PictureEli (green hat) at YOKE Rocker-thon in 8th grade ’95

My YOKE story starts as a YOKE kid at Halls Middle School in the early ‘90’s. For those three years I did everything YOKE offered. I have great memories of Chug and Crush, Roger White’s limo, going rafting on the Hiwassee River, hiking in Big South Fork on summer trips, hiking trips with John Coatney–and of course, camp. After middle school, I got very involved serving at Camp Ba Yo Ca; I often say that I started working at Camp in 1996 and never left. I met my wife at camp, asked her to marry me at camp, got married at camp, and our daughter is named after the Blair House at camp. Because Camp Ba Yo Ca and YOKE have such a great partnership, YOKE was never out of the picture. I never served as a YOKE Folk because of moving away to attend college. I moved back to Knoxville in the winter of 2004, and served at camp for the next year and a half as care taker and Special Activities Director. In November of 2004, I started working for Pigeon Forge Parks and Recreation where I served in many different positions over the next nine years. I married Heather Powell in May of 2005, and our daughter Blair was born in September of 2011. Throughout the years we would get calls from the YOKE staff asking us to be leaders but we could never get our schedules to work out.

PictureEli, Heather, and Blair – 2013

So how did I end up at YOKE?

During my time at Camp I felt a very strong call on my life to serve in full-time ministry. At that time I felt that it would be in a church as a youth pastor or something like that.  Over time, that calling became more focused on camp ministry.  My degree, my experience, and my passion all pointed to being involved in a camp – it just never worked out that way…and that’s when YOKE entered back into the picture. 

Having the opportunity to join the YOKE team has fulfilled that calling that God placed on my life almost 15 years ago. I enjoyed my time working in Pigeon Forge–and it helped me to develop as a professional–however, I have never felt a peace about my calling to ministry like I do now!