For those of you that know me, you know that I am proud to be from Good Ol’ Rocky Top!!! I love everything about East Tennessee. The people, the mountains, the football (I bled orange and white even in the Kiffin days) but I have never been so proud to be from the mountains of East Tennessee as I am right now.
On November 28th, 2016, East Tennessee changed forever. Our beloved Smoky Mountains burned taking Gatlinburg and part of Pigeon Forge with it.
Overnight an entire ecosystem and economy was wiped out.
Families have lost their homes. Families have lost loved ones and pets. People have lost their jobs. All of this a month before Christmas.
Hearts are broken.
Lives have been shattered.
But I am so proud of the people of East Tennessee that my heart swells!!! Let me give you some reasons why:
We have faced disaster like this generation has never seen. Gatlinburg is a huge part of the East Tennessee economy and ecosystem. But instead of looting, rioting, and bringing more destruction, Tennesseans have pulled together.
Our governor has made every allowance for people who’s jobs burned.
Donations and volunteers began to pour in immediately.
Area restaurants and lodging establishments have provided free meals and rooms to firefighters and evacuees.
I see farmers on Facebook offering up pastures for displaced livestock. Animal shelters are moving to fairgrounds. Veterinarians working around the clock to care for these animals.
Nurses, doctors, respiratory and x-ray techs volunteering at the hospitals. I am just so proud!!!
Firefighters, EMT’s, and police officers have come from all around and worked tirelessly to battle the inferno. God bless them beyond measure!!!
I have seen different people praise the Lord on national news. Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to see people from my beloved state stand in front of a CNN news camera and praise God on national media and request prayer in the midst of this devastation? I am so proud.
Tennesseans have united in the wake of this disaster. Hearts are turning back toward the Lord. People are praying. It is my sincere hope and prayer that this sparks a revival in East Tennessee the likes of which has never been seen. I know that there will be lost souls saved during this time. Praise God for sending rain!!! I hope people are lined up on the banks of lakes, rivers, and creeks to be baptized in the name of Jesus (even though most churches do have baptistries). God tells us in his word that He will give us beauty for ashes and I know that Tennessee will be stronger than ever because of this and to God be the Glory!!!
The amount of love people are showing during this time is a wonderful example to this nation of what unity and compassion looks like. The enemy may have used the evil heart of man to start this fire ( a man was witnessed flipping matches in the Chimney Tops) but God is using it for good. God is using it for His Glory and I praise His name for it!!! Evidence of this was found while a man was helping clean up at Dollywood. He found this burned Bible page in…of all things…a puddle of water.
The page is from the book of Joel. Chapter 1 v. 19 which is what is pictured reads “O Lord, to thee I will cry for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flames have burned up the trees of the field.”
Y’all that is not a coincidence regardless of how unbelievers try to reason the sovereignty of God away. Hearts ARE crying out to Him. Hearts ARE turning to Him. Souls ARE being saved and God IS being GLORIFIED!!!
With all that said, we will remain united in East Tennessee and not only will Gatlinburg survive this, they will thrive. Imagine how fertile the ground will be in the Smokies come Springtime!!! God’s glory will be on display and we will rebuild. It will be something to see so book your vacations now. Come see God’s Glory in the Great Smoky Mountains He created and give Him praise for giving beauty from ashes.
And to all my fellow East Tennesseans, especially the Sevier County residents…I love you and I am pray for you so remain #TennesseeStrong
****Special Note****If you are reading this, I do ask that you pray. Especially for a man named Michael Reed. He got separated from his wife and 2 daughters during the evacuation and is beyond distraught because he can’t find them. He has no idea if they are alive or not. Please pray that this family is reunited. There are others as well but I don’t have those name. The Lord knows who they are so please lift them up as well and please use #prayforgatlinburg to show your support during this time.