We all saw the news coverage of the wildfires that came upon Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Late in November 2016, a small fire broke out in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although the fire was thought to be contained, hurricane-force winds fanned the fire into an inferno. The powerful winds spread the fire throughout the Gatlinburg area. The fire claimed 14 lives, scorching nearly 18,000 acres, damaging and destroying more than 1,400 homes and businesses.
One of the casualties of the fire was the Roaring Fork Baptist Church. In only a few hours, this small congregation’s facilities were reduced to ashes. Also, nine of the church members lost their homes. This was an unexpected and devastating tragedy. Word came to us of their loss through one of our members.
Although Faith had no direct connection to Roaring Fork, my family and I had visited the church several years ago while on vacation. The thought of what these people were experiencing was heartbreaking. We began to pray and I contacted their pastor to see how we could be of help.
Thankfully, the church has an incredible leader, Pastor Kim McCroskey. He has provided comfort, hope and great leadership. Despite all the difficulties, Roaring Fork Baptist is totally committed to rebuilding. Although the church did have insurance, the coverage will be insufficient to replace all that was lost. Faith’s leadership was moved by their need and felt led to send some financial assistance.
Recently, Pastor Will and I traveled to Gatlinburg to meet Pastor Kim and the people of Roaring Fork. When we arrived on the church property, we discovered that all that remains is a parking lot and a hole in the ground where the sanctuary once stood. It’s an eerie sight to see the burned down houses and charred landscape around the church and throughout the city. It will likely take many years before some of these areas will recover.
That evening we attended their Wednesday evening service. The church is currently meeting 6-miles away from their property at their association’s camp ground. The spirit of the people was upbeat and positive. We considered it a joy to worship with them. Both Pastor Will and I were given an opportunity to speak to the congregation, and it was a great privilege to announce we had come with a check from Faith for $10,000. This, of course, was a great encouragement to the people. Many after the service spoke with us and expressed their appreciation.
I am very glad to be a part of such a generous church. Please understand I don't say this to be prideful, but to simply celebrate how God uses His people. This reminds me of what the churches did in Romans 15 and 2 Corinthians 8. The Apostle Paul collected funds donated from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia to help the struggling Jerusalem church. Their sacrificial actions are a powerful example for us to follow today.
Roaring Fork Baptist is rising from ashes. They are aggressively moving forward with their plans to rebuild. Please pray for this church as they take the necessary steps to raise funds, build and continue their mission of preaching the gospel of Christ.