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News for Friday, November 15, 2013
Ministries Develop in Campground
By Connie Davis Bushey
news editor, Baptist and Reflector
LEBANON — Tom Mull responds to pastor or “donut man” at Timberline Campground here. Every Thursday he distributes free donuts to residents of Timberline Campground by visiting their campers, RVs, or tents.
“It’s amazing to see what donuts and prayer and the Holy Spirit can do,” noted Mull.
What Mull refers to is the development of a Bible study at Timberline Campground about 18 months ago. Since then, with the help of other Baptists, several people have made professions of faith, five people have been baptized in the campground swimming pool, and several ministries are being offered.
Mull said he had “no plan for this. … He (God) takes any little effort … and takes it and uses it.”
For instance, Steve Eaton, a former resident here, recently gave his testimony at the Thursday evening Bible study. Eaton, who lived in a run-down camper here was near death because of alcoholism when Mull met him. Jerry McTaggert, a member of Fairview Baptist Church, Lebanon, and Mull’s friend, began helping Eaton. Today Eaton is a resident at Lazarus House in Lebanon, a treatment program for addicted people, and has become a completely different person “who just loves Jesus,” said Mull.
Timberline Campground is home to about 110 residents living in campers, RVs, or tents. It has a capacity for about 225 residents. The population changes with the seasons and work availability.
The residents rent space monthly which includes electricity and sewer services. The campground, which has been here many years, also provides bathrooms and showers and a large meeting room.
Over the past 18 months the Thursday night Bible study that Mull started and leads has drawn as many as 44 adults and children. Another great occurrence is that many of the regulars are being discipled by members of five area churches through the ministries that have been developed here, said Mull, who is a member of Encounter Church, Lebanon.
“We are a church by God’s standards,” said Mull. Yet he added that he doesn’t see himself as a pastor but as the layman he has been all of his life.
Dave Shelley, director of missions, Wilson County Association, said what has occurred at Timberline “is an amazing story of the planting of the work by the Encounter Church and the cooperation of four other churches. … It is certainly a Harvest Plant.” The 1-5-1 Harvest Plants strategy of the Tennessee Baptist Convention is to reach people with the gospel through starting Bible study groups or church plants.
Four women who attend Timberline Bible Study are participants of Christian Women’s Job Corps of Lebanon/Wilson County, reported Nancy Steward, site coordinator.
“They’re excited about it,” she said of the participants.
The CWJC participants have been assigned mentors who meet with them regularly, received computer program training, and given other help over the past year, said Steward, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, Lebanon. One lady was helped to furnish her new camper. Steward plans to offer a GED class soon.
Two of the CWJC participants are now attending Immanuel Baptist in addition to Timberline Bible Study.
Steward said she was well-prepared to help needy people by Woman’s Missionary Union which developed CWJC but has learned more as she has been involved with the residents of Timberline. A unique culture can be found here, she explained.
Another Baptist from the area has been involved at Timberline. Tony Madden, a member of The Glade Church (Gladeville Baptist Church), Mount Juliet, plans to offer Christian Men’s Job Corps soon to some male members of the Timberline Bible Study. He and Mull are currently seeking Christian men to mentor some of those men.
Also serving at Timberline are Derek and Jennifer Spurgeon of First Baptist Church, Lebanon. They and their children lead the children’s study which meets during the adult Bible study.
Finally, other association churches have supported Timberline ministries in other ways.
Helping the needy
Both Mull and Steward said some who live at Timberline Campground have made choices that led to their poverty and some have not. Many have health problems. Those health problems often affected their careers which is why the offering of CWJC and CMJC is so important to meet needs, both Mull and Steward agreed.
Spiritual needs are also great here, said Mull. He already knew the importance of Christian discipleship before he began serving here but he has become even more committed to it.
He also knows the power of prayer. He got to know people here as he distributed donuts given to him by bakeries. As he walked through the campground, he offered the donuts to parents and other adults so he could meet them and offer to pray for them.
“It’s amazing the way you can get into people’s lives by asking them if you can pray for them,” said Mull.
Many people here mistrust church people, said Mull and Steward. Church groups have come here to minister but have only come several times a year and then put on a program. The people who came didn’t interact that much with the residents and certainly didn’t get to know them.
“There are so many sad stories out here,” said Steward.
Sometimes the residents here “are in a trap,” said Mull.
“These are people that don’t have hope,” he added.
Yet, he has seen so many good changes.
Problem residents have left as Timberline Bible Study members have changed and told others about their changes. Bible study members also have prayerwalked their neighborhood and have helped their fellow residents in Jesus’ name.
Q.B. Diamond and Norma Conklin, study members, agreed that the changes here have been good. Diamond is a disabled veteran with 15 years of service who fought in the Iraq War. He is now a song writer and performer. Conklin is a disabled nurse who lives at Timberline with her husband.
Neither were attending a church when Timberline Bible Study was started. Diamond has led part of a study session and both are active members. Conklin also is a participant of CWJC.
“Now I experience such peace here,” said Diamond, who added that he sees Mull as his officer. “It seems as though God has found me,” he added.
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