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For the past few weeks our community has been affected immensely by the fires in Gatlinburg. Some of you reading this were personally impacted by the fires. Many of you know of people who lost their homes or businesses. All of us reading this were emotionally impacted by this tragedy because it's our home.

How do we respond in the midst of a tragedy like this? Resiliency.

Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Resiliency is toughness.

In the midst of major devastation, our community has responded. Our community has stepped up. Tennessee is called "The Volunteer State" for a reason. Donations have come pouring in. Volunteers have assisted people who had to evacuate their homes. Country music singers have donated thousands of dollars and put on benefit concerts. Businesses have reopened. Gatlinburg is rebuilding. Why is all this happening so soon? Resiliency.

We as East Tennesseeans and as Americans don't let tragedy keep us down. We respond.

This morning I had the privilege of serving at one of the donation centers in Sevierville. I began the morning at a Volunteer Reception Center where, to my amazement, there was a line of volunteers registering to serve.

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After I registered I was directed to one of their drop off centers to sort donations. When I arrived at an old theater, I saw Army National Guard Soldiers directing traffic and loading pallets of donations onto trucks. As I entered the facility, there were at least 50 volunteers sorting donations from water, canned foods, clothing, shoes, toys, and household items. 

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There were about 10 young adults from Americorps who were directing volunteers on what to do. I was impressed with these young adults who have devoted their lives to help others and meet critical needs in the community. I also saw members of the Red Cross there. The majority of volunteers were residents from the community or even from neighboring states. For most of my volunteer shift, there wasn't a lot of work for us to do because of the volume of people there. It was an encouraging sight to see this many people who volunteered to help. This is what recovery is all about. 


I was at a center that is going to stop taking donations soon, but there are still other distribution centers that need help. Volunteer East Tennessee is still requesting people to volunteer to help at these distribution centers. You can sign up to volunteer by clicking here

As time marches on, there will be other ways people can help. The key right now is to go and visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Their recovery will be based in large part on tourism. Tourism is the economic backbone of that region. You can encourage others to go visit, have fun, and shop there. 

Please continue to pray for the families who are mourning the loss of loved ones. Pray for the people who lost their home and businesses. Pray for recovery for the town of Gatlinburg and the surrounding communities.

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It's difficult to know why tragedies like this happen, but we do know from the Word of God that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5). 


1 Comment

Beautifully said! Hopefully, we will find more opportunities to serve individuals in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. I already know of one man who could use gift cards to Lowe's or Home Depot to replace tools and buy building supplies. I have the contact information of someone who can get them to him. Thanks!

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