Many years ago at a Presbyterian retreat center near Asheville, NC, the annual summer conference was being held. An elderly man with a neatly clipped white goatee and resonant voice rose to speak. He explained that he was a medical doctor and he had a story to tell. He told how during the Civil War he had ridden horseback through the Cumberland Mountains on his way to join the Confederate Army. Since there were so few inns in the area, the mountain people took him into their humble mountain cabin to stay for the night. He had become impressed with their hospitality and intelligence even though they were poor.
Years later when he was a successful doctor in Arkansas, he had become desperately ill with scarlet fever. He vowed that if he lived he would return to the Appalachians and help the people. He had sacrificed his fine medical practice to start mission work in Arkansas, Kentucky, and finally the Great Smokies. Here, he had met Miss Alice Henderson, a Quaker from Ardmore, PA. She shared his mission of helping the mountain people. She had started three schools, including the Cutter Gap school. But she needed help. With great passion he urged the group, "These highlanders are your countrymen, your neighbors. Will you hear and help?"
As the group stood to sing "Just As I Am" the heart of a young lady was stirred deeply. She went forward, gripped the speaker’s hand, looked him in the eyes, and said,
"You asked for volunteers. You are looking at one."
"And for what do you volunteer, my child?"
"For the highlanders. I could teach, anywhere you want to use me."
"Are you sure, child?"
So, nineteen-year-old Christy Huddleston left her comfortable and affluent home in Asheville to teach at the Cutter Gap Mission school in the Smoky Mountains.
Upon arriving, she was greeted by Miss Alice Henderson, the school’s head. She asked Christy why she had come. Christy replied, "I want my life to count for something."
And it did. She endured the rugged and rigorous mountain life to teach boys and girls to have a better way of life. They were changed. In the process, she was changed, too. She discovered joy and satisfaction in helping others.
(From a sermon by Bob Joyce, What’s Your Story? 11/10/2010)
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