Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, TN, 2011
What was difficult about your summer in Great Smoky and how did you handle it?
This summer I was challenged to view life a little differently. I lived in a dorm with no air conditioning, no cell service, and no internet connection. Instead of wasting my time with those things that I am used to, I was instead able to focus on completely different aspects of life. Those aspects included community, service, and finding Christ in all situations. It was amazing to see how easy it was to focus all my energy on loving others when I wasn't trying to split my concentration in a million directions. I fell in love with the simplicity of life in the Smoky Mountains, and the community that was built by Southern kindness.
Going into the summer I told myself that it was just a couple months, so even though they would probably be torture I would get through it. Within the first two days I realized that this wouldn't be a summer that I just slept through. I built incredible relationships with people in the dorm, on my team, and at my job. I gained confidence in my relationship with Christ through our services. Not only did I make it through the summer, but I loved every minute of it.
What did you learn this summer and how will that affect your life in the future?
It was impossible to miss God's hand in all of the activities I did this summer. He was present in every relationship that I made, and He guided me in doing things that I never thought myself capable of. I came into the summer thinking that I wouldn't have to give a message more than twice, but God showed me that He can speak through me even when I'm not sure of myself. I ended up giving more than 6 or 7 messages throughout the summer, all to my amazement. God gave me the confidence to do His work. I hope to be able to maintain this confidence in building relationships in my life, and also in not being afraid to share Christ with other people. I also want to continue to love unconditionally in the way that I was taught this summer by everyone I encountered.
What advice can you give to future team members?
For anyone looking into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, I would recommend that they come in with an open mind. Everything about the Smokies is different than any experience they would have in another park, but it isn't any less wonderful. I will never forget my time in Tennessee, and I will always hold a piece of the mountains in my heart.