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‘Free ice and eternal life’ offered at couple’s houseboat

OSAGE BEACH, Mo., (BP)–An electric sign on the side of the huge houseboat moored at the entrance to Party Cove advertises “free ice and eternal life.” When the weather heats up, the ice goes fast.

Then Mark Hott tells boaters, “We’re out of ice, but we have plenty of eternal life left.”

Hott and his wife, Denise, and a crew of volunteers are spending their summer weekends on the Hot Hot Hot houseboat, blasting Christian music from a professional sound system to a steady stream of passing watercraft. A typical weekend sees thousands of boats visit Party Cove — formally known as Anderson Hollow Cove in Lake of the Ozarks state park.

“We’re believing it’ll be ‘Worship Cove,'” said Hott, who also conducts a Sunday morning worship services and weekend afternoon Christian concerts aboard the boat.

He and his wife inherited the name Hot Hot Hot when they bought the 78- by 16-foot Sumerset boat this spring from its Kentucky manufacturer. Hott got the idea of putting a boat in Party Cove during a Christian meeting in November 1999 in Branson. “God planted the vision for this ministry in my heart and spirit that night.”

The notion of an outreach to Party Cove — with its reputation for alcohol and drug use and nudity — took Denise Hott by surprise. Then she set about to ensure the ministry was conducted at a level of excellence. “My husband is a very obedient servant of the Lord,” she remarked.

Herb Baker, pastor of Osage Hills Baptist Church in Osage Beach, likened Party Cove to Sodom and Gomorrah. “I’m glad that God has put it on Mark’s heart to do this, to try to stem the tide,” Baker said.

Hott grew up in Braymer, Mo., and made a profession of faith at age 13 during a tent revival sponsored by the Billy Graham organization. He met and married Denise, who is from St. Louis, after moving to the lake area 15 years ago. They make their living in real estate development.

Members of Walk on Water Faith Church in Osage Beach, the Hotts want their ministry to have a unifying influence on Lake of the Ozarks area churches. “If we all agree on Jesus Christ, let’s set everything else aside,” Hott suggested. The ministry offers free weekday lunch cruises for people in full-time ministry and their families.

The Hotts launched their ministry on Memorial Day weekend — six months after Mark had the vision for it. “If it wasn’t God,” Mark observed, “it wouldn’t have come together this quick.”

He also counted as blessings smooth dealings with the state, the solving of mechanical problems with the help of fellow Christians and a lack of hostility from Party Cove visitors. “People have prayed this into existence.”

Some boaters have made U-turns and headed out of Party Cove after seeing the houseboat, which Hott believes is a conviction of the Holy Spirit that they should not go there.

A few hecklers have been noted.

One group of young men decided to “moon” the ministry boat. They failed to notice a nearby state water patrolman, who promptly ticketed them.

On a lake that seems to be engaged in an endless game of “Who can have the biggest, most powerful boat?” Hot Hot Hot turns the head of everyone who cruises slowly past.

The fact that their boat represents Christ is at the heart of the Hotts’ ministry. “It was God’s idea,” Mark Hott said.

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  • Tim Palmer