Mountain SWARM's busy bees
August 9 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Mountain SWARM's busy bees | Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Friday, Aug. 9, 2002

Mountain SWARM's busy bees

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

BRYSON CITY - When tourists swarm into North Carolina's southwestern mountains each summer, there is a good chance they will be met by another SWARM - volunteers with SouthWest Area Resort Ministries.

Many of those volunteers, like a large percentage of the visitors, are retirees who live in Florida but spend all or part of the summer in the cooler climes of the North Carolina mountains.

And SWARM couldn't go far without them. Bob Tucker, who is president of SWARM and pastor of Almond Baptist Church near Bryson City, relies heavily on other volunteers to coordinate the 40 or more mission teams who come to offer ministry in a dozen campgrounds surrounding Bryson City and Cherokee.

The week of July 12-19 was typical. Three churches from North Carolina sent youth teams to the area for a full week of ministry, and other churches sent groups or individuals for single events.

Youth teams led children's activities or Backyard Bible Clubs in campgrounds during the day and visited rest homes one afternoon. Some teams did outreach activities at the "Santa's Land" theme park. Each team also held evening performances and led Sunday morning worship at multiple campgrounds.

On July 14, for example, youth from New Friendship Baptist Church in Winston-Salem led worship at the Yogi Bear and KOA campgrounds. First Baptist Church of Morrisville was responsible for the Cooper Creek and Bearhunter campgrounds. A youth team from Cerro Gordo Baptist Church performed at Adventure Trails and Flaming Arrow. Individuals or representatives from other churches led worship at other campgrounds.

At least one "SWARMer" is present for each activity or performance. Like many other campers, some of the SWARM members remain at one campground throughout the summer. Others park their RVs at the Tennessee River Association office, or near a mission house that was donated to the association.

Nell and Hart Watson have been SWARM volunteers for more than 15 years. Their home is in Bellevue, Fla., but when possible, they arrive at Flaming Arrow campground before Memorial Day and remain until after Labor Day.

Ted and Mary Barber, from Middleburg, Fla., are camping on a ridge above the mission house, while Omar and Helen Huff, of Melrose, Fla., have their RV parked behind the Tennessee River Association building, where mission teams can also find lodging.

These volunteers and several other couples, most of whom are also members of Campers on Mission (COM), are involved with SWARM activities six days of every week.

SWARMers act as liaisons to campground owners and operators, build personal relationships with regular campers, provide hosting and orientation services to visiting teams, and decide which teams will work in which campgrounds. At each service, SWARM members help round up campers, introduce the visiting team and keep records.

A jovial group, they find that a sense of humor is helpful: Ted Barber sometimes gets the program going with an impersonation of Donald Duck singing "Jesus Loves Me."

When visiting teams are not available, SWARMers lead campground services and visit nursing homes on their own.

SWARM's labors at pollinating the area with the gospel produce consistent fruit. Through the July 4 weekend, more than 100 campers had made professions of faith in Christ.

That kind of response can bring jubilation to visiting teams. Mike and Ashley Brooks, youth ministers at New Friendship Baptist Church, reported that a team member who had been baptized the previous Sunday led someone to Christ on Friday night, and another youth had the same experience the following evening.

In some campgrounds, most of the available spaces appear to be occupied by semi-permanent residents, with decks or porches attached to the camper-trailers. Mission team members and SWARM volunteers sometimes outnumber those who come out to the programs, but some campers listen from their campsite. SWARMers learn not to be discouraged, knowing that one person without Christ is all the reason they need for persevering.

SWARM is currently looking for a 2003 coordinator to attend COM rallies in surrounding states and help recruit volunteers to act as local contacts next summer, according to Bob Tucker, the group's president.

Vance Russ, who previously provided leadership, has suffered from heart problems and had to relinquish his responsibilities.

Because volunteers provide so much of the leadership, SWARM gets by on a budget of less than $10,000 per year. Funding is provided by the Cheoah, Haywood, Macon, Tennessee River and Tuckaseigee Baptist associations, the Baptist State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention, along with contributions from churches and individuals.

Interested readers can learn more about SWARM by calling (828) 488-8842 or by writing to SWARM at P.O. Box 2073, Bryson City, N.C. 28713.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/9/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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