When did you see a mountain for the first time? Hard to remember isn’t it? I was almost 13 riding on a Rouse Bus heading to Cragmont. Little did I know how that mountain, many people that I had never seen before and the Lord would change my life. That was all in my head as I started planning the Religious Life Retreat for the Children and staff of the Children’s Home. As Director of Campus Ministry, I had been given the opportunity to put the weekend together by Mr. Lee. I chose, What on Earth Am I Here For as our theme from a book by Rick Warren. With devotions like “It All Starts with God,” “You are Not an Accident,” “What Drives Your Life,” “Seeing Life from God’s View” we couldn’t go wrong.
Many of our children had never seen the mountains, and, oh, if you could have heard them when they looked down the mountain while riding on the Parkway for the first time. One child told Mr. Batchelor when he returned that he was scared. We made this journey with the help of lots of people; thanks to Greenville First and Rose of Sharron Churches who shared buses and drivers (Bryant Hines and Rink and Faye Allen) with us for the entire weekend of March 21–23. We also had volunteers who taught workshops such as Dick and Kay Brown of Little Rock, Wallace Simmons 4-H agent out of Wayne County and others from the Home.
Our retreat began with devotions in Memorial Chapel with our campus pastor Richard Cuddington. We were loading the buses and hitting the road a little after 10 a.m. on that Friday. After rest stops and a lunch break we arrived at Cragmont about 4:30 p.m.; just in time to unload, make our beds, rock on the front porch and get ready for “John’s famous pig pick’n.” This was another first for many of our folks. Following dinner we had games, devotions and a campfire with guitar music, singing, and the making of s’mores—more firsts for our group. We also had sessions on team building, leadership, CPR, talk just for girls, quilling, etc.
While traveling on the Parkway we saw the movie at the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the cultural part of the mountains. We also came off the parkway and visited the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (one of our NC Governors) near Weaverville. Our children could associate him with the naming of Zebulon where they go to Wal-Mart! I think seeing a big Valley was just as big as seeing the mountains, one asked me as she looked up, “were we up there” and I said “yes.” Her eyes were very big.
We also visited the Black Mountain Children’s Home to share a meal and fellowship, which our kids enjoyed greatly. We made more new friends; friends that were just like us. At the end of the evening, we were all ready to get back to Cragmont for a good night’s rest. At Sunday morning breakfast some of us taught the “Cragmont Song” to the group and John shared a wonderful message “The Reason for Everything” to bring together our weekend. The Cragmont staff were wonderful to us and we thank them for all they did. We boarded our buses and headed down the mountain and east.
My goals had been that we have an educational, cultural, and spiritual weekend and we did. I’m sure there were memories made that weekend that can never be erased from the minds of our children. There was someone who helped with funds to make this retreat weekend possible and for this we are so thankful. We appreciate our “Friends” of the children who help make so many opportunities available; things that could not be done without caring and loving people who are good stewards of the blessings God has given to them.