Bonnie and I arrived in the early afternoon at Polishing the Pulpit (PTP) on Saturday, August 24. Sevierville, Tennessee – adjacent to Pigeon Forge and not far from Gatlinburg – is a beautiful part of the country for sure. Whereas in former years we were able to enjoy some of the Smokey Mountain surroundings for a day or so following PTP, this year we crammed the weeklong activities between two of Bonnie’s chemotherapies. We were fully engaged during PTP and had to rush back to Mississippi to afford Bonnie her chemo on Friday morning.
Bonnie and I tended children of all ages each day. Bonnie assisted with 4- and 5-year-olds from as early as 7:45 a.m. to lunchtime. We, but especially Bonnie, presented a hands-on missions presentation for an hour each of two days; dozens of children pawed our exhibit and tasted the chapatti that Betty Choate had made for the occasion. Perhaps the one item that elicited the most interest from these little ones was The Voice of Truth International produced in Braille. Each morning I roved from class to class teaching Bible Geography to children as young as 4-year-olds up to 11-year-olds.
In the afternoons, Bonnie taught our program of Buckets of Bible Time, where youngsters are called upon to arrange in sequential order three red buckets labeled with “Patriarchy,” “Judaism” and “Christianity.” Then, they are asked to place three dimensional objects (e.g., cars, airplane, dinosaurs) and laminated cards depicting Bible characters in the appropriate buckets. The catch is that some characters belong in more than one time period (e.g., Moses, the apostles) and Jesus Christ does not belong in Christianity. In addition, Bonnie responded to the invitation to help out with children in the evening, too.
Afternoons from 1:30 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. or after, it was my sheer pleasure to assist other preachers who taught 21 budding young men from the ages of 10 to 14 how to prepare and to deliver a devotional. All of them did very well and deserve commendation; some did exceedingly well. One or two could easily serve as an “opening act” (to borrow a phrase from entertainment) preceding a keynote address by a seasoned brother at PTP in the future. I graduated somewhat in 2013 at PTP and was privileged additionally to have an adult class one evening. My assignment concerned the use of printed material in the mission field.
Between working with children, we did attend a few lectures, set up and managed our two display tables, and conversed with numerous people. Some of these brethren we only see at programs such as this, while others are our supporters and encouragers. We sold a few books, gave every budding preacher boy one or more books and distributed some The Voice of Truth International in two languages.
I spied a little tyke who may not have been potty trained yet, but who was an expert already with modern technology. He was mesmerized with a game on a cell phone. His little thumbs were working, and he was sliding his finger across the screen to manipulate the pictures. I was dumbfounded! Is there any hope for me?
The first snafu upon arriving at the Wilderness Hotel and Convention Center was learning that our lodging reservation had been cancelled and that there was no room in the inn. That we would not arrive on Friday was apparently not conveyed by PTP personnel to the hotel, and so staff there cancelled our reservation and gave our room to someone else when we were a “no show” on Friday. We were counting on being in the hotel so Bonnie could resort to the room for rest as needed. The hotel relented and rented us one of the two emergency rooms it had put back in case something went wrong. It seemed that we walked the length of a football field to an elevator that took us two floors below the main floor. Fifteen rooms are nestled in this subbasement adjacent to the loading dock and driveway for vending and laundry. Some bugs knew where our room was located even if housekeeping occasionally did not remember.
Whining aside, the accommodations were very much appreciated, and the hotel room at the convention center afforded Bonnie rest at lunchtime and supper each day, besides restful sleep. We ate two meals daily in our room and ate out once every day, twice as guests of the generosity of other brethren.
Thursday morning, Bonnie tended to small children until the conclusion of the PTP program. I packed our clothes, food and mobile office, and then loaded the car with those things. Next, I sat in on the speeches of seven of our young preacher prodigies as they made public presentations to parents and friends. Finally, Bonnie and I packed our displays and books for our return trip to Winona, MS. About 1 p.m. we pointed the limping Town & Country toward Mississippi. About eight hours later, we pulled into our driveway, positioned for a morning departure on Friday to get Bonnie to her next chemo appointment.
Tired, yes. Gratified, yes. Bonnie and I earnestly desire to serve the Lord to our fullest always in this life and as long as life persists and permits. Triage of looming efforts include contacting and confirming speakers for the April 2014 India Missions Conference, rent a car at the Pittsburgh, PA airport for our northeastern appointments in two weeks, purchase airline tickets for my fall mission trip to Myanmar (Burma) in October, work on Gospel Gazette Online for September and October, work on the next issue of The Voice of Truth International and bring it to fruition before departing for Asia, prepare my lessons for three weeks in Myanmar (four to six hours daily), prepare and rehearse sermons and classes for two congregations for which I will speak this weekend, mow the grass (it’s been four weeks), prepare six months of classes for Wednesday nights at the Siwell Rd. Church of Christ that commence upon my return from Asia, and try and deposit our bucking, sputtering van at a dealership for much needed nurture while away in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; yesterday, the car’s odometer exceeded 173,000 miles. Like me, some of its body parts don’t work right anymore!
I dare say that a few other more routine matters will cry for attention as well. We will triage one and all as needed. It is time for us to send another newsletter, but I’m not sure we can squeeze one out at this time. Thank you for your continued interest in our efforts to serve our Lord stateside and especially abroad.