Summer Mission in the Smoky Mountains

Jenna and 54 others invest a summer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, telling people about Jesus.

By Jenna Sherard   |  28 . June . 2010
image-karissa and jenna-465x280 Jenna (right) mentors Karissa, a college student from South Carolina, during the Smoky Mountain summer mission trip. Photo courtesy of Jenna Sherard

Today is different from any other day. 

I woke up this morning to see the fog rising up from the mountains outside my bedroom window. I feel a rendition of "Rock of Ages" coming on and half expect the Gaither gospel singers to chime in on harmony. I hold back for the benefit of my husband who’s still sleeping peacefully. 

How did I get here in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee? It’s simple: God. He brought me and 54 others to be a part of a summer project -- a summer mission’s opportunity through Campus Crusade for Christ. Forty-five are college students and 10 of us are staff members.

The day begins with a few hours with my new friend Karissa (see picture). She’s a college student from South Carolina. She is already dear to me even though I’ve known her for a mere 4 weeks (God slows time down on summer project to ensure authentic relationships. I’m convinced of it.)

I lead the Bible study Karissa's in and we meet 1-to-1 each week. This day we’re talking about how to show the love of Christ to her co-workers. She’s a server at Blaine’s restaurant in quaint downtown Gatlinburg. She’s memorizing her story to share with her friends at work.  She’s also memorizing the menu and eating lots of Ranchero’s (the best burger in town!).

After great time with Karissa, the group switches gears. We head to Cade’s Cove (a nearby spot in the national park) for hotdogs and a hayride. We pile in cars to make the short drive. Different ipods are blasting out of each car (so are the student’s singing).  We try to make it to the national park at least once a week. 

Cade’s Cove welcomes us with warm sunshine. Hot dogs and dessert fill our stomachs. We spot 4 deer and 3 black bears in the course of our ride. 

I feel all rustic out here. Maybe it’s the mountain air. I think I could leave civilization behind. (Well, maybe I could…an image of Target shopping floods my mind. Scratch that idea. I love civilization!) 

Our time ends with the smoke falling into the mountains with the sun. The drive home is much sleepier with ipods more humming than blasting. 

Tonight is different than any other night. God and I talk about what a great gift this summer is.

Gatlinburg city lights are bright against the backdrop of mountains. The lights symbolize so many people in the tourist town waiting for a Savior. Our group gets to be a part of meeting that need. 

What a huge adventure we’re on. It’ll have to wait for the morning though.

Read about other summer projects.