On June 9, a group of 12 people representing Killearn United Methodist Church departed for Tennessee to serve for a week. Mountain Top (Tennessee Outreach Project) is an interdenominational, non-profit Christian Mission associated with the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, dedicated to rural life ministry in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee.
The Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee is an area distinguished by natural beauty, rich cultural textures, and a history of economic injustice and persistent rural poverty. The people of this region meet their many physical hardships with faith and resourcefulness. But the constant struggle against the indignity of poverty often gives rise to feelings of shame, loneliness, and despair that can be even more devastating than the lack of physical resources.
During this week, the Killearn team will be participating in two major home repair projects and conducting two workshops for special need children at the Mountain Top camp. One workshop will use drama to provide an exposure to the arts and the other will use cooking as a fun way to promote a more healthy lifestyle. There is time each day for a worship and praise experience, recreation, and lunch. One adult is assigned to 2-3 children and serves as a caregiver for those children for the entire week. This allows for the establishment of relationships with the children.
Team members are Keith & Donna Tischler (leaders), LaDon Adams, Jim & Kay Anderson, Marcus & Beverly Basford, Bill & Diane Brown, Jim Sheldrake, and Hollie & Jan Thomas.
Sunday, June 10
The KUMC Mountain Top team arrived around noon, checked in and were assigned our rooms. After time to unpack, we attended an orientation meeting and became familiar with the camp and what we would be doing. After dinner we had meetings, there was a brief worship service and the group working with children and the home repair teams broke for individual meetings. The construction team tested their skills building two trash can holders (hopefully bear proof) to be installed at the camp.
Monday, June 11
Morning devotion was at 7:00 followed by breakfast at 7:30. Home repair crews left for their worksites and the children teams met in their workshop teams to prepare for their opening sessions. Drivers left around nine to pick up the children. The children all assembled in one of the outdoor pavilions and they met their morning workshop leaders. Day one of the drama workshop led by Kay Anderson went well. This being my first experience working with special needs children was a little bit of a challenge but you learn quickly to make adjustments. LaDon Adams' workshop on cooking and nutrition went well. After lunch their were larger group workshops and some recreational activities. The drivers then took their children home and returned to camp. After dinner there was sharing time about the days experiences and then an evening worship service. Tuesday will begin with most people up around six and a morning devotion at 7:00 with breakfast at 7:30.
Tuesday, June 12
The home repair crew got a break with no rain today. Both crews are making good progress and the families they are working for are very appreciative. The workshops continue led by LaDon Adams and Kay Anderson. The kids are having a great time, but they have a lot more energy than the adults. It is a joy to establish relationships with the children by seeing them everyday. I had one say to me yesterday "Mr. Jim you are my best friend". He looks for me first thing everyday and gives me a "high five". Since some of the children have attention disorders of varying degrees, it has been necessary to adapt the activities. LaDon's cooking workshop is very popular and they have made great sounding dishes. She is trying to do foods they would like but at the same time be nutritious. The drama workshop led by Kay is grecoming together with most of the scenery painted and the costumes made. On Wednesday we will do final touchup to the scenery and costumes and work on the children's lines. Thursday will be a dress rehearsal and Friday is the performance for all of the kids and the parents. By the end of the day everyone is worn out. After dinner we have a time of sharing about the day and then conclude with a brief worship service led by the staff. After worship some of us head to bed while other small groups stay up and talk or work on crafts for the next day. Jan Thomas has turned out to be our official photographer and I look forward to getting access to her pictures and posting them on the website. Continue to pray for this ministry. It is well respected in the community. I was in Ace Hardware yesterday buying some supplies and the cashier asked me what I was doing with tape and multiple glue sticks. I told him and he said two of his children attended several years ago and that they had a great experience.
Wednesday, June 13
Another great time on the Mountain Top. There was no rain again so the home repair crews were able to work uninterrupted. The children's programs continued with each day yielding stronger and stronger relationships with the children. We also find out more and more about their family situations each day which only serves to reinforce how important this ministry is. I have not spoken to a single person on our team who would not want to come back. Dinner on Wednesday was an outdoor barbeque followed by free time to visit some local sites. The sharing time in the evening is especially moving as we have the opportunity for the group to hear about individual children as each "caregiver" has gotten close to two or three "special children". The formal day concludes with a formal worship service. After that people congregate on the porch or the common area and talk, unwind, and get to know each better. The group from Tennessee usually closes the evening after midnight.
Thursday, June 14
Another great day for the construction crews. They have really bonded and consider themselves to be "true" teams. They have encountered problems and by working together they have been able to overcome them. The children groups are going great. Since all of these children have some type of special need whether it be their family situation or some type of learning disability, the time spent with them has given us the ability to tailor the activities that we do with each one to more effectively meet their needs. It is amazing the range of needs that these children have. Tomorrow is the "Celebration" where the families will come for lunch and a closing program. The evening concluded with sharing and a worship service.
Friday, June 15
CELEBRATION DAY. The morning is spent practicing in the workshrop groups for the afternoon performance. Kay's drama group holds their final dress rehearsal. Parents and other family start to arrive at 11:45 and lunch kicks off at 12:00 with a menu highlighted by corn dogs. Lunch provides a great opportunity to talk with those who they live with. I got the feeling that the adults were very appreciative of what we are doing with the children as they had related to them what they had been doing each day. The drama production went great as well as the presentations by the cooking group (LaDon Adams), the art group, the Oceans group, and the horse group. After the presentation goodbyes were said and several of the children would hu