GATLINBURG (WATE) – The pastor of a Gatlinburg congregation that’s been through so much in the seven months since the wildfires has a message of forgiveness. Beyond the damage to the buildings, the people of Roaring Fork Baptist Church face the aftermath of a tragedy that their community feels to this day.
The emotions are raw and varying in Gatlinburg when it comes to the news announced last Friday, that the harvest against the teenagers accused of setting the Chimney Tops 2 fire have been dropped.
District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said the wind was the primary reason the fire left he park. With winds blowing down power lines and fires popping up, specific damage or deaths could not be traced back to a specific fire, so the state was unable to prove the boys were criminally responsible beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Roaring Fork Baptist Church Pastor Kim McCroskey says he’s been able to get past the initial shock and mourning from that night in November. At this point the congregation is moving forward and hopeful.
It was a noisy construction site on Monday, with just a little rain.
“God has blessed us with favorable weather the last six weeks,” said Pastor McCroskey.
He says the next two weeks will be busy. Crews are installing windows and wiring and soon will putting up sheet rock.
“Actually after starting out two weeks behind we’re either at or ahead of the game,” said McCroskey.
The congregation at Roaring Fork has been staying strong the last seven months and it hasn’t been easy, but they’ve relied on faith.
“That’s what the Bible teaches. If you can’t forgive, you can’t be forgiven,” said Pastor McCroskey.
Since learning the charges against the two boys believed to have started the wildfire have been dropped, Pastor McCroskey says he’s not casting blame on anyone.
“You’ve got to forgive and if you don’t, you’re not what you should be. These were kids. My kids have done stupid things, not to this level, but that was just a stupid thing. They had no idea that all this was going to happen,” he said.
He adds that it’s also not a time to pass judgement.
“Hopefully they’ll have a testimony because of it and be able to have a teachable moment somewhere in their life.”
Pastor McCroskey has been coming every day to the construction site where people passing by stop to pray and take pictures.
“God’s our refuge and strength, and so He makes sure that He gives us the strength that we need to endure the things that we endure,” said Pastor McCroskey.
As the congregation looks back, each day and each sound on the job site means something special.
“Actually today’s kind of quiet, but it’s progress. Every nail that goes in, every shingle that goes on,” added Pastor McCroskey.
The congregation asks for continued prayers and they hope to hold their first worship service in the new sanctuary by November if construction progresses on time.