Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Race for the Future



The wheels have come off my race car!  I still have my Royal Ambassador race car from 1964.  I can remember racing it until the axles wore out and the wheels came off.  I look at it and know a system of missions education and missions support that shaped my early life.  I look at it and know that I became a Southern Baptist missionary to fulfill the call of God upon my life that began so early. 

Denominational missions has been the vehicle that God gave me to fulfill my call as a resort missionary.  Like that race car, I have ridden denominational missions with great energy and excitement.  Now, the wheels have come off that vehicle!

I have been a Southern Baptist missionary since 1981.  Now, the North American Mission Board and the Tennessee Baptist Convention have withdrawn their support of Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries and of me.  The official announcement states:  “The Administration of the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention has made the difficult decision to cease funding for Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries effective September 30, 2014.  This decision has not been reached lightly and is in response in a decrease in funding available from the North American Mission Board and from the Tennessee Baptist Convention Cooperative Program.”

God has not changed my calling nor changed the missions need of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County, Tennessee.  God has not released me from Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries.  The Sevier County Association of Baptist responded to the announcement of the Tennessee Baptist Convention with a vote to maintain Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries (SMRM) and to affirm Bill Black as its Director.  These local Baptist churches will continue to support SMRM with their limited financial resources and their powerful love. 

The missional model of SMRM remains healthy, active, and God-blessed.  People around our ministry are responding daily to our loving and creative works of evangelism, ministry, and church growth.  God’s blessing remains on SMRM.

The business model of SMRM is now open to new possibilities.  SMRM must raise its own funding to continue.  SMRM must find $168,000 per year to continue on its current active level.  That means we need $14,000 per month to continue as God has us working now.

Would you become the wheels for this ministry?  Would you commit to funding one month of SMRM?   Would you commit to raising a month’s support?  

Gifts can be sent to SMRM, P.O. Box 114, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.  Please mark your gifts for “future”.  Gifts are tax deductible.  Contact Bill at bill@smrm.org or 865-607-4076 to get involved in helping this plan into the future. 

Your commitment to support on any level will put the wheels on a new vehicle.

We can do this.  God will do this.  



Monday, June 16, 2014

Current Ministries Through Past Experiences

    SMRM has been in existence for 38 years with all 38 of those years having found a home in our beloved Camp Smoky. Hundreds of volunteers and staff have passed through this ministry building, and some return as staff for another year, as supportive house parents, or as encouraging visitors. No matter how much time has passed they always enter with the same comment-- "Nothing has changed!"
   On Friday night the SMRM dorm brought in three generations of SMRM volunteers that once worshipped and learned in that same living space years before. The 2014 staff welcomed Sherry Cothran-Woolsey, a Methodist pastor and musician serving in Nashville, and her husband Patrick. Sherry served as a summer missionary in the 1980s but connected deeply with Tracy Hartman, the current house parent of  Virginia who is a professor at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond who served on staff on the 1970s. One speaks through written teaching, the other through song, but both women are passionate about promoting the stories of courageous women in the Bible to in turn empower modern day women to have their own voices heard. These women are part of SMRM's history but continue to shape the present and future of our organization through their insight and depth. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On Sunday, March 9, Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries celebrated God’s work with a baptism in a water feature dug into the snow of Ober Gatlinburg’s ski slopes! 

The group that meets for worship on the slopes at 12:30 on Sundays includes Ober Gatlinburg visitors and members of the National Ski Patrol and employees of the Gatlinburg Snow Sports School.   Bill Black leads this worship group with help from members of Gatlinburg First Baptist Church and Pigeon Forge First Baptist Church.   Two instructors from the Gatlinburg Snow Sports School professed their faith in Christ and requested baptism ---in the snow at Ober Gatlinburg!

Ober Gatlinburg was hosting its Spring Fling on March 9.   Spring Fling activities include trying to ski or snowboard across a trench dug into the snow and filled with water and snow. Ober Gatlinburg’s owners gave permission for Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries to gather in worship before the mountain opened and celebrate the baptisms.   Thirty friends gathered to worship with Scripture readings, prayers, testimonies, and hymns.  The water was icy as Bill and his sisters in Christ waded in.  God’s joy and laughter joined everyone else’s as these baptisms were quickly done!

 Two other Ober Gatlinburg employees who participate in a second “Donut Devotional” group witnessed the baptism and also made professions of faith and have requested baptism.   Further, their witnesses into their families have led to two more decisions for Christ.  These baptisms are planned for slightly warmer weather and locations!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Story behind the Dollywood Piano

New Piano at the Dollywood Chapel

My church used to have a "Fifth Sunday Sing" on those odd months when you had five Sundays.  I always enjoyed those Sunday evenings even as kid.  I could choose any song I wanted and call it out.  The choir director would be forced to sing it, and the pianist would struggle through a rarely played hymn.

This past Sunday, we had our own "First Sunday Sing" as we celebrated through music the gift of a new piano.  Michael Stinnett of Antique Piano Shop in Friendsville, TN donated a completely restored 1901 Lester Piano for use in the Robert F. Thomas Chapel at Dollywood.

We had record breaking attendance with more than 300 guests participating in the worship service.  Our Dollywood Hosts were pulling benches out of the neighboring Wagon Shop so our guest could sit in the street and listen.

It was a wonderful service as we moved through Psalm 118 in songs of worship and praise!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Back at the Dollywood Chapel

The Festival of Nations kicks off another season at Dollywood, and so too, we begin another year of ministry among the Hosts and Guests.  In Chapel this first week we took a trip around the world-  opening with a children's choir from Uganda, I was wearing my short Kurta from India, and we closed the service with Scottish Bag Pipes.

We used our 5 senses to explore the Passion story: the SMELL of Mary's perfume as she anointed Jesus' feet, the TASTE of the Passover bread, the TOUCH of the nails, the SOUND of the 2 earthquakes (one at Jesus' death and the other when the stone was rolled away), and the SIGHT of the angel's glowing appearance!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17 marked the end of the Ober Gatlinburg 50th Anniversary Ski Season!   The day was planned to be a fun one with many public race and jump competitions, Ski School versus Ski Patrol competitions, and a pond skimming competition.   A great time was had by all.

Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries was involved in assisting all the above actions to be fun and easy.
We also did our regular ministry by meeting all employees with a breakfast donut from The Donut Friar and a devotional sheet.  One lift attendant said, "This is the only way I get to go to church.  This is where I get to hold onto God."   At 12:30 we also had our regular worship service on the slopes.   Twelve of us gathered in an expression of Church to announce "Amen. Hallelujah" (Revelation 19:4) as a ending of the season.

The above pictures reveal the OTHER powerful event at Ober Gatlinburg yesterday.  Just after the slopes opened and before all the fun activities began, we celebrated two baptisms in the pond skimming pool!   30 people gathered to read Scripture, pray, hear the testimonies of these two ski /  snowboard instructors, and to witness their commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives.   Bill was honored and excited to wade into the icy water with them as our friends stood on the snow and to baptize them.   Thanks be to God for a HOLY and REFRESHING ending to the ski season!