Life is Short, Eternity is Forever by Whitney Johns


Life is Short, Eternity is Forever by Whitney Johns

Life is Short, Eternity is Forever

    If you’re reading this, chances are good that you (a) are about to go on your first ever summer project, (b) have participated in a summer project before, or (c) is the parent of a child who fits in (a) or (b).

    If you found yourself fitting into (a), then wow I am encouraged by you. You’ve made a sacrificial decision. You chose to not conform to the pattern of the world. Because, honestly, who on earth chooses to spend 9 weeks of their summer this way? I can promise, you will not regret your decision. My first summer project was foundational in my walk with Christ. So much of the way that I live my life today found its root in my first project. (I am also married to a man that I first met on that summer project… But moving on!) (Okay, because I said that, now I have to say this: seriously don’t focus on the cute boys or girls on the summer project. It’s 9 weeks. You can admire from afar the way the Lord is molding the hearts of some of your brothers or sisters, but please let the Lord mold your own heart in this time. Don’t waste the summer’s incredible opportunity by fixing your eyes on a relationship. Fix your eyes on Christ.) I won’t spend much more time speaking to you, because you have so much fun ahead of you, and so much knowledge to soak up. I would simply encourage you to be humble, be teachable, and to ask God to reveal more of Himself to you as he works in your heart this summer.

    If (b) sounds more like you, then wow you have some awesome memories. Please continue to not follow the pattern of the world. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13 to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. Frankly, the fact that you went on a mission trip 6 years ago or a discipleship project 2 years ago is not what makes you righteous today. Your “Christian resume” simply isn’t (and will never be) good enough. Your “Christian resume” is not what brings about fruit in your life. Jesus says in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” If you want to continue to see fruit in your life, you must abide in Christ daily.

    Take all of this from a recent graduate who forgot this truth for a few months and saw no fruit. I did not know how to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. I did not know how to treasure the Word of God outside of the context of college ministry. Finding community in the local church instead of the college campus was a slow and unfamiliar process. I shied away from sharing the gospel boldly for a season. I got so caught up in the pattern of the world that I felt like my life had no purpose, solely because I don’t have a successful career yet. I was not abiding in Christ.

    But friends, the Lord is good and merciful and longsuffering with you and I. The Lord showed me slowly that ministry does not always look the same outside of college. He was faithful to place believers around me to sharpen in encourage me, many of which are nowhere near my age or season of life. He showed me that his Word is precious in all seasons. Yes, his Word is precious when I am reading it to share with college students in my dorm, but his Word is also precious when I am soaking it up simply for the purpose of knowing God and hiding away Truth in my heart for a later season. He showed me that despite the way the world screams at me to be successful when I meet my Creator in heaven, He will be no less pleased with me due to what career I chose or what job I worked. I need only to abide, abide, abide. When I abide in Christ, no matter what my life looks like, that is when I bear much fruit. Friends, abide. And as you abide, strain forward to what lies ahead.

    If you are the parent of a child who fits into (a) or (b), then wow! Just wow. You may be excited. You may be scared. You may be ecstatic. You may be upset. Your feelings may be hurt that your child is spending the summer away. You may have expectations of the summer with your child that simply won’t happen with them gone. You may not understand their decision. You may be so proud of them, yet heartbroken at the same time.

    Parent, let your child GO.


    Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. GO therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

    Let them GO to the nations. Give your child the gift of supportive and understanding parents. What a great sacrifice that will be on your part; it is no easy task to encourage your child to go. Your child’s going does not mean they love you less, but simply that they love God more. It is okay to be sad and maybe even scared. It is probable that your child feels the same. I believe this is why Jesus gives his disciples this encouraging promise in Mark 10:29, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

    Parent, you don’t have to put on a brave face; God knows your heart and sympathizes with you! He sent his Son to die on the cross, His only son left heaven to come and die, God abandoned Jesus on the cross, but He also raised him up and gave him the name above all names three days later. By letting your children go to the world, you are participating in the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Parent, I truly believe that great blessing to you will follow great obedience as you share in the sufferings of Christ by letting your children go.

    So, (a), (b), and (c), welcome to Mountain Project! Welcome to life! Enjoy the ride, but remember life is short. However, eternity is forever.


Whitney (Robertson) Johns is a Clarksville native who now resides in Murfreesboro, TN with her husband, J.J. Johns. Whitney is a recent graduate from Tennessee Tech University, where was a student-athlete, competing for four successful years on the women’s golf team.  While at Tennessee Tech, Whitney became involved in Campus Outreach, where she learned the reality of the gospel and she grew to love and follow The Lord.  Many of her writings involve real-life examples of how to practically apply truths of the Bible to our everyday lives, something she and her husband are very passionate about sharing with others.

Whitney (Robertson) Johns is a Clarksville native who now resides in Murfreesboro, TN with her husband, J.J. Johns. Whitney is a recent graduate from Tennessee Tech University, where was a student-athlete, competing for four successful years on the women’s golf team.

While at Tennessee Tech, Whitney became involved in Campus Outreach, where she learned the reality of the gospel and she grew to love and follow The Lord.

Many of her writings involve real-life examples of how to practically apply truths of the Bible to our everyday lives, something she and her husband are very passionate about sharing with others.


The Greatest Challenge in Discipleship Today


The Greatest Challenge in Discipleship Today

Last year I had the privilege of traveling to five continents in three weeks. I did this as the writer and presenter of an eight-episode documentary series on Philippians called Discipleship Explored. The idea was to interview believers all over the world, many of whom had faced severe persecution, to show the difference Philippians has made to them in their Christian lives.

However, I must confess to some ambivalence about the word “discipleship.”

As one of my friends points out, although the Greek word “disciple” most definitely appears in Scripture, the word “discipleship” does not. And when we use that word, often what we mean is something like “the art or craft of being a disciple.” Almost inevitably, then, the word inclines us toward thinking in terms of methods and techniques, and focusing on the things we should be doing rather than on the one we are following.

In other words, we can be experts in disciple-ship, and never actually be a disciple.

Do We Dance to the Music of Joy?

Perhaps that helps to explain the sad reality noted by John Stott when he was asked to assess the growth of the evangelical church:

The answer is “growth without depth.” None of us wants to dispute the extraordinary growth of the church. But it has been largely numerical and statistical growth. And there has not been sufficient growth in discipleship that is comparable to the growth in numbers.

That was ten years ago, but the shallowness persists. Could it be at least partly because so much of our training in discipleship amounts to little more than a list of disciplines one is supposed to master?

Imagine a dancer. She’s dancing with grace and joy and rhythm. As you look closer, you see what drives all this beautiful movement: she has her earbuds in, hearing the music she loves best in all the world, and it’s transporting her. She’s captivated and enthralled by it. It’s almost as if she can’t stop dancing.

Now imagine a second person walks into the room. She looks at the dancer and thinks, “I’d love to be able to dance like that!” But she can’t hear the music. So, she tries to copy the moves. The technique. And it actually seems to be working, at least for a time. But because she hears no music, the movement is clunky, hesitant, and self-conscious. She doesn’t seem to enjoy dancing the way the first dancer does. Before too long, she’s exhausted, while the first dancer is still going strong.

What if much of our well-intentioned disciple training is actually forcing people to be that second dancer? Telling them to copy all the right moves — read your Bible, pray, go to church, love others, share the gospel — while doing relatively little to help them “hear” the beautiful music that must drive it all: joy in Christ.

Discipleship Is About Being Mastered

What would it look like if our discipling of others was less an act of technique-teaching, and more an act of “turning up the music”? What if it were less about mastering, and more about being mastered? What if our focus was on captivating and enthralling would-be disciples with the music of God’s surpassing love for us in Christ?

None of this, of course, is meant to imply that the Christian life involves no actual “doing.” One author rightly likens the Christian life to sailing, and there are plenty of things you need to do when sailing. You break a sweat. You have to stay attentive. You can’t just sit back and do nothing.

But there are two things you cannot control on a sailboat, and they make all the difference in the world: the tide and the wind. 

Why is it, then, that so much of our discipling amounts to sitting people down in a boat and telling them to make it move by blowing into the sail? It shouldn’t be a surprise to us if many budding followers of Christ bail out, get burned out, or never make it out of the shallows.

The Gospel Music

I’ve been a Christian now for 26 years. The great adventure began on Easter in 1992, at the end of my second term at university. And I have to say, I look back on that first year as being one of the most fruitful years of my Christian life. The passion for evangelism. The eagerness with which I opened my Bible. The joy with which I said my prayers. The expectancy with which I came to church. 

That first year, when Christ was new to me, was like the first time I heard my all-time favorite piece of music. Perhaps you remember the first time you heard yours — how besotted you were by it, how you put it on repeat and listened to it endlessly. You told your friends, “You have to hear this — seriously, it’s amazing.” 

That was my Christian life in that first year. Effervescent. Overflowing. 

And can I be honest with you? I’m not sure it’s been quite the same since. I suspect that’s partly because, as we go on in the Christian life, we often stop attending to the music that first moved us and begin trying to dance in silence. 

We start focusing on the moves we’re supposed to be performing as disciples. The “quiet times,” the prayer meetings, the Bible study, the evangelism, and so on. Again, I want to stress that these are wonderful and appropriate things for a follower of Jesus to be doing. But without the music of the gospel to drive them, they become hollow — mere technique and artifice, the moves of a dancer, but with none of the joy, none of the energy, and none of the grace.

Our Greater Challenge

Much has been written about the threat to Christian disciples from an increasingly secular society. That’s true, no doubt. But is it possible that there is also — because of the way we disciple others, and ourselves — a significant threat inside the church too?

“As you make disciples, turn up the music of the gospel. Recapture your first love, and keep learning how to dance.”

When Paul wrote to the young disciples in Philippi, seeking to build them up in the context of a culture which actively opposed them, he didn’t present them with a list of discipling to-dos. Instead, he filled the letter with the statement and restatement of one glorious reality: the supreme worth of Christ. He knew full well that all genuine Christian “doing” flows from that music. Yes, he tells them to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12), but in the very next verse immediately reminds them that the power to do so comes not from them, but from God who works in them “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

As we make disciples for Christ, let’s do everything we can to turn up the music of the gospel. Let’s recapture our first love, and remember how to dance.

Barry Cooper (@barrygcooper) is co-founder of Christianity Explored Ministries, and author/presenter of Discipleship Explored. He and his wife Lee are members of Christ Community Church, Daytona in Florida.



I would be a missionary but...

Being a missionary is a huge sacrifice. Leaving my culture to minister in another creates anxiety. Obstacles and excuses mount; some external and some internal. It can be difficult to stop thinking about the countless reasons why I can’t go.

Chances are you’ve thought the same thing. How do we identify these excuses and navigate them? Let’s look at five common excuses.

There is always an excuse to be whispered in our ear to justify our inactivity of sharing Christ with the nations.


This is one of the most common excuses today. The infamous… “God hasn’t called me overseas!” So how do we respond to this excuse? If you do a word study on the word “called” you will find it is mostly used as the calling to come to Christ for salvation. Paul equated salvation with his responsibility to reach all nations. Read what he says to the Galatians, “But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles (Nations)” (Galatians 1:15- 16).

When Paul received a “call” into ministry he was actively ministering and fasting (Acts 13:1- 4). Most people who use this excuse are far from ministering and fasting before God to find direction. Oh, and by the way the last verse in Acts 12 talks about how Paul had just returned from his first mission trip! Apparently, Paul thought it best to be obedient to the purpose of God in the world instead of being hung up on the specifics. So next time you think you don’t feel called ask yourself: How many mission trips you have been on? What are you doing for the Lord right now? How often are you fasting about decision?


Parents see every single one of our lousy choices. Dates and break ups with all the wrong people, discontent with cars and jobs, changing majors two or three times and now a summer in North Sudan! Sounds like another bad idea to mom and dad. Can we blame them? There are generally two types of parents who say no to their child going on a mission trip.

Some parents say, “If you go on this mission trip don’t bother coming home ever again and plan on paying for your car and college when you get back.” In this case, I would advise waiting until they are a little more softened to the idea. Heed your parents’ advice while you are under their authority. In the meantime, spend your summer reaching out to internationals in your community.

Other parents say no as a smoke screen, to see if their child is serious or if this is a passing phase. The difference in this parent is that as they are informed, see their child taking responsible steps toward the trip and growing increasingly interested, they grow in confidence of their child’s decision and eventually concede.


For every $1 an American makes they spend $1.10. This is not good. With credit card booths in the student center and the price of tuition on the rise, debt is an ever-lurking evil for the average college student. Many students upon graduation are already staring at $20,000 debt. Many students wish their debt was as small as $20,000!

A Christian college student’s debt situation affects their relation to missions. Some will use their debt as an automatic excuse to never go overseas, some will procrastinate their involvement until they get it taken care of. So should you spend more money to go on a short- term mission trip this summer or focus on getting out of debt? The response to this question is usually “get out of debt”, but there are options.

Many students are not motivated to get out of debt and therefore find themselves incurring more. Maybe what would motivate you is to go overseas on a short-term trip. I believe that a small glimpse into the reality of world poverty will cure any lethargy about debt and the standard of living. Another option is to raise extra money to cover expenses while on the trip.

For example, if a trip is $2,500 and lasts a month, why not raise an extra $800- $1,000 to cover the amount you would earn if you had stayed home and worked? If car or housing payments are the issue the same would apply. A short-term trip can be a great motivator to becoming debt free!


Few college students have $3,000 tucked in their savings for a mission trip. But that does not mean that they cannot afford to go one the trip. First, you need to understand that a mission trip can be completely free. You’re probably thinking “Wait a minute; I thought you just said it was a $3,000 trip!” Well it is, but you need to understand the Biblical concept of raising support.

Jesus taught that the worker is worthy of his wage and Paul echoed this, writing about his privilege in raising support (Matthew 10:9-10, I Corinthians 9:1-18). So the trip is free because God has set up an economy where His body supports those who go out. All you need to do is make a list of people you know, send them a letter explaining your purpose, follow up with a phone call or personal appointment.

There are only two types of students who refuse to do this: the ignorant and the arrogant.

The ignorant are unaware of the fact that the Bible speaks of support raising and that God has placed people in their life who give. The arrogant are too prideful to call anyone on the phone and “beg” for money. It is below them to show any sign of need. Support raising is not begging at all. It is the Biblical model set up by God. Jesus modeled it because he was supported by, “Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others ( Luke 8:3). These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”


This is another common excuse. I usually answer it with the example of triage. It is a medical term that means people with lethal injuries get priority over minor injuries. So, if someone comes in the emergency room with an amputated leg, they take priority over a sprained ankle. Why is that? Do the doctors love the person with the severed leg more than the sprained ankle? Of course not. His need is more urgent and takes priority.

What if we appropriated that to missions, missionary triage? The least reached without a church get priority over those cultures with established churches. Keith Green, a zealous musician who recruited for missions, reportedly said that since America has only about 5% of the world’s population, then only about 5% of the believers would really be called to stay in this country as a witness (that’s only about l out of 20) while the rest of us should go into the parts of the world where there are almost 0% believers.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. More than 90% of believers will stay within the United States. Are there needs in the United States? Without a doubt. It is impossible to walk around a college campus in America without seeing the need for more Christian laborers. But there’s one thing to remember, there will always be a need in America. Needs are everywhere. Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on the needs and instead focus on the greatest need – those with no gospel access.

If we want to justify our inactivity there is always an excuse ready to be whispered in our ear. God’s mission is more important than any of them.

by Todd Ahrend

International Director, The Traveling Team, Fayetteville, AR

Originally published on Campus Ministry Today

Find another great read about missions and debt here from the sister ministry of Campus Ministry Today, Support Raising Solutions



Why I Will Never Regret My Summer In 2010 by Hillary Walters

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Why I Will Never Regret My Summer In 2010 by Hillary Walters

I remember like yesterday… driving down the Pigeon Forge Parkway with my car packed full of everything I would need for the summer. I was following my friend, Emily, and we were heading down to the summer project- some of the few ETSU students on a primarily TTU project. The nice thing about the Pigeon Forge Parkway is that there are tons of places to make U-turns. I thought about making one and just driving right back home, but then my phone rang… it was discipleship group leader from back on campus, Rachel. She was already at the hotel and wanted to know if I was almost there, so I kept driving until the next thing I knew, I was at the hotel with a group of people I didn’t know greeting me.

It was a little awkward, but then again first days of anything always are, however I was just about to begin a summer that was going to change my daily life for years to come!

Mountain Project 2010 was a good investment for me in many ways, but I want to focus in on two specifically- learning to share my faith and learning to read the Bible.

I had been a Christian for a couple years. I really wanted to be someone who made a difference in the world… someone who led others into a relationship with Jesus, but I just didn’t know how. I desperately feared turning people away from Jesus if I said the wrong thing or came across to harshly. Learning to lead others to Christ was the main reason I wanted to come to Mountain Project, and I was promised that I would learn that if I went and spent my summer with those strangers. I can honestly say this promise was delivered on.

Within the first week of MP, I was already amazed at how I saw others share the Gospel. In one training, we all learned how to share our testimonies, and we set out to Dollywood to put it into practice. One of the staff women, Roxy, and I got in line for Daredevil Falls, and I began to strike up conversation with the women in line ahead of us. I finally got to the point where I asked if they had any spiritual beliefs, and then they quickly answered, “Um, we’re lesbians”. I stood there without any words left to say as Roxy continued the conversation. She asked more questions, and she shared the Gospel with them! The conversation was a pleasant conversation and the women even thanked us for talking to them because they had never heard Jesus explained in the way Roxy did it.  That day, I learned a lot just from seeing her share. As we were leaving Dollywood, I remember telling the group that if I only learned what I did that day, MP was worth it… and we were still in the first week!

My room leader, Jess, challenged me all summer long to continue to share the Gospel with people. Then towards the end of the summer, she sat down with me and helped me make a game plan for returning to ETSU and sharing my faith there. Since MP2010, evangelism has been a regular part of my life. I am so thankful for people who actively took me out and showed me daily how to lead others to Christ, and do so in a loving and caring way!

The next big thing that I learned was something I thought I already knew how to do, and that is study my Bible.  I had been inconsistently reading my Bible for a while now, and I was good at Bible Surfing or looking up verses in a concordance, but I did not know how to richly study God’s Word in such a way as to let it change me… That summer, I learned how to not only read my Bible, but how to spend time with God. I wasn’t just told how to study the Bible, but my room leader and one of the staff women consistently read the Bible with me! I was too prideful at the time to admit it, but I had no idea what I was doing, but they helped me pull truth from scriptures that I had never even thought about before. My life was really being changed by the scripture- reading them, talking about them, memorizing them… it was life changing!! And I can honestly say that this morning, many years later, the way that I read my Bible, and a majority of the days since then, is a result of learning to drink richly from God’s Word on MP 2010. Simply that, all by itself, was enough reason for me give up my summer and spend it with those TTU students who I had never met.

Mountain Project is one of the best investments I have ever made. Before going, it was a hard decision to make. I wanted to work at a Christian camp that I had been working at for years. I lot of my friends were going to be doing that. I also wanted to go on a month long mission trip. I could have done both of those things instead of Mountain Project, but I had already done things like that with my summers… they were great and I grew a lot, but after each mission trip and after each summer at camp, I was left asking the question…”Now what?” “Do I wait until next summer to do ministry again?” But when I left Mountain Project, I had clear next steps. I knew ministry was with my whole life. I was established to have my own intimacy with Jesus and equipped to lead others to Him! It was a summer sacrifice and investment that I will never regret!

Hillary Walters graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2012. She has been on staff with Campus Outreach since 2012 and currently lives in Knoxville as the Regional Women's Coordinator. Hillary enjoys working on staff with Campus Outreach as well as spending time with friends and looking for new adventures to take part in. 

Hillary Walters graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2012. She has been on staff with Campus Outreach since 2012 and currently lives in Knoxville as the Regional Women's Coordinator. Hillary enjoys working on staff with Campus Outreach as well as spending time with friends and looking for new adventures to take part in. 

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Why MP? by Amanda Jo Beard

Summer camps, internships, family vacations, and those high school jobs we left in our hometowns begin to surface as the middle of the spring semester approaches. You may be asking yourself, “What is the best way for me to spend my summer?” And luckily, I’ve got an answer for you! Since this is a blog post for Mountain Project, I bet you thought I was going to say “Go to Mountain Project!”

Plot twist… I’m not! Actually, I believe the answer for the best way for you to spend your summer is found in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33. 

“But, Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

In the fall semester of my sophomore year, my sweet dad called me up and said, “Hey there’s a record label in D.C. and they want to hear you sing. They are flying us out next weekend!” So I drove home to Nashville and hopped a flight with my dad to Washington D.C.

The time came for the label to hear me so I climbed into the recording booth and played an original song on my guitar. When I came out of the booth, they said, “Your  voice brings so much comfort and peace and I think others need to hear it, we’d like to sign you to our label.” I was in so much shock and the little girl inside me that used to dance around pretending to be Shania Twain’s dreams came true. 

Over the next day, they began to ask me what kind of music I was most passionate about and other questions that would define me as an artist. Through these questions, I began to have a bit of an identity crisis. I knew I wanted to sing “good” songs that had positive messages, but I didn’t really know who I was and it began to scare me. All of my dreams were coming true but I had no real foundation, so I paused the record deal by using the excuse that I wanted to finish college and get my degree first. Upon leaving the record label, we came to the agreement that I could potentially move back there in the summers to begin writing and recording. 

 A couple of months later the love of Christ compelled me to surrender my life to Him, and I found my true identity in a relationship with God. I was filled with a joy, that was unexplainable and began to discover this new purpose of enjoying God, knowing Him and making Him known. 

That spring semester I began to grow as a new Christian in a community of other believers and my heart began to grow for the friends I had that didn’t know Christ. I was torn on how to spend my summer! I was just offered my dream… A RECORD DEAL! Thankfully, the Lord brought a sweet sister into my life that spoke the words of Matthew 6:33 over me on a  Sunday afternoon lunch at Cheddars. She said, “Amanda Jo, Seek first the kingdom…” 

So I asked myself “How could I seek first the kingdom this summer and even more so for the rest of my life…?” 

As I saw where I was at as a young new believer and what the Mountain Project had to offer, and what Christ had done for me….the decision was a no-brainer! 

I needed to be equipped in how to read God’s Word, how to share my faith with those around me, how to walk with Christ alongside a community of believers… and MP would prepare me to do these things while a record deal really wouldn’t. 

You may think I’m crazy and ask, “Do you regret turning down that record deal and going to Mountain Project?” And what I would say is not for a single second have a regretted it. You will never regret Seeking first His Kingdom. It was at MP where I first learned about the life of suffering that we will face which has carried me through the recent loss of my dad. It was at MP where I learned about persevering and long-suffering for the gospel which kept me on my knees in prayer for my mom’s salvation (who gave her life the Christ last year). It was at MP where I gained clarity about God’s love for His Church and the local church where I had years of harbored bitterness and confusion. It was at MP where I learned how to tell my sorority sisters about Jesus and we were blessed enough to see many confess Christ over the years. It was at MP where I learned about what it means to be a woman after God’s own heart. It was at MP where I fell more in love with Jesus. 

There are a lot of great summer opportunities to choose from: promising internships, fun summer camps, previous jobs and 9 weeks spent at Mountain Project.  Choosing which of these options can be difficult, but I am confident that as you study Matthew 6:33, and pray, the Lord will make it clear to you which decision will cause you to truly “Seek first the kingdom.” 

Amanda Jo graduated from TTU in 2016 with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. She is currently on staff with Campus Outreach Knoxville at The University of Tennessee. Amanda has spent 3 of her summers at Mountain Project in 2014, 2016, and 2017. 

Amanda Jo graduated from TTU in 2016 with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. She is currently on staff with Campus Outreach Knoxville at The University of Tennessee. Amanda has spent 3 of her summers at Mountain Project in 2014, 2016, and 2017. 



Do You Want the Friends You Need?

Article by Greg Morse, Content strategist,

He is often the subject of whispering.

“Oh, here he comes — better get your Bibles out.” 

“No wonder no one invites him out to lunch; he can never just have a normal conversation.” 

“I can’t enjoy the game without being asked a million questions about my walk with the Lord and struggles with sin.” 

He is serious about holiness, concerned with his friends’ souls, and devoted to helping them to pursue Jesus with all their heart. Although Solomon calls him the sweetest of friends (Proverbs 27:9), he is often left outside in the wilderness of Christian gatherings to eat locusts and wild honey.

He speaks with urgency, he speaks with sobriety, he says things others don’t. He makes Christians bail and jokers ask under their breath, “Why so serious?” His name is Earnest.

A Friend Named Earnest

Although he does the soul the most good, Earnest is often thought to be overly serious, overly direct, and altogether too spiritual. He smells strongly of Christ — a stench to the world and overbearing even to some nostrils within the church. The world is offended by him, and believers will only endure so much of him. Without a place to rest his head, he can be one of the loneliest people on the planet.

But I encourage you, beloved, to embrace the Earnests among you for at least four reasons.

1. Because they love you in ways many won’t.

At times, the earnest friend can be awkwardly direct. He can speak truth without love. He can be out of bounds, or just plain wrong. But often, he loves you in ways no one else will.

Because he loves your soul more than coddling your feelings, because he believes that heaven and hell are real and the time short, he will turn the blade of God’s word against your soul-destroying sin and constantly charge you onward.

He will wound you for your good (Proverbs 27:6). If no one else can be trusted to tell you the truth, he can. He helps you be the man or woman God calls you to be by sharpening you — at times and in ways you’re uncomfortable with (Proverbs 27:17). When all others have told their jokes, had their laughs, and gone home, this friend will stand fast to war beside you — even when it feels like against you — for your eternal well-being.

Remember, the friend who loves you most will care most about your soul. Do not put dark for light and light for dark, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Brothers born for the day of adversity (Proverbs 17:17) are friends who love you enough to be serious with you. Love looks like many things at many times, but the highest form of love, as our Master showed us, is not less than earnest.

2. Because you need them.

Not many in heaven will get there without earnest friends. As I read the author of Hebrews discuss the necessity of earnest fellowship, I dare not conclude that it is optional:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12–14)

And again,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23–25)

These friends exhort you concerning the dangers of unbelief. These friends check their calendars, and as long as it is called “today,” they call you to repent and believe. They know that only those who continue until the end will be saved (Colossians 1:23), and as far as they can help it, they will not let you perish. They are a citadel against Satan and his schemes: a Samwise to accompany you to Mordor, a Ron and Hermione to battle against Voldemort, a Jonathan to shield you from Saul’s spear.

These friends consider you. Know you. Contemplate you. And they desire to stir up your affections for Christ (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Because they need you.

The body needs Earnest, and Earnest needs the body.

Although everyone should be earnest, not everyone will be Earnest. The church is made up of different parts, and each part needs each other (1 Corinthians 12:14–26). And as the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” neither can the body say such to Earnest — or he to them. The especially earnest needs the especially gracious, hospitable, patient, generous, and hopeful — and they need him. The church would be a strange creature if all were eyes, ears, or Earnests.

4. Because to push them away may be to push away Christ.

Perhaps, if we are honest, we push dear Earnest away because we are comfortable with the amount of spirituality we have and want no more. Our stiff arm and bitter jokes come not mainly from Earnest’s erring attempts at love, but our malfunctioning love for Christ. Perhaps we do not like reminders that we are too worldly. Perhaps we do not want to kill our pet sins. Perhaps we despise the brightness of these friends’ light because it exposes the dimness in us. Perhaps they walk as a contradiction to the little lie that we have begun telling ourselves: I can be a follower of Jesus and a friend of the world.

Or perhaps we do want more of Jesus and we are jealous of Earnest. Why should our Father give more to our brother or sister than to us? He seems so happy, so free from the world. He seems to have one foot in heaven already. Why has he been blessed with deeper levels of fellowship with our Savior than we have been?

So, we can pout on the floor in what feels like Christian hand-me-downs and watch our sibling parade in his multicolor garments. If not a pit and slavery for him, we will have to lay our hands of jealousy upon him through gossip, separation, and sarcasm. Will we prove to be a murderous brother like Cain? Beware, lest sin be crouching at your door.

Love Him Earnestly

Whatever our reason may be, we must not treat those most serious about the things of God with contempt; we must not regard our eternity’s best earthly friend with disdain. Rather, thank them. Apologize to them. Be more like them.

If you do not have these friends (for they can be rare these days), pray for them. And invite brothers and sisters in your life to be more earnest with you. Begin by being more earnest with them. Often, it takes one person to go deeper for others to follow.

True friends, as with true joy, are never less than serious about things worth being serious about. Although they are not always the friends we want, they are always the friends we need.


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Now What? by Amber Speigner

Now What?

10 weeks ago did you ever think you would make it to this point? Bags are packed, the last 12hr shift has come and gone, and those Dickies that just don’t fit right have been turned back into Wardrobe with ease! The Summer Project has officially come to a close.

My guess is that you’re feeling an array of emotion: Excitement because you FINALLY get to have a home cooked meal and sleep in your own bed. Sadness because the MP Binder is full and the trainings are complete. Literal agony because you’ve heard Pastor Dale’s last intro-to-sermon joke and a little broken hearted because those late night balcony jam sessions are over. But mostly eagerness to get back to campus and see everyone again!

There’s not really a training or a talk that can fully prepare you for the reality of life outside of Pigeon Forge.  The 10 weeks are up… So, now what?

Pulling out of the River Lodge South last summer, I would have told you with full confidence that this next year would be my best yet. I couldn’t wait to get back and share with my dorm-mates, coworkers, and friends, the things that I had learned over the past few months.  Just as you all are about to, I headed back to my college campus, moved back in with my roommates, started back in my d-groups, and began my classes. Life was great… until it wasn’t.

Not too long after I got back to campus, I was faced with a lot of doubt and confusion about things that I thought I fully understood in Christ. Along with my misunderstanding came bitterness and anger. But you see, as I was struggling through a season of uncertainty in my faith, I was being showered with things in the world that whispered false promises of satisfaction. Distracted by the lies, I let go of my doubts and looked the world dead in the eyes. Enticed by the thrill, I pushed down my confusion and replaced it with “what ifs” and “why nots”. Filled with rage toward my fickle heart, I grasped tightly to my bitterness and let my anger lead me to people and places that teased me with reckless freedom. No rules. No expectations. I felt free, but in reality, I was held captive by my own struggle.

Brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you in Christ and beg you to prepare your hearts and minds for the battle ahead. The enemy is on mission to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). So, in the reality of the war of the world, how is one to fight well?  

  1. Soak your heart daily in the Word of God:. Rest in it, find truth there, learn about the character of God and who you are in light of His goodness. (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Tim. 3:16)

  2. Be where you are: Don’t dwell on past seasons of life and don’t itch to be in a new one. Be present in the place that the Lord has sovereignly placed you and trust that he is good right where you are. (Lamentations 3:22-26, Psalm 46:10)

  3. Immerse yourself in the body of Christ: We are not meant to do life alone. Get plugged in to the local body. Serve them. Pray for them. Enjoy Jesus with them. (Ephesians 4, Hebrews 10:25)

  • Submit yourself to some sort of intentional, spiritual leadership.

  • Meet consistently with a small group of believers that you’re willing to share your life with.

  • Get an accountability partner! Someone you trust in Christ, that you are willing and ready to discover, confess and fight the sin in your life with.

  1. Wage War: The battle is coming. Know your sin tendencies, and through prayer, time in God’s Word, memorization of Scripture, and intentional accountability make a battle plan that you might fight well. (1 Peter 1:13-15)

  2. “Make way for grace”: Due to our unfortunate diagnosis of humanity, we are going to continue to fall short of God’s perfect standard. When you sin acknowledge it, be disgusted by it, confess it before the Lord, and as Matt Chandler says, “position yourself under the waterfall of grace.”

As you all wave goodbye to Mountain Project 2017 & pull of the River Lodge South, my prayer for each and every one of you is that The Lord, through the power of his Spirit in your lives, convinces you of the things you’ve learned this summer. I pray that you would be diligent in learning, disciplined in walking well with Christ and that you would continue to grow in love for God’s Word.

Enjoy Jesus. Seek truth. Train in righteousness. Wage war. Walk in grace. All for the Glory of God and His Name is known.

Amber Speigner is a recent TTU Graduate and is currently working in the TTU Admissions Office. Amber has spent two summers at Mountain Project! Amber enjoys rainy days, harmonizing with friends and sipping on coffee. She is a proud TTU Alumni and loves her university! 

Amber Speigner is a recent TTU Graduate and is currently working in the TTU Admissions Office. Amber has spent two summers at Mountain Project! Amber enjoys rainy days, harmonizing with friends and sipping on coffee. She is a proud TTU Alumni and loves her university! 

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Needed by Emily Case

I attended Mountain Project three times during my involvement with Campus Outreach at Tennessee Technological University. It is difficult to see the sin that rules you while being a part of the fish pond. I graduated in 2012 and five years later I realize how much of a glory thief I was during those years. This is not to say that I am never a glory thief now but I wanted the approval of man so much I never let my guard down. I wanted to be needed and in the end I wanted it to satisfy my need for people to say "look at her, she is awesome!"

This desire was never quenched. It kept me from being honest with those who led me and the ones I was discipling. I hid the sin of my heart in fear that others would see me as a failure. I didn't really care if people saw Jesus, I just wanted to be seen. 

Recently God's self-sufficiency has been his characteristic that has rocked my world. Jen Wilkin writes in None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us "We need Him every hour, but He needs us not at all." How does that make you feel? It made me feel heart broken. If He doesn't need me then what is the point of anything in the Christian walk? Why have I been orchestrating my life around the word of God if He doesn't need me?

To be honest this entire concept propelled me into an anxiety attack. A little update on my current situation: I am moving to teach at an International Christian School in Hong Kong. I have given away 95% of my possessions and am moving across the world as a single woman. He doesn't need me? Then why am I even doing this craziness? 

Our Father is quick to comfort us with the Holy Spirit and this is what He said:


That was all it took to restore my confidence, He is worthy. We do not do anything because we are needed. It is freeing to know that we are not needed but He has given us worth & value through paying the price with the sacrificial death of His Son. We are valued because He has given us worth and we do not need to work for our value by being needed in His kingdom. We do it out of an overflow of love for Him.

Wilkin also says,

"... we were not created to be self-sufficient. Nor were we recreated in Christ to be so. Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy."

May you increase in your dependence on God this summer. This might be through the brokenness of your sin or stepping out of the realm of your fear to ask a stranger about their life. You are NOT needed but you are LOVED by the creator of this world. He has given you all your worth and value needed in this life. So, you can walk in confidence to serve Him because He is worthy of all your honor, praise, and worship. This has freed me as I leave America, and I am not going for my own glory. Now I get to love and serve my Father out of a heart that loves Him. I pray that as you finish this summer and return to the campus that your hearts would be free to love and serve Him because of the value He has given you. You are a child of God and you get to show others how worthy He is of their worship.

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

{Acts 17: 24-25}

Emily graduated from TTU in 2012 and is now moving to Hong Kong to teach at an International Christian School. Emily loves to read and write about God. Sometimes you might catch her telling a corny joke. 

Emily graduated from TTU in 2012 and is now moving to Hong Kong to teach at an International Christian School. Emily loves to read and write about God. Sometimes you might catch her telling a corny joke. 


Living Beyond Our Reach by Ben Eastin

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Living Beyond Our Reach by Ben Eastin

I recently watched a movie called “The Lost City of Z” in which an early 20th-century explorer from England made multiple trips to South America to search for an ancient civilization that many believed did not exist.  He sacrificed years at a time with his family in order to search for this civilization that may or may not be real.  Several times throughout the movie, his wife reminds him that, “A man’s reach should always exceed his grasp,” and this pushes him to continue to daily strive for something in which he may never succeed.

One month ago I began a year long internship as a student ministry associate at First Baptist Church Mt. Juliet, and perhaps the greatest temptation I have faced here has been to be prideful because I’m in the ‘right spot’.  This leads to me being comfort-seeking and apathetic towards the mission of Christ.  I have found myself believing that because I am simply working in a church I am fulfilling my Christian duties, and of course while I know this is not true, my sinful heart runs to the comfort this lie promises.  When I become prideful in my circumstances, I have a tendency to forget that following Jesus is less about me being in the right spot, and more about walking with and trusting Jesus in whatever spot I find myself.  

This is not a new trap that the devil has set for me, in almost every season of my Christian walk I have gone through times where I believed that because I was living in the dorms for ministry purposes, going to summer project, involved in a good campus ministry, or leading a discipleship group, I was doing the right thing and therefore had no reason to change anything, and yet it was during these seasons that I scarcely shared my faith or prayed.  What I failed to see in these seasons was that these decisions do not sanctify me, only intimacy with Christ can do that.  It was like I pulled out of my driveway for a cross-country road trip and then wondered why I was not immediately at my destination.  My decision to go on a road-trip does not complete the road-trip for me, only the drive does that.

I do not want to discourage anyone from making big decisions and sacrifices for Christ, I only beg you do not substitute your sacrifice or decision for your daily walk with Christ.  It will always be tempting to pat ourselves on the back for the grand decisions we’ve made for the mission of Christ, all the while forgetting the reason we made those decisions was so we could daily deny ourselves and carry our crosses (Luke 9:23).  The great lordship decisions we make are not a means to an end, but a means to trust and follow Jesus, and so they are inseparable.  

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).  The fact that only the Lord can build the house does not deter the laborers from waking up and going to work, and so it should not deter us from reaching for things that are only in the Father’s grasp. I pray that this blog entry encourages you to not only make big decisions, but also little steps as you walk with Jesus daily.  Trust God, pray for the lost, share the gospel, disciple a younger believer.  

I pray you live beyond your reach, because nothing is beyond His.

Ben Eastin is a recent TTU graduate who currently lives in Mount Juliet, TN. Ben was a room leader at Mountain Project last summer and is now a Student Ministry Associate at First Baptist Church Mount Juliet. He enjoys playing any sport and being outdoors! 

Ben Eastin is a recent TTU graduate who currently lives in Mount Juliet, TN. Ben was a room leader at Mountain Project last summer and is now a Student Ministry Associate at First Baptist Church Mount Juliet. He enjoys playing any sport and being outdoors! 

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An Open Letter to MPers by Ashley Woods

In the summer of '09, my husband and I were disciples. Summer of '10, we were room leaders. Summer of '11, we were team leaders. And summer of '12, my husband was project director and I was in New Zealand with the CCP team.

Needless to say, if you are going to Campus Outreach's Mountain Project this summer, we probably understand most, if not all, of the feelings you might have.

Here are some thoughts for people going to MP this summer:

1. Go at your own pace in evangelism. 

A lot of people go to Project to learn how to share their faith better. And you will. But that doesn't make it any less scary when you go to do it.

Don't rush yourself. One of the biggest temptations on Project is to try to look as spiritual as everyone else. Don't fall for it. This summer is about YOU and GOD (this includes you, too, leaders). SO, if just starting a conversation with a stranger is a big deal for you (like it was for me), just start there. Say "hey" and ask where they're from (because most people are on vacation in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg). Find something to relate with them on - their kids, school, sports, their dog, whatever! Don't worry about the spiritual stuff right off the bat - you'll get there (unless you feel ready for that! Ain't nobody stopping you). This is not about performance; this is about faithfulness.

2. Let people know you.

This summer - you're going to eat together, work together, learn together, laugh together, all of it. Within all this time together are ample opportunities to let people in. It is possible to be surrounded by people, yet feel so alone. So, as you feel comfortable, let people in on your struggles. On Project, it may seem like people are perfect but they aren't - they're just people.

3. Get time alone.

Project, at times, can feel like you're drinking out of a fire hydrant. Getting alone gives yourself the opportunity to digest what you're learning so that you'll actually grow from it and not just forget it. Plus, you're there to grow in your relationship with Christ. You need time away with Him in order to do that. Everyone will be there when you get back.


Ride rollercoasters. Love Dolly. Throw things in your trunk for room cleaning. Go to bed at curfew. Be nice to your leaders. Group date e'erday. Take pictures. Turn your Christian rap UP. Dance a lot. JUNGLE BOAT RIDE with EVERY person on Project. Wear T-shirts - forget nice clothes. Don't get in a prank war with Hillary Walters. And, call your parents!



More Than You Signed Up For by Adam Deatherage

I'm sure by this point, you're super excited, really nervous, or both, about going on the Mountain Project this summer! I've got some good news and some bad news for you: This summer is not about you. It's not about how much fun you’re going to have, how much you're going to learn, or how awesome it’s going to be going back to school in the Fall. It's not even about how close to Jesus you're going to feel this summer (Though that's going to be awesome!). It's not just a summer experience that you get a bunch of cool snapchat stories from, or even about how many times you share the Gospel over the summer. This summer on the Mountain Project is about setting you up to follow Jesus faithfully for the rest of your life.

Following Christ is a marathon, not a sprint, and while the fast pace of project can be tiring, it’s really just building that stamina and endurance that you're going to need over the course of your life. Every little thing you do is pushing you in that direction. So why am I telling you this? Because this summer it’s going to be really easy to get caught up in all the fun, or to be exhausted from a long week at Dollywood, and forget why you're on project. There are gonna be some days that you literally just don't want to do anything. And if your goals for the summer are to make lots of new friends, to grow more knowledgeable about the Bible, or even to share your faith better, it’s just not going to be worth pushing through on those days where it would feel much better to lay in bed, watch Netflix, and sleep. Those goals are all good things, but if that's your end goal, you're missing the point.

     The point has to be Jesus. It has to be knowing Him more. It has to be glorifying Him with your life. It has to be all about Him. If Jesus is not at the center of it all, it's all gonna fade away eventually. Maybe not over the summer, maybe not even while you're in college, but it will. I don't want that for you. I've seen it. I've seen people fired up about going back to campus to share the Gospel with their friends, and they get back to school and it just doesn't happen. Life gets in the way. It wasn't how they thought it was gonna be, or they find out that it's a lot more fun to hang out with that guy or girl they like than the people they don't know well in their dorms. Maybe they realize that some people didn't like them as much when they talked about sin and the fact that we all need a savior. Whatever the reason, the heart issue behind it is that they took their eyes off Jesus. It happens. Even the apostle Peter started drowning when he took his eyes off Christ in Matthew 14. So this summer, next semester, or whenever you find yourself drowning, look up. Join with Peter and cry out, “Lord, save me!” Remember the Gospel. Remember that Jesus endured the cross for your sake, he despised the shame that should've been mine and is now seated at the right hand of God. That's where our focus must be. That's what will get you through long Dollywood days, late nights in a tiny dorm, and through all the trials of life.

So this summer when you're mad at your roommates, you're exhausted, or you just can't bear to hear the wild eagle song one more time, just know that it's worth it. It’s worth it to come back to campus and see one of your friends give their life to Christ. It will be worth it to be 80 and look back and see all that God has done in your life. And it will be worth it on the day we stand before the throne of God and see Jesus face to face.

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


Adam Deatherage is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and is a senior at Tennessee Tech. He plans to graduate this December with a degree in Manufacturing and Engineering Technology. He has spent two Summers on Mountain Project, and will be traveling to New Zealand this summer with a team of students to share the Gospel there. Adam enjoys spending time with his friends, being outside, and hitting golf balls into lakes, forests, and pretty much anywhere besides the hole.



How To Lean On Christ by Ashley Woods

I cannot physically touch God. I cannot literally see Him. I cannot audibly hear Him. I cannot actually taste Him. And, I cannot really smell Him. Yet, He is to be my refuge. My salvation. My friend. My love.

This paradox, if you will, is why it can be difficult for us to lean on Christ. This is why we often turn to people or things that we can physically touch/see/hear to nurse our wounds and give us fast comfort and joy. The quick fix!

But, despite the instant gratification or speedy advice that those things may offer, they can still leave us anxious and needy. Anxious because our hearts were made to find ultimate peace and rest in God (Phil 4:7 ; Matt 11:28). And, needy because, if people (or things) are the first thing that we turn to, then, when a storm hits, we will “need” those things immediately.

That’s why over and over in the Bible – God is exhorting us to put him first.

Matthew 6:33 — “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Proverbs 3:6,9 — “In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight… Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce.”

Exodus 20:3 (the very first commandment) — “You must not have any other god but me.”

Matthew 22:36-37 — “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'”

So, while we may not be able to literally see God, we can experience Him and we can have a relationship with Him (Exodus 33:18-20).

God desires for us to put Him first, not just because He is always available, but because our hearts were made to find our needs in Him and not other people. He has set eternity in our hearts (Ecc 3:11).

2 Corinthians 4:18 — “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”

So, how do we do this? How do we lean on Christ and set our minds on things that are above (Col 3:2)?

Get alone with God. 

It is a simple answer. Yet, as life and responsibilities and relationships and children pile on, it can become one of the hardest things to do. But, there’s so much grace (it never runs out) and we need that grace as we learn to walk with God through new seasons.

Maybe you learned to lean on God when you had no community and now you have community and you’re tempted to lean on them instead of God. Grace, grace, grace. Go back to the basics.

Maybe you learned to lean on God as a single person but now you’re married and you’re tempted to lean on your spouse before God. Grace, grace, grace. Go back to the basics.

Maybe you learned to lean on God before kids but now there’s all these little people with all these big needs and you’re tempted to skip God to tend to them. Grace, grace, grace. Go back to the basics.

Luke 5:16 — “But He [Jesus] would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Mark 1:35 — “And He departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed.”

Matthew 14:23 — “And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 

And, if it’s in the heat of a moment, getting alone with God does not have to look like going to the mountainside to pray.  You can go to the bathroom at work, your car at school, your back porch at home. Sometimes, I even just close my eyes and picture myself in an empty sanctuary with God. It’s just about turning to God first with our fragile hearts.

Lean on friends, family, spouses, whoever. But, only secondary to God. Because people make great vessels and helpers but terrible Saviors.

Philippians 4:6-7 — “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”


I Almost Died by Marc Lewis


I Almost Died by Marc Lewis

I almost died. Really. Like in the I'm actually dead kind of dying. 

It all started with a desire that needed to be finalized into a plan.

My buddy and I were going to create our own path up the beautiful mountain we could see in the distance from our breakfast table.

I decided to drive out later that day and find a good entry point for us. We would go up the next morning.

Context: This was a border mountain for Thailand and Myanmar(Burma). I can speak Thai fairly well. 

As I was walking along the dirt road that snaked along the base of the mountain a man came out of what seemed to be nowhere and asked what I was doing.

Me: I'm going to hike up this mountain tomorrow. 

Thai man: No.

"Oh, is this private land?"


Being as polite as I could, "why can't I hike up the mountain?"

"Landmines from the old war. "Boom!"

"Yes, sir. Can I hug you?"


We still climbed a mountain the next day, but it wasn't the border mountain. The adventure was not thwarted, but death was.  

Sure, it may not seem like the decisions you are making will end in a leg getting blown off or losing your life, but the emotional and life path results could be as bad. 

You are making decisions in college that will have ripple effects for the rest of your life, that will bear fruit in your career and family. You are desiring a certain path and hoping that by the time you graduate you will at least have a basic plan. 

I want to help you avoid landmines. I want you to live an amazingly adventurous life. 

This is why I confidently point students towards the Mountain Project.

The Mountain Project is a great place where landmines are removed and wisdom is gleaned to help us avoid potential explosions as we blaze ahead. 

Take some time today to look around the site to hear from others about this amazing and even life saving opportunity. 



What Dr. Pepper Taught Me About Evangelism

Several years ago, I had a student at my summer project named Josh Pepper. Having decided to defer medical school for a year, he asked to live with me at the end of the summer for further training in discipleship.

I sensed his eagerness, invited him to get a job in the area and to live with me for a year.

The job market was great and Josh Pepper is one of the most outgoing guys I’ve ever met. I was sure if anyone could land a job, it would be him.

But after weeks of looking and continuously lowering his standards, he still did not have a single offer.

Confused, he wrestled with God wondering why he had not provided a job yet. Josh told God that he would work wherever He chose.

Finally, after a month of searching, he got one job offer … as a telemarketer with MCI.

I watched Josh tackle this less than ideal job with enthusiasm, coming home ecstatic almost every day. Why was he enjoying this so much?

I asked him about his success rate. “Three percent,” he said, unaffected. I was shocked.

Three percent?! “You mean you get turned down 97 out of 100 times? How do you not give up?” Here was his response:

“I KNOW God called me to this. I don’t take it personally when someone says no or hangs up on me. Each person that says no gets me one step closer to the three who will say yes.”

As I pondered Josh Pepper’s response (who eventually went on to become Dr. Josh Pepper), I couldn’t help thinking about the similarities between his telemarketing job and my own experience of sharing my faith.

Let’s walk through Josh’s perspective on his MCI job while considering the topic of evangelism.

“I know God called me to this.”

Do you know that God has called you to sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Christ? I don’t just mean do you know in theory, but do you really know and believe that this is what God wants and expects you and those in your ministry to regularly do?

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says, “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

How can God make His appeal to those around me if I’m not willing to open my mouth?

Ambassadors speak on behalf of whom they represent. The one who sends an ambassador on their behalf expects them to act in accordance with their values. But they also expect them to talk!

Acts 17:26 says that “God has determined the times set for people and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

This verse tells me that God has purposely placed every person around me.

I believe with all my heart that I am His chosen instrument for telling them about Jesus. I strive to not let myself believe that somebody else will tell them.

Yes, God can use somebody else to get the gospel to those around me, but I believe that He wants to use me, and I want to be used!

And I shudder to think, what if I was their one chance to hear the gospel, but I got distracted with other things or didn’t muster the courage to bring them the life-saving message of hope?


Consider setting a daily reminder this semester to pray and ask God to convince you that you are His means for reaching those around you.

May he so burden your heart for those he has intentionally placed around you that you cannot help but share the Good News with them!

“I don’t take it personally when someone says no or hangs up on me.”

Jesus promises that if people rejected Him, they will reject us.

The gospel is often an offensive message to those who don’t yet believe! Peter tells us that we must stumble over Christ to come to Him. (see 1 Peter 2:7,8)

Do you remember in Acts 5 when the disciples were arrested and put in jail for preaching the gospel?

People were enraged at them for the message they brought and put them in jail. An angel of the Lord freed them from the jail at night, and the next day they continued to share the very gospel that got them arrested in the first place. And folks weren’t just a little offended. They literally wanted to kill them!

After being flogged, the disciples left there “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”

Not only did they not take it personally when rejected, the disciples received rejection as confirmation that they were acting in obedience to Christ!

I will never forget Tim who first shared the gospel with me. He challenged me and told me I was a sinner. I was shocked.

At the time, I was convinced that I was a pretty good person. I was offended that Tim would suggest that my sin separated me from God. I thought “Here we go, one of those holier-than-thou religious guys trying to judge me when he barely even knows me!”

I argued with Tim and arrogantly tried to show him how he was narrow-minded and wrong. Yet somehow, Tim didn’t take it personally. In fact, it wasn’t long before Tim showed up to my house to hang out.

I said something like, “How did you find out where I lived? You know, you shouldn’t just show up to somebody’s place if they haven’t invited you.” Tim acted as though he hadn’t heard a word I just said!

He knew that though I was rejecting him, it was really God whom I was rejecting. Tim just smiled and told me he was praying for me. And he KEPT SHOWING UP!

Over a year’s period, Tim outlasted me with his love and the gospel. He kept reaching out to me and sharing of God’s love and desire for me to turn to Jesus in spite of my consistent rejection of him and his message.

Tim gave me a Bible and I secretly began to read it. Over the course of a year, I became convinced that I was a sinner and in need of a Savior.

I am so grateful that Tim didn’t take it personally or give up on me when I rejected him and the gospel.


Ask God who He would have you “outlast with the gospel.”

Are there some who you have shared with who didn’t respond well and you took it personally? What if you were to share with them again?

Remember, though at times it feels like it, they are not ultimately rejecting you, but rejecting God.

I find that if I don’t pull out but keep initiating toward my friends and family with whom I’ve shared the gospel, our relationship often continues to deepen, even if they never believe. It’s only when I take it personally and withdraw that it gets weird and that I short circuit God’s process.

“Each person that says no gets me one step closer to the three who will say yes.”

In Acts 17, we see Paul bring the gospel to a group of people who considered themselves good in Athens.

After delivering a powerful message, including a call for them to repent, we are told that some of them sneered, others said, “we want to hear you again on this subject” and that a few became followers of Paul and believed.

I have found this experience true in my own evangelism. Many sneer or act uninterested.

Others may be skeptical or suspicious but are interested in hearing more, especially if I don’t give up on them but continue building relationship.

Still, others whose hearts God has touched will accept the message of salvation found in Christ and become new creations.

If I told you God would give you the privilege of personally leading 5-10 students into a relationship with Jesus this semester, would you be willing to be used by Him to do so? Of course, you would!

What if that included being rejected 50-100 times to find that handful that God is drawing to Himself? Would you still be willing? I hope so. It’s worth it!

In 1 Corinthians 15, after reminding us that God has given us victory through Jesus, Paul encourages us with these words:

“…stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Remember, “the work of the Lord” includes evangelism. It can be very easy in our busy ministry schedules to either forget evangelism, or try to squeeze sharing the Good News into a small portion of our week.

God does not call us to be successful at evangelism. He does however call us to be faithful in evangelism.


Start keeping track in your weekly schedule of how much time you are specifically sharing the gospel with students on campus.

It amazes me how easy it is to allow time for evangelism to get crowded out by other things.

Plan on blocking out several hours into your weekly schedule for sharing the gospel with students.

Do an assessment of your ministry and honestly ask the question, “Are we helping students with evangelism, or busying them with so many Christian things that they don’t have time to be among the lost?”

What things can you take off your student’s plates in order to assure that evangelism is on their plates?



Article written by Bryce Bouchard, Campus Director, The Navigators, University of Oklahoma



How To Be A Confident Leader by Ashley Woods

Confidence is a tricky thing. We want to be confident but not prideful. Meek but not a push over. At one point, I was leading (5) Bible studies, mentoring about 15 girls and getting a degree in mechanical engineering. And, I felt absolutely confident through it all.

 Fast forward a couple years and all of that was gone. Not just the Bible studies but my confidence. It didn’t matter how many Bible studies I had led in the past or how many people I had led to Christ – I felt unworthy and ill-equipped to lead anyone or anything.


A Dolly Good Time by Amberlee DeLaney


A Dolly Good Time by Amberlee DeLaney

Mountain Project.

Two summers. 20 glorious weeks. One motel. Two humbling Dollywood costumes. And endless memories later…

I traveled to the River Lodge South for Mountain Project two summers in a row, and I am SO glad I did. Mountain Project has greatly impacted my life in too many ways to count. I’d like to share a couple ways MP has impacted my life in the hopes that you might let it impact yours, too!

  1. Mountain Project opened my eyes to the needs of the world. This past summer at MP we had a specific training called World Vision Training. During this time, we would learn about other countries and the people groups that make up those countries. We were exposed to their needs through facts, statistics, personal testimonies, and videos (among other things). Then, we would break up into groups and beg the Lord to meet the needs of these nations. This training allowed me to catch a glimpse of the greater picture - the reaching of the whole world with the good news of Jesus Christ! During our time at project we learned what it looked like to walk with Jesus daily, share our faith, and live in community. We were prepared to return to TTU and preach the gospel to those in our residence halls, athletic teams, and classes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit people come to know the Lord and they begin to multiply their life, sharing the gospel with those around them. Then, someone else comes to know the Lord and becomes convinced to share the gospel overseas in China, etc. What is taught in Pigeon Forge, TN has the ability to impact the world - and you can be a part of that! THAT’S SO COOL!

  2. Mountain Project lets you experience gospel-centered community for ten whole weeks. I cannot express to you how sweet it is to truly live life among 70+ other brothers and sisters in Christ. For 10 weeks you are learning, growing, and working alongside fellow believers. Living in a community of believers allows you to experience accountability, gospel truth, and encouragement that pushes you back to Jesus. Community is also such a sweet reminder of the body of Christ and how it works so beautifully together. Each one of your brothers and sisters in Christ reflects the Lord in different ways, yet you all are unified because of how your lives have been changed. Not to mention, living with 70+ other college students leads to quite of bit of fun and adventure! Through two Mountain Projects, I have been able to establish life long relationships on the gospel of Christ, and the Lord has used those friendships greatly to show me more of His character and goodness.

To end, I will leave you with my favorite encounter from last summer in the hopes that it encourages you and reminds you of the Lord’s saving power.

One day, some girls and I headed to the Island on the Pigeon Forge Parkway to share the good news of Jesus Christ. After having a few conversations with people, we rounded a corner to see an older lady sitting alone outside of a moonshine store. We approached her, and asked her if we could share Romans 6:23 with her. She said yes, so we began to explain this verse word by word. About halfway through the verse, the lady began to sob. She explained to us that she had cancer, and that she was physically dying. Not only was she physically dying, she was spiritually dying, as she had not placed her trust in Jesus Christ. We finished going through the verse with her, and asked her if she would like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. She responded, “Yes,” through sobs, and began to pray for the Lord to save her life.

By no means does Mountain Project have any magic power to save individuals, but the Lord IS faithful to use those who are obedient to His call. Y’all, Mountain Project is pretty incredible, and I encourage you to take a leap of faith and let the Lord rock your summer. You won’t regret it. (:

P.S.- Wearing a Dollywood uniform is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life.

P.P.S.- Pigeon Forge has the greatest lemonade you’ll ever put in your mouth.

The end.

Amberlee DeLaney is from Knoxville, TN and is a Junior at Tennessee Tech University. She will graduate May of 2018 with a degree in Elementary Education. She will be going this summer to New Zealand on a Cross Cultural Project. Amberlee has been to two Mountain Projects and would say it was the best time of her life. Amberlee loves coffee and Captain America or anything Marvel. 

Amberlee DeLaney is from Knoxville, TN and is a Junior at Tennessee Tech University. She will graduate May of 2018 with a degree in Elementary Education. She will be going this summer to New Zealand on a Cross Cultural Project. Amberlee has been to two Mountain Projects and would say it was the best time of her life. Amberlee loves coffee and Captain America or anything Marvel. 





15 Tips For Your Mountain Project Trip (Part 2) by Andy Tatum

In response to the previous blog linked below by Jacob Marlett

Around this time, last spring, I was a nervous wreck. I had just committed to Mountain Project with no idea what to expect. All I knew is that it was a great opportunity to grow in my relationship with God and have a lot of fun as well. So many people kept saying it was the best summer of their life, so I wanted to make sure I could say the same. I ended up sitting down with one of my best friends Jacob Marlett, a Mountain Project veteran, to get some advice. He could tell I was nervous, so he was nice enough to type up a list of tips for me, and BOY did they help. They were such a huge help for me on my first project, I decided to share my experiences.

1. Try to meet everyone and learn their names the first week.

-This was a tough one for me, but easily the most beneficial. The quicker you meet everyone, the quicker you will become comfortable. Yes, there’s probably going to be awkward conversations and experiences, but those are the things you’ll look back on and laugh about with each other.

2. Ask a room on a Group date early.

Now, this tip I didn’t follow as much. This will depend on your roommates. My room was a little tight on funds at the beginning of the summer, so we decided to wait until we could do something really fun. Other rooms were more creative and asked early on. Like I said, it just depends on the people in your room.

3. Nap occasionally.

BOY, this is a big tip. If you want to have a great project, learn to master the art of napping. There will be days where you just want to sleep all day, but if you want to have a great experience, resist that temptation and go out and do something. There are always people going somewhere. 10-minute naps will be your best friend.

4. Use all free perks that come with working at Dollywood.

You really do get a lot of attractions discounted if not free. There’s tons of cool things like go-karts, mini-golf, petting zoos, museums, etc.. My room regularly took advantage of these for group dates and free time. It’s a great way to save money.

5. Focus on God, not “that guy” or “that girl”.

Obviously, when you’re hanging out with the same people for 10 weeks, you’re going to find someone you’re pretty fond of. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you can’t let that distract you from your walk with God and the reason you decided to go to Mountain Project.

6. Serve. Be a servant to those around you.

Serving your fellow project members is one of the best ways to practice being a servant of God. It can be a little thing like picking up someone’s plate or wiping the windows. My thing was taking rooms’ trash bags over to the dumpster for them whenever I could. I encourage everyone to find some way to serve. It goes a long way for each side.

7. Daily quiet time is a need.

This will be hard to do with such a busy schedule, but it is one of the most rewarding times of the week. I personally set a time at the beginning of each week when I would get away for a little bit. Whether that was going for a run or waking up to watch the sunrise, it was always my favorite part of the week.

8. Set aside a time of prayer each week.

Again, this may be difficult to find the time or make time, but I highly encourage it. Honestly, my prayer life wasn’t a huge part of my walk with God when I showed up, but I made it one of my main goals for the summer. I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked, but when I did, it helped tremendously.

9. Get up early, it helps your day go better.

My three favorite days of project were the three days I woke up before 5:30. Seriously.  Seeing God’s beautiful creation wake up each morning is really a remarkable experience. More sleep always sounds nice but trust me, you’ll have a better day when you can wake up slowly, enjoy the peacefulness, and focus your mind towards God instead of rushing to the car with a pop tart in your mouth because you’re late to work. (That will happen though)

10. Be open and vulnerable.

Your D-group is one of the biggest assets you’ll have on project. The quicker you get comfortable with each other, the more fun you’ll have and the more you’ll grow with God. Share your struggles. Be open. When you have guys holding you accountable and praying for you, you’ll feel a lot stronger.

11. Share the Gospel at work.

Work is a great place to practice what you’re learning. You’ll be working with a lot of the same people each day you work, so make sure you get to know them. Ask them where they’re from. Ask them about their families. Build a relationship with them. This will help them be more receptive to you sharing the Gospel with them.

12. Coffee is your friend.

If you want to get the most out of the trainings, make sure you’re awake. Whether it’s coffee, energy drinks, or sodas, try to be awake and ready.  One of my biggest regrets was not preparing my mind for each training, especially the morning ones. They’re packed full of useful information that you don’t want to miss.

13. Keep your family updated.

10 weeks is a long time. It may seem like it’s going by quickly for you at some points, but that’s not always the case for your parents. Call them often. Text them.  Maybe even send them a letter. They’ll love to hear about what you’re doing, and I can almost guarantee you’ll want to tell them too.

14. Feed the geese off the back balcony's so fun.

So there are these geese that live behind the motel, and they never leave. They’ve probably been to more projects than Chaz. The quickest way to become a legend at project is to catch one (and maybe lock it in someone’s bathroom, but you didn’t hear that from me)

15. Eat at Little Tokyo.

When in doubt, go to Little Tokyo, or sometimes known as "Lil Tok". It’s a Mountain Project staple. Best hibachi you will ever eat. It’s easily my favorite restaurant. It can be expensive if you’re on a budget, but if you go in the afternoon, you can get a lunch special. It’s a lot cheaper, and for most people, it’s two meals worth of food. My room’s fridge was always stuffed with styrofoam to-go boxes from Little Tokyo.

Everyone’s experience will be different. You’ll get out as much as you put in. Just be prepared to let God work in your heart and give Him your all for these 10 weeks. If you do that and follow these tips, you’re guaranteed to have a great experience. Hopefully, you too will be able to say it was the best summer of your life. I think you will.

Andy Tatum is a senior studying Mechanical Engineering from Oak Ridge, TN. This past fall, he stepped away from TTU for a year to take a co-op position with Honda in Birmingham, Alabama. Last summer was his first time at Mountain Project and he can’t wait to be back again this summer to serve as a room leader. His favorite things to do are run, play golf, and watch sports.    

Andy Tatum is a senior studying Mechanical Engineering from Oak Ridge, TN. This past fall, he stepped away from TTU for a year to take a co-op position with Honda in Birmingham, Alabama. Last summer was his first time at Mountain Project and he can’t wait to be back again this summer to serve as a room leader. His favorite things to do are run, play golf, and watch sports.




15 Tips For Your Mountain Project Trip by Jacob Marlett

Future Mountain Project Attendees,

Mountain Project is just one month away! If you are anything like me, you are ready to be finished with the semester and looking to enjoy your summer break. I can see myself now with my shades on, cruising in my Silver Mazda, blasting some Beach Boys and on my way to the wonderful Pigeon Forge. While daydreaming, I am reminded of a list of helpful tips I sent to my buddy, Andy Tatum, last summer. Andy was attending his first Mountain Project and I wanted to help him get the most out of the summer. I’ve decided to include the list below, I call it “15 Tips For Your Mountain Project Trip!”

  1. Try to meet everyone and learn their names the first week.

    -This will help develop relationships early and really make it easy to get to know everyone.
  2. Ask a room on a Group date early.

    -They are always fun and are an easy way to meet people. It will also give you time to ask more rooms throughout the summer.
  3. Nap occasionally.

    -Trust me on this. If you nap a lot, you will miss out on the fun and it’ll be harder to sleep at night.
  4. Use all free perks that come with working at Dollywood.

    -This is where you build relationships with everyone, enjoy free time and often do group dates. “The Track” was my favorite perk.
  5. Focus on God, not “that guy” or “that girl”.

    -Ok, yes some are cute but remember the real reason for being at Project, God and growing in your relationship with Him.
  6. Serve. Be a servant to those around you.

    -Grab someone's plate and help clean the Shed are some examples. Christ was a servant, so we should desire that as well.
  7. Daily quiet time is a need.

    -Obviously, this is very important but it is very helpful during a stressful day at work. Spending time with God makes all the difference in your day, miss a day and I promise you'll realize it.
  8. Set aside a time of prayer each week.

    -At least 30 mins of just praying. I never specifically did this but I wish I would have.
  9. Get up early, it helps your day go better.

    -Also, a great time to get in the word. Fighting to take a shower doesn't exist if you're the first up.
  10. Be open and vulnerable.

    -This mainly applies to D-Group and with your room lead. Be open about your struggles and they can help keep you accountable. Even the "deep dark struggles".
  11. Share the Gospel at work.

    -Once getting to know your coworker, don't be scared to talk about Jesus with them. Even share your testimony. Believe it or not, most will accept the conversation. Most know why you are there.
  12. Coffee is your friend. 

    -If you don't like coffee, learn to like coffee. It's a great helper in the morning. Don't spend all your money at Starbucks though. Also, don't be a sissy and put cream and sugar in it…Drink it black.
  13. Keep your family updated.

    -You don't have to call them every, but at least show you care. They love hearing from you and will enjoy Family Weekend as well.
  14. Feed the geese off the back balcony's so fun.

    -They like cheese balls and animal crackers
  15. Eat at Little Tokyo.

    -It's my favorite place. Say the phrase “We skinny over here”, regardless of your actual size, and you are almost guaranteed to get extra food.

OVERALL, enjoy the summer. This was by far my best summer of all and I wish the same for you. Let God work in you and grow in your faith. Build friendships that will last a lifetime and invest in the people around you.  

Feel free to send this or show this to anyone else that plans on going to Mountain Project!

Jacob Marlett is from Portland, TN and currently getting his MBA at Tennessee Tech University. He graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in Accounting. Two summers ago, he spent the summer at Mountain Project and last summer attended a Cross-Cultural Project to New Zealand. This year he gets the privilege to serve as one of your Mountain Project Team Leads. His favorite things to do are watch sports with his friends and make people laugh.