Saturday in the Smoky Mountains

Yesterday we explored some back roads in Athens, TN. Today we explored some other back roads, unintentionally. My friend Tim Gunnels gave me good instructions on how to get to Pigeon Forge, but as I looked at the map I thought that I knew better. So I chose a different route. Somewhere along the way I’m sure the route wasn’t clearly marked, because we ended up in Knoxville! We were driving along and suddenly there was the UT stadium and we were downtown! Fortunately we were on a road that ran directly into Pigeon Forge. We enjoyed a fried apple pie at the Apple Valley complex. We also looked around in the Christmas store. Then we drove home … yes … the way that Tim told us … and it was much more picturesque as we drove across Wears Valley Road to near Cades Cove and back through Maryville and Engleton to Athens. We have some members of our church who are from that area (Hello Bobbie!). This is one place I have visited that leaves me with the same feeling each time…I don’t want to leave.

Just after we returned home we went to the home of Tim and Kristin Gunnels (Tim is a faithful blog reader,  he informed me tonight!). We met Tim when he came to Mobile about a dozen years ago, before he married Kristin. Our acquaintance was renewed after Hurricane Katrina as he was the minister for the Elba, Alabama church of Christ. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Elba church was so active in supporting and helping us because they had suffered through three floods in the past. They knew what we were going through. Their beautiful assembly hall had even been flooded. One of their elders, Tom Mattox, has had a cancer surgery and chemotherapy since the time when they helped us. Please say a prayer for him and his family. The Elba church was so kind to us when we visited there earlier this year.

But in June of this year, the Gunnels moved to Athens, Tennessee. They have a beautiful home and fed us a delicious supper tonight. We enjoyed meeting their two precious daughters, Emma and Ella. We also went to the building where the church meets and enjoyed a tour of their facilities. I’m looking forward to speaking there tomorrow morning.

 It brings me joy to hear Tim and Kristin speak so highly of the Athens congregation (they will have a new website up soon), and especially the elders. In fact, they speak highly of all of the churches they have served. As we talked about Tim’s ministry tenure, he told me a really great story that involved his father being supported many years ago by the Alpine Hills Church of Christ in Mobile (now known as University Church of Christ in Alpine Hills). That was when Tim was just an infant. Little did they know the seeds that were being planted for the Gospel’s sake in that family. Tim would later serve that same church as Campus Minister. The current minister there is Marshall Underwood. Marshall is a wonderful gentleman who has a great heart full of kindness and grace. University is the only church that Marshall has served as preaching minister. Tim expressed great admiration for Marshall. I admire both of them.

I hope you have a great Sunday … and say a prayer for us as we begin our journey home tomorrow afternoon! Thanks for reading.