Saturday, March 28, 2015

Summer 2015 mission trips from McMinn County, Tennessee

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There is a lot of excitement in the churches on this end of McMinn County, Tennessee. Teams are forming now to go to not one, or two, but three mission trips this summer. The destinations and ministry opportunities are exciting and people are asking about them. Opportunities to be involved with the mission trips include becoming a team member, helping to raise funds and get the word out and praying for the teams.

A mission work site in Alaska
Lots of work remain to be done before the mission trips can happen, so don't hesitate to volunteer. You don't have to belong to a UMC church to participate. All you need is an open heart, open mind and the willingness to walk through the doors that God opens.

Here are the destinations and a little about each voluntourism opportunity.

Philadelphia, Mississippi
Jones Chapel UMC has been in ministry for two decades on the Choctaw Reservation. Leaving the last week of June, team members will be involved in maintenance and grounds keeping work around the mission site. The team also plans and implements a Vacation Bible School for the children there. This includes everything ride alongs in the transportation vans and distributing to teaching and doing everything else that has to be done for a VBS. Interested in helping? Cost is less than $300 per person. Visit

Alaska state sign
Girdwood, Alaska
There probably isn't a more beautiful place to serve than Girdwood, Alaska. The team will be helping with a VBS at the northernmost point of the largest rain forest on the planet. Located near the Gulf of Alaska, prices are still being put together. Trip costs are estimated to be around $1500 each. In addition to VBS, there will also be some light grounds keeping work to be done. Email to be involved.

Cherokee, North Carolina 
The third mission trip is to the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. The team will be doing some home repair and construction projects around the Cherokee area. This mission trip will take place in late summer of 2015. Details are still being ironed out. It is possible that this voluntourism opportunity will be 3-4 days instead of a full week. Does this sound like an opportunity that you would like to help with? Email for more information.

Check back often for information about the mission trips. Summer of 2015 is looking to be a very busy one for the UMC churches of Southeast McMinn County!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tips for dealing with hidden moving costs

How My Family Dealt with Unexpected Moving Costs originally appeared on the Yahoo Contributor Network on July 15, 2011.

My family relocates frequently because of my husband's job. We have always successfully budgeted for the rental truck and other big expenses. It is the incidental, hidden expenses that make me catch my breath. These costs can wreak havoc on the budget and add unwelcome stress when least needed.

So what do I mean by hidden moving costs?

Packing materials
Meals out, bottled water and snacks
Extra babysitting
Increased gas expenses

Through the years, we have learned to start saving as early as possible. That's critical. However, so is planning for these hidden moving costs.

Reuse, don't buy new. Calling stores and businesses ahead of time helped streamline the moving effort. Several places were willing to hold boxes for us. More than a few places told us what day or time to pick up boxes. One or two sources can be all you need.

Soda and bottled water
Avoid vending machines, convenience stores and drive-thru windows. Buy bottled drinks at the store for a fraction of the cost and carry them with you. Put cold drinks in a lunch bag with a frozen bottle of water. The drinks will stay cold for most of the day. Fill a cooler with ice for the day of the move and pour over the sodas.

Packing materials
The hidden moving cost of packing material can break the bank. Ask friends to save newspapers before you buy packing materials. Check Freecycle or Craigslist for sources on free materials.

An invaluable tip was shared with me a few years ago. Pack each plate in between a thick layer of paper or styrofoam plates. Your plates won't be broken, plates are inexpensive and you can use them for your first couple of nights at the new place.

Meals out and snacks
Talk about a hidden moving cost that can drive you to the poorhouse! Food is a big expense. You won't want to cook in a clean kitchen or when your pots and pans are packed. Plan ahead to counter this expense by looking for coupons and buying snacks ahead of time. When friends ask if they can help, ask for pizza gift cards or casseroles - and paper plates!

If you have kids, extra babysitting is going to be an unavoidable hidden moving expense. Try exchanging child care while you can. Ask a friend to watch the kids after school and take the day to get some packing done. Bring in the grandparents or great aunt, borrow a teenager that you trust and/or ask a trusted parent to allow your child to spend the night. As a last resort, pay a teenager to take the kids to the movies. Be prepared to buy tickets, popcorn and dinner if you choose the movie option.

Gas costs
Hopefully you'll have a few weeks' notice before you have to move.  Start sticking a few dollars into a jar on the day that you find out that you are moving. Continue doing so for as long as you can. Use it for extra gas or other expenses. If your grocery store offers fuel points, save them to use for moving week (just be sure that they don't expire first).

Traditional moving expenses
Use the right size of truck for your needs. Extra space in a large truck can cause items to shift. Getting the right size can help you save money in both the truck cost and unbroken items.

Always ask about any discounts or deals. We have gotten good prices by moving during the week, or during certain times of the year. Check for online coupons. But, above all, ask.

I hope these tips for dealing with hidden moving costs will help. Do you have other ideas? Please leave them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Happy 30th Anniversary Dollywood!

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This year is the 30th Anniversary of Dollywood and Dolly Parton has 30 big announcements which will be made public over a year’s time.  Leave it to Dolly to do it up big and colorful.

One Big Announcement: 

Back a few years, like a decade or so, you may remember that Dolly performed concerts at her park in the mountains of Sevier County.  That hasn’t happened for a while, but it is going to change.   Dolly will be performing two concerts, Saturday and Sunday, August 8 and 9, 2015.

Those concerts will not be part of your entry ticket price; you will have to buy special tickets for them.  The money will go to a good cause, Dolly’s Imagination Library.  Other performers will be on hand to lend their musical talents over the summer but the names have not been released.

Whatever the cost of those tickets, it will certainly be worth the price to see Dolly perform live at the coolest place in East Tennessee, Dollywood.  I have never seen Dolly in person, but I have seen a few concerts at Dollywood.

Dolly’s New Family Resort: 

The DreamMore Resort will be opening soon so look for the grand opening sometime this summer.  The resort will be colorful and family oriented. That resort takes up a chunk of land but Dolly has a lot more land and she has big plans but those plans are still secret.

Dollywood is an amazing place and if you have never been there, this is the year to go.  The colors, the flowers, the people, the energy, the rides, the food, the music and the atmosphere – those are reasons to head to the coolest place in East Tennessee.

Helpful Hints:

Plan ahead, dress appropriately and wear comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking involved!  If you go on the water rides be prepared to get a little (or a lot) wet!  Take your sun screen and be sure to stay hydrated.  It gets hot and muggy in the summer even in the mountains!

The first time I went to this amazing place I had to be talked into it.  Once there I didn't want to leave.  You might just feel the same way! 

If you want more information on Dollywood’s schedule, pricing or other useful information, you can find out all kinds of good stuff at

Photo Credit: 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Murder mystery dinner fundraiser benefits mission team

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Who done it? Come find out at the murders mystery dinner theater in Riceville, Tennessee. Tickets for the one night dinner are $20. Proceeds will benefit the mission teams from Wesleyanna and Jones Chapel United Methodist churches in McMinn County.

Bears in Denali National Park, Alaska
Credit John Crabtree
Pasta, Passion and Pistols murder mystery dinner will be performed on April 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm, in the Family Life Building of Jones Chapel UMC. Tickets are available from mission team members or the pastor. Email for more information on buying tickets, becoming a team member or to volunteer.

Silent auction and raffle items are also needed. It's a good opportunity for a business to gain visibility.

Three teams are scheduled to leave this summer. Jones Chapel has a longstanding relationship with the Choctaw Reservation in Mississippi. This team leaves in June and is led by Bert and Leslye Beria. New trips this year include a VBS in Girdwood, Alaska in July and a construction trip to North Carolina later this summer.

The mission trips to Alaska and North Carolina are being organized through Wesleyanna UMC in partnership with Jones Chapel UMC. Funds from the mystery dinner fundraiser will largely benefit the Alaska team. Team member positions are open on all trips. Email Rev. John Crabtree at the address above to be part of these mission opportunities.