2 on the Mountain TOP ThanksGIVING TUESDAY Fundraiser page on razoo.

2. You can become a Mountain TOP Giving Tuesday Ambassador.  Ambassadors will receive a tool kit with things to post, send, and share with friends and family to tell them about Mountain TOP and about Giving Tuesday.

3.  You can encourage 5 friends and family members to donate at least $10 to The ThanksGIVING TUESDAY Fundraiser which immediately multiplies your gift and contribution.

4.  You can give a gift today and share it with your friends and family, asking them to match your gift today or on Giving Tuesday.

5. Share our updates for Giving Tuesday on your social media to help spread the word.


Mountain TOP would not be able to live out the calling for this ministry without you and your dedication to this ministry.  Any gift or contribution immediately goes back into the service to our community.  Whether you give today or on December 2, know that your gift is making a difference, and that we thank you for all that you do for this ministry.

Click here to give today!

For more information on how to get involved in Giving Tuesday email olivia@mountain-top.org.


“I loved every minute of my job” -Reflections from Ben Nichols, YSM Field Manager

10517460_10152361219728462_2619754332891817638_nI had my first exposure to Mountain TOP in the summer of 2009. I was an eager 15 year old who was excited to spend a week away from home, make some new friends at camp, and get to use power tools. I had no idea how powerfully Mountain TOP would impact me and I didn’t realize the impact Mountain TOP makes on the people they work with.

This past summer I was on staff for the second time, now as a Field Manager (aka the toolshed guy). I was incredibly blessed to have this position where everyday I could go out and see the difference that Mountain TOP was making. Whether you were a camper 20 years ago, were a camper this summer, or support Mountain TOP financially or in prayer I want to remind you: this ministry is changing lives.

My job this past summer was to oversee the projects going on outside of Camp Baker Mountain during weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7. I would go out and check up on groups during and after their projects making sure projects were done the right way and also making sure the homeowners were happy. I scheduled all the projects for my camp weeks. I got lumber from sawmills and delivered it to worksites with the help of some Ministry Coordinators. I listened to every story about how projects went that day and answered all construction questions while encouraging groups that they could get it done.

IMG_3097I loved every minute of my job.

I pulled up to a home where a YRG had recently finished building a porch to find an elderly man sitting on his new porch. He was talking with his neighbor about how proud he was of his new porch. I saw the heart of a man newly filled with love of the Lord’s servants.

I stopped by the home of a woman who had a wheelchair ramp built by us. She knew the names of every single person in her YRG. She told me about the 14 and 15 year olds in the group who got along like brother and sister. She told me of the 18 year old who was as strong as an ox. She told me about the 16 year old who was the best worker in the group. She told me about the driver who “Knew exactly what he was doing”. This woman needed a wheelchair ramp, but the interaction with this YRG meant as much to her as anything. I heard the words of a woman who had been filled with the love of the Lord’s servants.

I couldn’t be more proud of my staff and the community we had my final week of the summer. We completed 4 wheelchair ramps for people who needed them. One woman was in a wheelchair and the only entrance to her trailer was a porch. Because of a stroke, she couldn’t even remember the last time she had left her home. One man had fallen and broken his hip going down the stairs from his porch so we built him a wheelchair ramp. There were 2 families in which the mother was going through chemo. Both were scheduled to get home on Friday. We had YRGs at both of their homes for 3 full days of work.  They skipped their YRG celebration to keep working. Both women were able to get into their homes when they returned from the hospital because of the wheelchair ramps we built for them. I saw that the Lord provides.

Mountain TOP provides relief, love, hope, and countless other things to the community of the Cumberland Plateau through the service projects done in the summer. I got to see all of it. I got to see the impact that this ministry makes and I hope that all of you who are involved with Mountain TOP one way or another know that you have changed the lives of the people you work with during your visit to the Mountain. I hope that next summer you come to the Mountain of Lord ready to work hard. I hope that next summer you come to the Mountain of the Lord ready to fill somebody with the love of the Lord.


Ben Nichols

Field Manager


The importance of this week cannot be put into words: by Neighbors Helping Neighbors Director, Shellee Merryman

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. 

NHN campersI’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 worship 1NHN 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. 

NHN worshipIt 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.

NHN worship 2This 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. 

shelleeA 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,

~Shellee Merryman

-Neighbors Helping Neighbors Director 

Day Camp: Shaping the Future of Our Community, by Monica Welcker

Monica in her YRG
Monica in her YRG

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.

Day Camp kids at Sewanee
Day Camp kids at Sewanee

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. 

Monica for blog

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.

Share Your Story

Storybook Banner

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 info@mountain-top.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.


2014 Summer Staff list


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


Monica Welcker – Dublin, OH


Amanda Hyssong – Franklin, TN

Erika Roberts – Dublin, OH


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



Brooke Freeman – Snellville, GA


Ben Aastuen – Northfield, MN


Rachael Osborn – Winchester, IN


Alli Heisner – Cedar Park, TX


Andy Wegg – Winchester, IN

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