Surprised by the blessings and the Mountain TOP experience


     After years of discussion, a group of 10 "thirty-somethings" from Jones Chapel United Methodist Church in Danielsville, Georgia, finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Jason Braswell, a former Mountain T.O.P. (Tennessee Outreach Project) staffer, assured us all that this would be a life-changing experience. He was right.
     When we loaded up our tools and old clothes and headed up to Tennessee, we went fully expecting to "be a blessing to others." Little did we know that we would be the ones who would be blessed beyond measure. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of us found ourselves way out of our comfort zones. We did not anticipate being separated from our spouses, crawling underneath houses, or balancing on rooftops. We also did not expect to find ourselves embraced and loved by an entire community. We left Georgia expecting to complete some major construction projects. We were so focused on remembering to bring the right tools and making sure that we all had nail aprons and safety goggles, that we almost forgot why we were really called to Mountain T.O.P.
     The resounding theme of our weekend was the realization that, "it is not about the material things we accomplish on our trip -- what matters the most is that we simply respond to the call to come and serve." We were reminded of this all weekend long. We were in awe of the number of older, retired team members who worked by our sides all weekend. We were humbled by the amazing hearts of team members who were there to give so freely of their time and skills. We were deeply touched by the bonds that were formed with the families we worked with all weekend.
     It took an arm full of gifts from a six-year old boy for me to realize what it truly means to have a Mountain TOP experience. I may not remember where to place the nails when framing a wall, but I will never forget the little boy who sat on the ground with scrap pieces of wood and made crosses for those of us on the team. I will never forget the joy in those big brown eyes when that sweet little boy saw my Mountain TOP name tag. The "warm fuzzy" he brought me from his own summer camp name tag did much more than decorate my name tag. It warmed my heart.
     Amy Hancock is children’s minister at Jones Chapel UMC in Danielsville, GA