I had no idea about all the attractions in the area, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Aquarium of the Smokies, museums, arcades, theaters, local arts and crafts shops, and all sorts of stores and vendors.
Not only do people from all over the United States visit Gatlinburg, but also hundreds of students from universities around the globe work here each summer. They reside three months in the United States with a J1 Visa and work one to three jobs during the week in order to earn more money here than they would in their home country. As a result, I have coworkers from Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Ecuador, China, Mongolia, Japan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Russia. This experience has been absolutely incredible. I have learned about many different cultures, ways of life, foods, religions, perspectives and differences through building relationships with my coworkers.
I’ve spent most of my time with Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries, which plans, coordinates and sponsors dinners for the international students about once a week. At the first dinner I was able to attend, we brought Bibles in many languages accompanied with an English translation, such as Chinese/English, Russian/English, etc. Towards the end of the dinner, multiple students starting asking my team about the books we brought. When we explained to them what they were and what languages we had, their faces lit up! As we handed out Bibles in Ukrainian, Chinese, Turkish, and more, the receivers glowed. They immediately grabbed each other’s hands, pointing to different passages and verses, both whispering and shouting all in their own diverse languages. Although their hurried words were complete gibberish to us as English speakers, their excitement, squeals and astonishment were fluent and understood fully.
We gave them devotionals in their language, as well, and pointed them where to start, such as with John’s Gospel or Psalms. We even got to look up our favorite verses in their language and point them out to the students. Their excitement about the Bibles was encouraging, exciting and inspirational. It brought me so much joy to see how hungry these students were for the word of God. Just to see their eyes searching rapidly across the pages, gasp in surprise, and smile from ear to ear as they shared it with their friends—it’s a feeling words just don’t quite explain fully. ?
Although I stayed in America for the summer instead of traveling across the globe to share the gospel, I found myself surrounded by the nations here in Gatlinburg, Tenn. God provided me with his children, thirsty for the something that only his love, truth and wisdom can quench. I had many incredible conversations since that night and planted many seeds through the simple act of handing out a Chinese Bible.
I am encouraged and moved to crave God’s word in this same way—opening my Bible and eagerly searching for what God has to tell me through his word. I feel truly blessed not only to have a Bible in my language to read and learn from, but also to share that with those who have never had that before.
Hillary McNutt, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, served as a Resort Innovator with Go Now Missions in Gatlinburg, Tenn.