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Earth’s Beulah Land’ provides setting for pastors to seek God

SNEEDVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nestled high atop Newman Ridge in northeast Tennessee lies “Earth’s Beulah Land.” Try dialing from a cell phone while standing there and the words “no service” appear.

The 100-acre tract, completely away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life — yet chock full of God’s natural beauty — provides the perfect setting as “a place of prayer for men of God,” according to a promotional pamphlet. It is conveniently located for pastors not only in Tennessee but also in Kentucky, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and other states.

Earth’s Beulah Land is the fulfillment of a vision of Seven Gibson and a ministry of Elm Springs Baptist Church where he has served as pastor the last 20 years.

Located on the property are Gibson’s house, a cabin for a pastor and his wife and a prayer garden where the minister can go and spend time alone with God in a quiet natural setting.

“One of the most difficult things a busy pastor has to do is find time to refresh his soul, renew his vision and reaffirm God’s plan for his life,” Gibson said.
He speaks from experience.

Gibson is constantly on the go, ministering not only to his congregation, which has a membership of about 200, but the community as well. A lifelong resident of Sneedville, Gibson knows everybody and everybody knows him.

About three years ago Gibson was studying in the Gospel of Luke and was struck by the fact that Jesus constantly was going to the mountains to pray.

“Being an old mountain man myself, I thought that might be a good place for me,” Gibson said.

He knew exactly where to go — the old homeplace of his grandparents. “I came here. It was the only place in the county where I knew no one could find me,” he said.
Gibson began going regularly to Newman Ridge to pray and spend time alone with God. Not long afterward, his church “began to take on new life. I saw movement I had not seen before.”

He noted the experience was like “a shot in the arm.”
“We (the church) were struggling. I was empty and barren. Coming here was such a boost to my own ministry.”
One day Gibson felt a special need to go to the mountain and pray. “God moved in my heart to build a place where busy and broken pastors could come to pray and seek his face,” he recalled.

Gibson knows many pastors who are discouraged and burned out. Many of them cannot afford to go anywhere to find time alone with God if they wanted to, he added.

“Earth’s Beulah Land has been provided by God as a place of rest and renewal for pastors (and other ministers) who are tired, discouraged and need to get alone with the Lord for a few days of prayer and meditation,” Gibson said.

The initial idea from God was “a shock. It was nothing I had planned,” he said, adding it looked like “an impossible undertaking.”

His first problem was that the land was no longer in his family. It was owned by Jay Fishman in El Camino, Calif.
Others had tried to buy the land but to no avail.

Gibson wrote the owner and told him he would like to buy the land. To his surprise, Fishman called and asked him, “Are you going to do something for the Lord on that mountain?” Gibson told of his concept for a retreat cabin for pastors and Fishman responded that he would pray about it.

Even if the answer was yes, Gibson was not sure he could afford the property. He knew the man had been offered as much as $60,000 for the land.

Fishman called and told Gibson he would sell the land. All he wanted was the $24,000 he had paid for the property 17 years before.

After that, everything began to fall in place. Gibson sold his house to his daughter and began building his home first on Newman Ridge. His house sits on the approximate location of his grandparents’ home. In the front yard are trees where his grandfather used to hold services under nearly 90 years ago.

Gibson, a former bivocational pastor who was a builder, began to work on the cabin, paying for it as he went. Elm Springs members caught the vision and helped him with labor and money. The ladies of the church furnished the cabin with antiques.

Earth’s Beulah Land stands today as a testimony that God answers prayers, Gibson affirmed.

The cabin is offered at no cost to those who use it, Gibson said. It is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The cabin is completely furnished with a fully equipped kitchen. Linens and towels are provided at check-in. Meals are not provided. Those who use the facility can bring their own food to cook or drive into nearby Sneedville to eat.

Neither Gibson or his wife, Kathy, have much contact with those who come to the cabin. Other than greetings at check-in, the people are basically on their own. “I don’t try to minister to them. They come here to meet God. They have needs I can’t meet,” Gibson said.

The Elm Springs pastor is confident Earth’s Beulah Land will be around for years to come. Gibson noted his son has “given me his word that pastors can use this even after I am gone. We’re in it for the duration.”

Meanwhile, the facility is ready for ministers who need it. “My hope is that the pastor down on his luck who needs to get alone with God will come and use it,” Gibson said.
Ministers interested in using the facility should call Gibson at (423) 733-4800 between 10-11:30 p.m. Eastern.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey
    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.Read All by Lonnie Wilkey ›