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Ridgecrest marks 100 years, touching 3 million lives

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP)–About 180 ministry and community leaders attended LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center’s centennial luncheon March 6 to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

Speakers recalled the many ways God had worked in people’s lives at Ridgecrest during the past century while voicing anticipation of things yet to come at the conference center located just outside Black Mountain, N.C., near Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Black Mountain Mayor Carl Bartlett, who attended Vacation Bible School at Ridgecrest in 1948, brought greetings on behalf of the city and read a proclamation recognizing Ridgecrest for 100 years of service. The governor of North Carolina, mayor of Asheville and Buncombe County commissioners also issued proclamations.

“Ridgecrest has been called a mountain of faith,” Bill Bowman, general manager of LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, said as he listed the center’s challenges in its early years, which included a fire, two floods and a series of financial crises.

Bowman recounted how in the late 19th century B.W. Spilman dreamed of establishing a place for Southern Baptists to meet and learn how to teach the Bible to the multitudes. “It was his faith in God and His purposes for Ridgecrest that kept Spilman going,” Bowman said.

Jack Epps, who worked as a summer staffer in the 1930s as a college student and then returned 40 years late after retiring to spend another 26 years as a volunteer, gave greetings from Florida via video. “You come join us as a volunteer -– there’s no better place to work,” said Epps, who plans to return to Ridgecrest this summer for his 27th year as a volunteer and celebrate his 90th birthday there.

Epps was followed by 25-year-old John Mark Woodard, who served as assistant director for summer staff the past two years. “Things happen here that can’t happen anyplace else. God is actively working here,” Woodard said, noting that despite their age differences, “Christ’s spirit connects Jack and me.”

Byron Hill, executive director of LifeWay Conference Centers and Camps, discussed recent upgrades and new construction at Ridgecrest and plans for a new convention center with an 8,400-square-foot ballroom/exhibit space.

When the renovation plans are completed, “every building on campus will be new or made to look like new,” Hill said.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, cited Psalm 78 in which God reminds Israel of what He has done and will continue to do for them.

“I want us to remember the past, the place and the plan,” Rainer said. “The past has been a story of tremendous blessing…and of changed lives. Never let us forget the past and what God has done.

“God reminds us throughout Scripture to remember the place,” Rainer continued. “Ridgecrest is God’s place, and it can never be replaced in terms of all that has happened here.

“God has a plan for even greater days and more lives to be changed,” he concluded.

Mike Arrington, vice president of LifeWay Capital Resource Development, was the final speaker. “We serve a hurting world and can be a shining light,” Arrington said. “What God has done in the last 100 years in the lives of 3 million people is a great and awesome thing.”

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  • Don Beehler