Youth director Andy Pifer and his wife first met at a Christian camp, so they often pull over and visit camps they pass on road trips. But neither of them had any idea that their decision in 2012 to pull over at a small camp in Canton, North Carolina, would lead to a ministry that would bless a whole county and enrich hundreds of future campers.

Pifer, who has served as director of youth and mercy ministry at Christ Covenant Presbyterian in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the past 15 years, had been leading youth mission trips for more than 30 years through his church and MTW. But he had been praying for more opportunities. When he stopped at the North Carolina camp, he happened to meet the town’s mayor and asked, “Y’all wouldn’t have any need for missions camps here, would you?” To his surprise, the mayor began to tear up. “We would love to have that happen here,” he said. Within a week, plans for Carolina Mountain Mission began — a summer service camp for church youth groups, families, and adults nationwide that focuses on practical help for impoverished residents of Haywood County. 

Helping the Needy While Helping Kids Grow

Carolina Mountain Mission seeks to be the hands and feet of Christ to the residents they help, says Pifer, noting that, “If it ain’t good for the poor, it ain’t the Gospel.” Youth workers and team leaders are dispatched to multiple job sites every day to help with projects ranging from painting to gleaning fields to distributing food to building handicap ramps. The work is hot and dirty and tiring. But that’s the point, says Pifer. 

“This experience is designed to stretch students physically, mentally, and spiritually — to open their eyes to the truth about God and the world they live in. Our hope is that students leave with a different outlook.”
– Andy Pifer

“We don’t send teams in to be superheroes, though they do amazing work, but we really want the participants to come to see their need for a Savior,” said Pifer. “Generation Z and millennials have been given much. Until they’re put in a situation where they really need God to show up, they don’t really know their need for a Savior.”

The tasks at Carolina Mountain Mission are designed to push students out of their comfort zone, stretching them physically, mentally, and spiritually. And the blessings continue after the trip, he says. “People are served, and as the kids go back home they say, ‘We can do this kind of thing at home.’ That’s exactly what we want.”

Offering a Systematic Approach to Missions

Pifer and the board of Carolina Mountain Mission want to spread its work even further, offering participants a progression of challenging mission trips that facilitate spiritual growth while also serving the physically and spiritually poor. To that end, they recently created Thumbprint Ministries, a 501(c)(3) organization that will oversee a network of ministry sites. 

A new opportunity in process is Utah Mountain Mission, where high school students are trained to evangelize Mormons who are in Manti, Utah, as part of their pilgrimage. “When you are about to witness to a Mormon and feel outnumbered and inadequate, then you know you need a Savior and you call out for help,” said Pifer.

Pifer identifies with this, as he has often felt inadequate in his work as a minister, as director of Carolina Mountain Mission, and now as executive director of Thumbprint Ministries. “I’ve always prayed, ‘God, open doors — I want to see Your hand do this. It will strengthen my faith and the faith of others.’ And it’s exactly what He’s done.”  

To learn more about Carolina Mountain Mission, visit or