As the autumn winds begin to chill the mountains of western North Carolina, the staff at Laurel Ridge Camp, Conference and Retreat Center is looking back on a wonderful summer of sharing faith and love with young Moravians.
“Our theme of ‘Love’ for 2017 came from Colossians 3:14: ‘Beyond all these things, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,’” says Tres Fordham, executive director of Laurel Ridge. “Summer camps used this verse and theme in many different age-appropriate ways.”
At an event in September, Tres share his views of the 2017 camping season.
“Pre-junior campers explored how we show our love for God and his love for us through prayer,” said Tres. “Junior 1 campers explored and studied the ‘Rhythms of Life’ and how the rhythm of Jesus’ life was love. Middle high campers used the ‘Where’s Waldo’ idea and looked at ‘Where in the World is Jesus,’ studying all the different ways we worship, realizing at the heart of each form of Worship is the love for God. Senior high campers took the next step from the 2016 theme of “Decisions” with the 2017 theme of “Action” and considered ‘Why do mission work if we don’t do it out of love?’ And our Family Camps focused on helping families grow together, strengthening friendships and deepening their faith.”
The camps based at Higgins Lodge also looked at love, but from more of a “doing” perspective. “Eco Mission camp focuses on the creation that God gave us because He loves us and our response to caring for it, because we love Him,” continued Tres. “Participants in the four mission camps held this year were able to physically demonstrate their love for God by painting, building, mowing, cleaning and showing hospitality to 15 homeowners and sites in Ashe and Alleghany counties. But we believe Mission Camp is more than all the work they do. We believe mission camp impacts the faith journey of the homeowners, campers and counselors alike. Yes, campers work on and make repairs to homes and property, but just as important is the opportunity to connect socially with each homeowner. During lunch, each homeowner is invited to join the campers for a meal and devotion.”
Campers in the Junior Arts camp and Middle High Arts camps showed their love for God and how we can worship Him through the creativity of paintings, puppetry, and music as they explored their own personal “Artistry of Faith.” “We also had groups from Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Hickory, Durham, Boone and many other places use Higgins Lodge for retreats where participants shared their love of God through music and learning about God’s love for all,” said Tres.
And in 2017, Laurel Ridge was a place where couples made the ultimate statement of love – their marriage. “We hosted five weddings this year,” explained Tres. “It seems that the hottest trend in weddings is for the ceremony to be in an outdoor, rustic and natural setting. Laurel Ridge fits this description perfectly, and talk about fitting the theme of ‘love’ for the year…nothing exemplifies love more than a wedding. Each of the brides and grooms this year not only expressed their love for each other but expressed their love for God in each ceremony.”
During the past 12 months, Laurel Ridge’s facilities underwent substantial updates and maintenance. “On our Bahnson Assembly Hall facility at summer camp, we completed a new metal roof, ground and polished the floors and updated the bathrooms. Campers and counselors commented on how bright, clean and cheerful Bahnson is now. The Salem Wing of Higgins Lodge received new paint and carpet, and we were also able to purchase a new Kubota tractor with heat for use during the winter for clearing roads. We had many volunteers who helped throughout the year, without whom we couldn’t continue to do our work.”
To recap 2017, 711 participants came to camps programmed by Laurel Ridge. There were another nearly 800 campers from churches that used Summer Camp and Higgins this past summer for their own camps. All together, Laurel Ridge was directly able to positively impact over 1500 individuals this past summer, not counting the nearly 150 counselors who donated more than 18,000 hours of their time—18,000 hours!—to make a difference in the lives of our kids.
More than Summer Camp
“But Summer Camp is not the only place Laurel Ridge impacts our community,” says Tres. As of early October, more than 3000 people visited Higgins Lodge for retreats and one-day workshops, participated in mission camp at Higgins Lodge, came for weddings or just enjoyed a meal.
“One of my most favorite duties each summer is getting to drive the homeowners back after they join us for dinner on the last evening of mission camp. I get the privilege of hearing the stories from them about their interaction with the youth and adults working on their homes and the impact these groups have on them. To hear of the relationships the youth have built is amazing.”
“But we judge our success not only on the number of kids and adults who come to camp, but on the impact we have at camp,” said Tres. “Each of the more than 1500 campers and all the others who visited this year had the opportunity to accept God’s grace and come to a better understanding of what God’s Love for them is.”
“God’s promises are abundant,” continued Tres. “If we are faithful to Him, if we are faithful to our mission of being a mountain place set apart for forming disciples of Jesus Christ who live and learn in community to serve in the world, we’ll continue to impact the current and future generations of visitors to Laurel Ridge.
“When I think about all the good that happened in 2017, all the promises fulfilled in 2017, all the work that has been done AND all that is being done to make Laurel Ridge ready for 2018, I’m excited!
“My hope is that you will continue to support and pray for the ministry that we call Laurel Ridge,” said Tres. “Together, we can ensure Laurel Ridge continues to share the love of God and remains a vital piece of faith formation for generations to come.”
For more information about Laurel Ridge or to read their annual report, visit www.laurelridge.org. Photos courtesy of the Laurel Ridge staff.