RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The year was 1952. Mickey Mantle hit his first grand-slammer; Ernest Hemingway published “The Old Man in the Sea;” Mr. Potato Head made his toy store debut; a gallon of gas cost 20 cents; and Bob Cook was preparing for his first Training Union Week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center.
Fast forward to 2001. Mark McGwire has challenged Mantle’s home run record; “The Old Man in the Sea” has been replaced by “The Perfect Storm;” Mr. Potato Head has been edged out by action figures; and gas prices have soared to nearly 10 times that of the 50’s. But some things never change as Cook prepares to attend his 50th consecutive Discipleship and Family Week at Ridgecrest, June 30-July 6.
Cook worked for the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, now LifeWay Christian Resources, for 17 years. He served as the director of adult discipleship work and helped lead classes and workshops at Training Union [now Discipleship and Family] weeks at Ridgecrest.
He left the Sunday School Board in 1969 and went on to work at the Florida Baptist Convention where he served for 15 years. Though he retired in 1989, he has continued to remain active, speaking at state senior adult retreats, serving as conference leader for senior adult Chautauquas and assisting with leadership training in 16 states. Cook is also active in the senior adult ministries of Terry Parker Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I’ve had to keep going to Ridgecrest to keep up with things,” said Cook, who admits to being just as busy now as before retirement. “We lead conferences with folks all the time who might not be privileged enough to go to Ridgecrest, so we go and keep them up to date. Plus, it’s nice to sit around and talk about how much better we did things when we were in charge,” he said with a laugh.
The “way we did things” in 1952 was quite different than today, Cook reflected.
“During those days, we started conferences on Thursdays and ended them on Wednesdays. We started that during World War II, because we were trying to encourage everyone to travel during the middle of the week instead of the weekends, so the service people could use their weekend passes and it wouldn’t be too crowded.
“We always had such wonderful crowds,” he said. “One week in 1952 we had over 3,000 people there during a training week. We had them hanging over the lampposts and off the tree limbs. We had such wonderful fellowship with dear friends from all over the country.”
Fifty years of memories provided for some humorous stories as well.
“I remember one year the water went low in the reservoir,” recounted Cook. “Brother (Willard) Weeks was the manager of Ridgecrest then, and every day at meal time he would warn everybody not to take a shower. It was the campus joke to figure out who was abiding by the rules!”
Cook is still proud of the impact that LifeWay made through the Training Union weeks at Ridgecrest.
“The Sunday School Board was a great sharing-house,” he said. “Everywhere you would go, you were like a bee, picking up pollen at one flower and visiting another, sharing those ideas in the next place you went. If you learned something that was helping a church to grow, you would share that with the next church. We were able to go into the field and see ideas work.”
A very real part of Cook’s history is nestled in the hills of Ridgecrest, N.C. He said he will continue to go to Ridgecrest as long as he has ideas to share and lives to touch.
“Every year there are a few less of us, though,” he said. “We miss our friends, but we know they’re in a better place. Seems it’s getting to be that there are more of them over there than there are over here anymore.”