More than 110 years ago people of vision dreamed of a place where Baptists could “meet to learn how to teach the Bible to the multitudes.” Today that vision is a continuing reality in the lives of 70,000 persons, on-site, for the second consecutive year. With only about 100 full-time employees and 12 interns, this ministry could not function without the service ministry of volunteers. With 35,403 hours of volunteerism during the past year, 318 persons, averaging 71 years of age, helped to make this vision possible. Little could the visionaries have known in the days of its humble beginnings that all these years later Ridgecrest would have impacted so many thousands of lives. Volunteering at Ridgecrest is alive and well.
Volunteering at Ridgecrest
One of the children impacted by that vision is my husband and I am another. During the 1950’s I came with my parents during Music Week. Dad served as Minister of Music in several Alabama churches and took advantage of the conferences at Ridgecrest. I have precious memories of playing in the fenced childrens area behind the Ivy Building. During free-time in the afternoon my parents would often take us along a trail and explore the beauty of the mountains. Dad would often reach over and pluck a blooming bud of Mountain Laurel and present it to me. This became one of my strongest memories of the mountains.
In the evening I attended the sessions in Spilman Auditorium absorbing the ambiance of the preaching and the wonderful music. Though quite young, God was doing a work in my heart. I loved to sing and listen to the preaching. My spiritual journey had begun. The direction of my life was in motion from these very early beginnings. The workers , preachers, and musicians…the laundry workers, cooks, housekeeping personnel, speakers, and landscape artists knew nothing about what was happening in this little girls heart – but eternity will reveal their part. God was planting seeds and eternity will reveal the harvest of their labor.
Once again in 1967 my family visited Ridgecrest. The memories were especially poignant. I was in a dry place spiritually and struggling with decisions that would ultimately decide the course of my life. Walking along the paths of the prayer garden I remembered my childhood experiences and God whispered to my listening heart.
In 1963, my husband attended youth week with his church group from Louisville Kentucky. His youth workers had no idea that this shy 16 year old boy would hear the voice of God and the direction of his life would be changed and shaped forever. Most of his free time was spent in the Nibble Nook, just hanging out and eating ice cream. Though he remembers little about the afternoon activities, his memories are solid concerning the evening services. The curtains on stage of Spilman Auditorium gently swayed – fans? Draft from wind, who knows. The preaching? He has no recollection. The music – yes. Rock-solid memories of the music. The song began, “Where He leads me I will follow…” Right there in Spilman Auditorium in 1963, Sheldon Hale said to the Lord, “lead me, I will follow.” And follow he did. The Lord led him to college, and then seminary and now for the past almost 50 years he still serves as pastor. And to think – it started in a Nibble Nook.
Ridgecrest had no idea that I would meet that young man in 1969 and begin a fifty-year journey as a pastors wife. They had no idea that what had happened in his heart back in 1963 would open his heart to the call of God to become a pastor.
And that is what brought us back to Ridgecrest. We wanted to be a part of the ministry that had played a part in both our lives so long ago.
Volunteering at Ridgecrest
When you decide to volunteer at Ridgectrest Conference Center, you’ll discover an adventure of epic proportions. Once accepted, you’ll don your red polo shirt, be given a badge and become a part of a new family of like-minded Christian friends. Here are just a few of the volunteers we met on our recent visit.
Whatever the need may be, you’ll be given a specific two-week schedule directing you to the task that is set before you. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it heartily as to the Lord” is a great verse to adopt during your volunteer days. My pastor had a saying when I worked in the Christian school where he was administrator, “NEGATIVE NEVER”. That’s a great motto when volunteering at Ridgecreat. “Other’s First”, another vital servant-heart attitude to develop and nurture. As volunteers we were called upon to perform certain tasks, occasionally a bit outside our comfort level…but all vital. (And there is always a coach to give training as needed)
Where is Ridgecrest?
Why, it’s in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s nestled in one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. And when you spend time volunteering at Ridgecrest, you’ll have time off from work to explore the beauty of the mountains, The Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove, and numerous other wonderful places in the vicinity.
If you are reading this and have felt a tug at your heart, or thought, “Oh, I could do that,” perhaps you should walk through that door of opportunity and fill out an application. Another great quote from my pastor, “It’s not my ability God wants but my availability” Believe me when I tell you He didn’t get my ability when I was working in The Clouds Coffee Shop – I mean, what’s a London Fog? and HOW exactly do you make a Double Latte Espresso? However, my availability, teachable spirit, and servant heart to touch lives were the things God most needed.
The opportunities of service are limitless and the vision for reaching the world for Christ is as evident in the heartbeat of the leadership of Ridgecrest Conference center as in the days of its founding.
So how ’bout it? Are you about ready to put on a red shirt and volunteer at Ridgecrest Conference Center? I hope so.