NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–At the dawn of the 20th century, B.W. Spillman pondered the idea of developing a place devoted to helping his fellow Southern Baptists draw nearer to God, receive Bible training and build lasting friendships.
Spillman, who once marked “failure” out of his dictionary to symbolize his belief that a person could accomplish anything God called that person to do, envisioned a location in the mountains where people could escape from everyday life to experience spiritual renewal.
His vision was fulfilled in 1907, and as LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2007, it’s clear that Spillman’s dream has enriched countless lives. From humble beginnings in a log cabin near Asheville, N.C., Ridgecrest has grown into one of the largest Christian conference centers in the United States, with year-round programs held in modern facilities nestled in the rustic Blue Ridge Mountains.
But the true story of Ridgecrest is not about a place; it’s about people. “In the past century, more than 2 million people have visited Ridgecrest,” said Mike Arrington, vice president of the corporate affairs division of LifeWay Christian Resources, which owns and operates conference centers at Ridgecrest and at Glorieta, N.M.
“Thousands of pastors, missionaries and church staff members can point to a moment at Ridgecrest when they committed their lives to Christ or to vocational ministry,” Arrington said. “Marriages have been restored, families strengthened and numerous laypersons have been trained for ministry.”
To help tell the Ridgecrest story, LifeWay is seeking testimonials from people whose lives have been touched at the conference center for a book to be published by Broadman & Holman, LifeWay’s trade book division. The commemorative book will trace the conference center’s heritage from its beginning in 1907 to the present, highlighting in words and pictures the way generations have had their lives changed at Ridgecrest.
“If you have a Ridgecrest story and would like to share it, LifeWay wants to hear from you,” Arrington said. “Your testimony will be a reflection of God’s faithfulness and will be an inspiration and encouragement to many others.”
Stories and photos may be sent via e-mail to [email protected]. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number.
For regular postal mail, send your story and a photocopy of your picture to LifeWay Corporate Communications, Attn: Ridgecrest 100 One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0192
If your picture is selected to appear in the book, a representative from Broadman & Holman will contact you to make arrangements to borrow and return the original photo. Individuals whose stories and/or photos are selected for publication also will receive a complimentary copy of the Ridgecrest book.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The original Ridgecrest land, which consisted of 940 acres, was purchased in 1907 for $8,000. The first event was held two years later in a log cabin.
Natural elements took their toll in the early years. A windstorm demolished the first auditorium in 1914, and a fire destroyed two of the main buildings. Then, in 1916, the greatest flood in the history of the area nearly put Ridgecrest out of business.
Despite the setbacks, Ridgecrest experienced tremendous growth over the years. Today, the campus has more than 50,000 square feet of conference space and 471 hotel rooms for adults nestled into 2,200 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, N.C. Originally a summer conference center, Ridgecrest has been offering conferences year round since 1969.
Several years ago, LifeWay began a revitalization plan for Ridgecrest and its sister conference center at Glorieta, N.M. At Ridgecrest, a 300-seat chapel was completed in 2001, and a 120-room hotel with five conference rooms was added in 2002.
The current $27 million project includes construction of a new 100-room hotel and recreation center at each location and a convention center at Ridgecrest. A major part of the project involves remodeling existing buildings. During the initial phase of renovations, many improvements will be made to the current conference rooms, providing them with the same updated technology planned for newly constructed rooms.