Wednesday felt like a suuuuuper long day, though admittedly it might be because of the number of roller coasters I rode at Dollywood. But first things first: this was the view out of my hotel window. I'm not sure what church it is, though I understand Neil went over there to check it out.
This hotel is great and all, but listen. I'm not so much into the 4 mini-waffle configuration. And back to only one kind of batter again, though that's honestly expected.
When I came downstairs, I bumped into Meisha, Leigh's mom. Unexpected! Apparently she had some business here in Knoxville, so she dropped by to see Leigh. She couldn't make our concert, but it was nice to chat for a minute.
We got on the bus and headed to our concert, which was at the Knox Area Rescue Mission. It's worth a look at their website if you want to know more about them: https://karm.org/ The concert was outside, which we have never done on tour before. It was lightly raining, but the place we were singing was covered, and there were some umbrellas as well. Just across the street there was a highway overpass, which was tricky for singing, but between the courtyard we sang in and the overpass, there were a lot of people in earshot.
We weren't allowed to visit at this site. They have strict rules on this. At the end, some of the youth were asking could we please visit for just a moment, and within the confines of the courtyard and given there was a Knox county sheriff there I was tempted. But we decided there was probably a good reason the rules exist and went back to the bus. Several youth would tell me later that they missed the visiting and felt like we were not as connected to the audience as we typically are. It may be true...but not necessarily.
Given how I stand, I don't get to see much of the audience. Apparently our audience here shifted over time. People stopped by for a moment here and there. A few were there the whole time. The guy you can see below was there every time I turned around. His shirt said "Jesus is my savior, not my religion." We talked about that some at our devotional. Many of the youth mentioned him in their thoughts for the day.
As we were packing up, a woman came up to us to ask for prayers on behalf of her sponsor, who was going through a very difficult time. She thanked us for coming and said some prayers of her own. When I returned to the bus, we said the promised prayer.
There was a lot to unpack about this concert, and we came back to it at the end of the day. Despite a chilly rain and a societal counter-current to our connection, this concert was one of the most moving for our youth so far.
One more note about the concert. It literally stopped raining when we sang "The Storm Is Passing Over." I have to believe the Spirit is at work here.
We went back to the hotel to change, and then we headed for Dollywood. It was still raining, but the forecast was for the rain to stop soon after our arrival, and the storm, once again, passed over in timely fashion. The rain had scared off the crowds, so the lines were mostly short, and the temperature was pleasant.
I spent the afternoon with Cindy, Paul, and Katherine. Years ago Cindy and I rode coasters at Six Flags over Texas. She was at Dollywood not long ago and had some inside knowledge about all the coasters, which was helpful.
If you don't know the Petersens, you should. I love this picture of them. Not just because they love each other but because they love our youth. Actually all of our chaperones do.
This was on our first coaster, right before I secured all loose items.
I like Dollywood as a park. It feels like a cross between Six Flags and Disneyworld to me. This was just outside the coaster that simulates a firetruck run, and I love it. Fighting fires is indeed a noble calling.
And this was in the cue for the soaring eagle roller coaster...
...which looks like this. That's 2 people on each side. This coaster loops you 2 or 3 times and does a barrel roll. It's FANTASTIC. Reminds me of watching one of those videos where they put a camera on a bird. Graceful swoops, and intense. But because you are hanging off to the side with dangling feet, you get this feeling of total freedom.
Because the line was short, the four of us walked around and immediately rode it again, but the second time, on Katherine's suggestion, we took our shoes off. Holy. Cow. Good call, Katherine.
I did get some pictures from others now and then. It looks like they're having a good time...
Also at Dollywood, they rehabilitate injured bald eagles. You can see 3 in the picture below.
This was the last coaster we rode, and we barely had time. It's called the lightning rod (hot rod car theme). It is the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, and it starts right out of the gate. Look at that hill...looks like a long climb up, right? Wrong. It shoots you up the hill, and you actually accelerate as you go up. It's. Fast. Then, on the other side of that hill where you can't see it, all hell breaks loose. Cindy told me just now if the Soaring Eagle is a graceful bird, this coaster is like in Roadrunner when Wile Coyote gets strapped to a rocket, fired, and then zooms all around out of control. Accurate. It felt totally out of control for the entire ride. So it tied with Soaring Eagle for my favorite coaster, though if I were issuing awards I'd make up two categories. They are different experiences.
And, in the gospel music hall of fame, Brooke found her great-grandfather! She is basically famous is what I'm saying.
This was on the Tennessee Tornado. It corkscrew loops you like 3 times and also sends you through the mountain. It made me dizzy. I wasn't sad we had to sit a minute before they let us off the train. If I had stepped off immediately I probably would have walked to the left.
We have a rule that you must travel in groups of 3. I let them know the penalty for failure to comply would be that if a chaperone found you in a smaller group you'd have to hold their hand. Curt caught Layton and Will, and this is how they walked to the bus...
After a trip back to the hotel to change, the chaperones went out for dinner with their rooms. I got a few pictures, mostly at the place I went to eat. Which means, because it wasn't chicken fingers, I didn't get a picture of the guys.
And there was this guy. He and his family were all telling us the importance of accepting Jesus because we are all doomed. I couldn't help but think about the difference in perspective. We have two very different ideas of what it means to make disciples of all the nations. He literally yelled and beat his Bible, but we stand on scripture in a very different way. Some of our youth suggested I should go over and have a chat with him. I didn't, of course, but I did take the opportunity to talk with them about what it means to evangelize and what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world.
Hate cannot drive out hate, said MLK.
Devo started early. We wrote notes, talked about our concert, and shared about our day. I'd go into detail, but it's time to get on the bus for this morning's concert. Suffice it to say that the youth really do understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.
We ended a bit early, and I wound up in my room for the night just after 11. I was going to sleep just after midnight, greeted once again by the lovely church across the street.