By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
GATLINBURG — Eighteen months after their church buildings were destroyed by the Gatlinburg fires in November of 2016, Roaring Fork Baptist Church “has risen from the ashes.”
The church dedicated its new sanctuary and youth building/fellowship hall on Sunday, May 6.
“The hand of God has been on this congregation,” affirmed Roaring Fork pastor Kim McCroskey. “When the fires came through, God came through right behind them to pull us up and carry us to victory.”
After the church lost its facilities in the fire, McCroskey said, “The fire was tragic but it did not break our spirit.”
That was evident on May 6 as church members, numerous volunteers from Builders for Christ, and others packed the new auditorium to celebrate.
With insurance and a host of volunteers, Roaring Fork was able to rebuild with zero debt, McCroskey said.
Builders for Christ provided 2,000 volunteers from 22 states including Connecticut, California, Colorado, Florida, Wisconsin and everywhere in between. Numerous Tennessee Baptists volunteered their time and labor to assist with the rebuilding.
The involvement of Builders for Christ was a “God thing,” everyone agreed.
Builders for Christ already had a 2017 project scheduled, but the day after the fire on Nov. 28, 2016, the church in Ohio they were scheduled to build had to cancel because they could not get the funding.
“We were without a project for 20 days and God showed us this,” said Lawrence Corley, project director for Builders for Christ. He contacted the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and was put into contact with McCroskey and leaders from Roaring Fork.
After two meetings to determine if the church was a project that Builders for Christ could handle, Builders for Christ made a commitment to help Roaring Fork rebuild, Corley said.
“We were partners. We wanted to help the church get through this,” Corley said. “It’s never easy.”
The 2,000 volunteers paid their own expenses to come to Gatlinburg to help rebuild Roaring Fork. “it would be hard to give away that much if God didn’t call us to do it,” Corley said.
“We wanted to expand God’s Kingdom in a church that is rapidly leading people to a saving knowledge of Christ,” he added.
Church member and deacon Don Ownby observed that the volunteers “showed how churches are supposed to act and treat each other.” Ownby added that Roaring Fork is going to keep growing. We will be stronger,” he said.
During the months after the fire, more than 100 people have accepted Christ at Roaring Fork.
In addition to Builders for Christ, McCroskey credited the TBMB and the Sevier County Association of Baptists for their help. “Tennessee Baptists stepped up every way imaginable,” McCroskey told the Baptist and Reflector.
Robert Nichols, director of missions for Sevier County Association, called McCroskey following the fire and said “Camp Smoky is yours as long as you need it,” McCroskey recalled.
The pastor noted that throughout the process the church did not miss one Sunday morning service and the only service they canceled was the Wednesday following the fire on Monday night, Nov. 28.
“The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board has been a partner from day one,” McCroskey said.
He noted the church is blessed to be a part of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and the state convention, adding that TBMB president and executive director Randy C. Davis “was just a phone call away. … What a blessing they have been to us.”
Hollie Miller, senior pastor of Sevier Heights Baptist, Knoxville, and a former Tennessee Baptist Convention president, preached the dedication message.
Prior to his message, Miller cited Isaiah 43:2: “… You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
“Thank you for being a testimony to the power of God,” Miller told church members. “You have not been burned. God has raised you up for His glory.”