TOWNSEND, Tenn. — As a pre-teen Ashley Sims and her family would travel from Yadkinville, N.C., to vacation in the mountains in Tennessee.
The first year they came they camped at the Tremont Outdoor Resort here.
The family was hooked on the location and one of the reasons was a summer mission team from New Vision (now New Sevier Home) Baptist Church in Knoxville.
The team led a camp each day at the camp’s pavilion and Ashley and her brother Bruce attended faithfully.
In fact, Bruce accepted Christ from seeds planted by the Knoxville team.
The Sims family returned two more times after that first trip and they made sure they came the same week as the New Vision mission team.
Now age 19, Ashley Sims has come full circle.
Whereas, she was once the beneficiary of young people giving a week to minister to her and other children at the camp, she is now serving as a summer missionary for Joe and Linda Ledford who coordinate CHARM (Chilhowee Area Ministries) for Chilhowee Baptist Association, based in Alcoa.
Sims has fond memories of her camping experience. “It was a new experience. We had never done anything like this,” she recalled.
As a child Sims attended a church that did not offer Vacation Bible School. The day camp she attended in Townsend became her VBS, she recalled. She noted she still has many of the crafts she made.
Sims, now a student at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., has since become a member of Union Grove Baptist Church, Yadkinville, which is very missions minded, she said.
Last year her church sent a group which included the entire Sims family to serve at the Tremont campground. While there she met the Ledfords and talked with them about the possibility of her working with them this summer.
She noted that when she was camping with her family years ago she never dreamed that she would one day serve at the same place as a summer missionary. “God led me to do this.”
Sims, who worked in the ministry in July, raised the money she needed to support herself through various fundraisers. In addition, her church was “very supportive,” she said.
Having Sims as a summer missionary has already proven valuable, the Ledfords agreed.
There was one week when a team had to cancel at the last minute and it looked like there would be no day camp at the Tremont facility, Joe Ledford noted.
Ledford said that Garrett Baptist Church, Hohenwald, had planned to send a “vision team” this summer to see what the ministry entailed and to consider it for next year.
When the church canceled, Ledford asked the church’s pastor, Art McCormack, if they would come staff the camp “if we would plan it.” The church agreed, Ledford said.
He noted that the availability of Sims and a couple from South Carolina (Ricky and Cheri Tutterow) enabled them to provide the day camp and family activities at Tremont that otherwise would not have occurred.
The team from Garrett Baptist (along with Sims and the Tutterows) did a wonderful job, Ledford said.
Linda Ledford has been impressed with Sims’ ministry.
“Ashley is a magnet with the kids. They are drawn to her,” she observed. “She has been one of them,” she added.
“It is amazing that she came here to camp with her family and now her family has returned to minister in the same campground and Ashley has been a summer missionary here,” Linda Ledford said.
Joe Ledford observed that resort ministry normally just “sows seeds and trusts God for the results.” Day camp participants receive Bible story books and Bibles if they do not have one.
The ministry does result in professions of faith. There were four last year and one thus far this year.
The experience with Sims has been a boost for the Ledfords. “It’s been a joy to see the result of a (past) camp and to be a part of it with Ashley,” Linda Ledford said.
For Ashley, who aspires to be a teacher in public schools one day, she has loved working with the kids.
“It seems like it was only a year ago when I was the one making crafts in camp or listening to a Bible story.
“Now I am helping other kids,” she said.