I will start off by stating that I am not a big blogger. I would rather be with people and keep those experiences between us. When I see someone taking pictures, I often think, “am I going to show up on Facebook somewhere”? It can get a little irritating, I must admit.

But it can also be a blessing. I love to keep up with people through social media. It’s definitely a love/hate relationship. So, I guess in many ways, I am grateful for those who choose to chart those experiences. We have had so many different experiences during this Patch Tour, and because I love to highlight people’s generosity, I thought I would write about the experience with the Bates family.

You may have never heard of the Bates Family. You can watch their show on UP TV called “Bringing Up Bates”. I have to admit that I have not watched near as many of their shows as my wife and two kids. But, from what I have seen, this family is full of life, full of joy and have a genuine love for one another and others….a trait that many in our world seem to be missing. In an era of snarky comments, psychotic movies, violence and trashy tv, this show is a bright light breaking through the darkness of our culture.


After our Knoxville training, our family had a day off and Sunday was on the horizon. So, we decided to travel about an hour to worship at the Bates family’s church in Rocky Top, TN. We loaded up in the RV and headed up through the beautiful Smoky Mountains.

When we arrived, we were greeted with big smiles and warm handshakes. It was obvious we were visitors (the RV was a dead giveaway). At the conclusion of a very heartfelt service, we had the opportunity to meet several of the Bates family members, including Kelly Jo, the matriarch and mother of 19 children. 

Like it was any other Sunday, they invited us to join them for lunch down the street at Cracker Barrel (my kind of people!). We must have spent 2 hours at the restaurant, talking up a storm, learning about each other. We saw the real side of this family and it was quite encouraging.

As Renee and Kelly Jo were talking, the invitation was given to our family to come back to their house and take care of the ever-growing laundry from our trip. After all, they had plenty of washers and dryers to take care of the need (19 children, hello?!). We tried to brush the invitation off, not trying to take advantage of their generosity. But, after spending time with them and sensing the sincerity of the offer, we accepted and had the privilege to spend the afternoon with the Bates at their house. 

Our kids were swinging on the tire swing at the top of the hill with their kids, trying out the zip line, teaching their family new card games and watching sweet kid shows. All the while, we watched Kelly Jo interact with these kids and their guests like we had known them forever. We genuinely made new friends that day.

They invited us back for the evening service and we accepted. We were already having so much fun hanging out with them and we love going to church, so it was an easy decision. That evening, Gil Bates, the dad, flew back home from Alabama with one of his kids (Nathan, the pilot). It was a joy to get to know him that evening as we talked at church and once again, at Cracker Barrel. 

There were so many other little things to write about. One thing I did gain from our time with the Bates family is that they are genuine followers of Christ and they are a family that has an enormous amount of joy. It’s contagious. They laugh. They have fun. And they are so kind in the process. We laughed. We had fun.

They’ve used their television platform to inject light into our culture, and for that I am grateful. It’s not easy to do. And it’s rare.

It was a great day off. 

We consider ourselves blessed to have spent the day with this wonderful family. Another great stop on this faith journey….

Until next time,


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