Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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The day the pickles died

On a Friday long past, day began as usual: several cups of coffee, a bowl of heart-healthy cereal and private mix of essential vitamins and minerals; then finally out the door to face the world. But really it was not business as usual, because we were about to embark upon a mission holy.

We drove over to the church and greeted the assembling parents and teens. At 8:30 a.m. pastor Lee Farmer of Coan Baptist Church, with his army of youths and chaperones pulled in to the parking lot. Soon we had thrown our belongings into the trailer, piled snack foods high and loaded all those gathered into our weekend caravan.

We were off! Our troops were delighted to be officially out of school for the day. All 37 of us were busing toward Pigeon Forge. Gasoline stops, food opportunities, restroom visits and restroom visits and restroom visits later, we arrived at our home for the weekend. At the Days Inn we spread across eight rooms.

We only had one mishap along the way. You see we have two lovely young women: first cousins (names withheld to protect the innocent). They are not fast food or snack food junkies. They are pickle girls who delight in munching upon dill pickles along the way.

Amidst a bounty of normal kid-food sat their jar of dills. Did you ever see an accident coming? At our very first rest stop in Tennessee, Pastor Lee opened the trailer as the lads and lasses returned to vehicles. That’s when it happened. He no sooner opened the door than the pickle jar rushed forth to bounce upon the blacktop committing suicide. All that was left of the girl-food was shattered glass, spilled vinegar and damaged pickles. Pastor Lee and chaperones cleared away the evidence. I looked over at the girls who stood shocked at their plight. Soon enough laughter invaded the troops and all 37 travelers erupted.

Miles, and a stop or two, later we arrived to begin a weekend of fun, frivolity, rock gospel music and faith experience. We were attending the Scott Dawson Smokey Mountain Student Bible Conference: Strength to Stand, at the former Louise Mandrell Theater. Joining us were some 7,300 other young men and women. We were challenged to “Get Moving”—based upon the text in Exodus 14:15 where God says to Moses… “tell the people to move forward.”

Twice a day we stood in line to get the best seats. The Scott Dawson Association is the best at Christian teen motivation I have ever experienced. The speakers were motivating, the music loud, the spirits high and all our emotions raw.

We always afford our traveling youths as many educational opportunities as possible. So we visited Ripley’s Aquarium, Gatlinburg.

There were shopping and looking opportunities as well. Some of our youths even braved the speeding go-carts. A few of the kids and several chaperones rode the electric bull and have bruises and sore muscles to prove it.

Folks often make the mistake of thinking that these young folks don’t pay attention to anything. In a room full of noise and excitement I watched at every session as a video of a car was dropped from a plane to see and hear our teens count down to landing (and the start of the session)… “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” they shouted as images of Jesus exploded on the stage and across the theater. These great young Americans are most adept at multi-tasking. Given the opportunity they are also gifted with an innate ability to relate to Jesus, his crucifixion and call to all to follow him.

I am always blessed to be in the company of our two youth groups as they mingle about. They are quick studies in social dynamics. They strike up conversations with those in rows in front of and behind them. The exposure to so many other teens in a spiritual relationship is a sight to behold indeed. It truly blesses this too-old pastor’s heart.

Over 500 teens attending the conference made first-time professions of faith while countless numbers of others anchored faith expressions already registered. That is what it is all about. Taking impressionable lads and lasses off to foreign surroundings, introducing them to teens from 13 other states, leading them in Christian celebrations of worship, letting them run and romp, sample menus unlike home and challenging them to become warriors for Christ. They never fail to astonish me. What a privilege!

These tender–hearted youths afford leaders, pastors and chaperones great insight into that marvelous and parentally confusing world of present-day teens. Fabulous opportunities result in the admixtures of new bands of friends acquired. All told, I want to thank the Coan and Irvington Baptist Churches for their dedication to reach out to the teens from Richmond, Northumberland and Lancaster counties.