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Glorieta, focus of $26 million campaign, is ’emotional place for many of us’

DALLAS (BP)–Sometimes spiritual renewal comes with a price tag.

This is especially true in the 21st century when the American need for comfort clashes with the rustic accommodations offered by many Christian mountaintop retreats.

“People have expectations,” said Gary McCauley, director of LifeWay Christian Resources’ capital resource development department. “They want their rooms to be clean. They want their food to be good. They want to have a comfortable experience when they are away from home.”

That’s why LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center is working to raise $26 million over 10 years to upgrade its worship areas and conference facilities and add two new hotels and a recreation center, McCauley said. That’s also why LifeWay’s capital resources development department is holding several events to offer Southern Baptists and others an opportunity to invest in Glorieta’s renewal process.

The Glorieta conference center, located 18 miles northeast of Santa Fe, is owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1949, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico Baptist gave the property to the Southern Baptist Convention, which in turn handed it over to LifeWay to administer.

“Glorieta is an emotional place for many of us,” LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. told about 60 attending a fundraising event for Glorieta’s revitalization campaign at Northwood Club in Dallas Feb. 4.

Draper said his Aunt Ruth was on the New Mexico Baptist committee that, in the mid 1940s, agreed to purchase land for a conference center, now Glorieta.

“I remember when I was about 14 years old, stopping one day as we were driving down the highway outside of Sante Fe,” Draper said. “My dad pointed over a fence down to a ranch house and said, ‘There’s going to be a great conference center built there one day.'”

The conference center was built with funds from several Baptist conventions, Draper recounted. “The Texas convention gave $100,000 to build Texas A and Texas B hotels. Oklahoma gave $50,000 to build Oklahoma Hall. New Mexico gave $100,000 to build New Mexico Hall. And eight states gave $7,500 each to build the Hall of States.”

LifeWay, then the Sunday School Board, matched most of the money that went into the first buildings, Draper said.

“In fact, of the $7 million spent initially, the majority came from the Sunday School Board, and not a dime of it was Cooperative Program mission money,” he said.

In August 1952, Glorieta held its first conference event, and more than 1,400 people from 18 states attended.

“The full summer program began in 1953,” Draper said. “At the pioneer camp in 1952, 1,417 actually registered, but about 5,000 came through to look at the conference center.”

Since 1952, 3.5 million people have stayed at Glorieta, he said. “Nearly 12,500 have received Jesus during that time, and 75,000 individuals have surrendered to fulltime Christian professional service there.”

However, Mike Arrington, vice president for the corporate affairs division at LifeWay, told the group at the Dallas event that God stopped him from committing to fulltime Christian service at Glorieta.

“I went to Glorieta for the first time in 1967 because I thought God was calling me into the music ministry,” said Arrington, who now oversees the work of LifeWay Conference Centers at Glorieta and Ridgecrest, N.C.

“I was thinking, ‘Boy, when that Sunday night service comes, and it’s time to give your life to fulltime Christian service, I’m hitting the front.’ That’s me, type A personality. Let me in, coach. I’m ready.”

But Arrington said when the invitation arrived, God told him to sit there and not move. “I came all this way to give my life as a minister, and God said, ‘No.’ But I had peace about the decision.”

The next day, Arrington met his future wife, Paula. They’ve now been married for 35 years. After completing school and marrying, Arrington worked for a Texas utility company for 23 years until Draper asked Arrington to join him at LifeWay in 1991.

“I found out one of my responsibilities at LifeWay would be to oversee Glorieta and Ridgecrest, so I jumped on a plane to meet my staff. As I drove onto the Glorieta campus for the first time in many years, my mind went back to the pew where God said, ‘I don’t want you in the music ministry.’ The hand of God was on my life then, and now I realize it.”

Allison Dean, daughter of Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, has been visiting Glorieta with her family since she was a toddler, she told the group. She spent the summer of 2002 working there on staff.

“I was given the incredible opportunity to work at Glorieta this past summer, and I was able to fully experience two of its most important aspects — the place and the people,” she said.

Dean said she has been interested in mission work in the Middle East, and while serving as a summer staffer, she was able to meet missionaries who were aware of opportunities in the area and encouraged her to look into them.

“Glorieta is about bringing people to a place where they can see God individually, while being encouraged and ministered to by others as a body,” she said. “Glorieta has helped so many like me along the way.”

Draper said the revitalization campaign is being waged because “there hasn’t been a new building at Glorieta in more than 30 years.” A similar campaign is being conducted for Ridgecrest, he added.

“Glorieta and Ridgecrest are places for discipleship and training and fellowship and reflection,” Draper said. “They are places where people go for spiritual enrichment and renewal and Christian foundation.”

For more information about the renewal project at either Glorieta or Ridgecrest, contact Gary McCauley at (615) 251.5939 or e-mail [email protected].

For more information concerning events at either Glorieta or Ridgecrest Conference Centers, visit LifeWay.com and select the conference centers option on the menu bar, or call directly toll free at 1-800-797-4222 for Glorieta or 1-800-588-7222 for Ridgcrest.

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  • Terri Lackey