Monday, September 29, 2008

Windermere: 50 Incredible Years

I wrote the following article for our Message page in the next issue of Word&Way.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of joining approximately 500 Baptists from across our state in celebrating 50 years of ministry at Windermere Baptist Conference Center. It was a wonderful time to renew friendships, remember special moments and give thanks to God for a very special place. When the Baptists of Missouri purchased Windermere 50 years ago, no one could have imagined how God was going to use this very special place to change the lives of so many.

I began attending events at Windermere when I was just a boy. Our family went to a conference and stayed in one of the old Spring Valley family cabins. It was long before many of Windermere’s older facilities were even built. Through the years I have attended many events, conferences, and workshops at Windermere. In fact, a few years ago I attempted to add up the nights I had spent on the campus of Windermere and discovered that I had spent almost three years of my life at Windermere. That is pretty good for someone who was never on their staff. The events included Royal Ambassador Camps, youth camps, retreats, training conferences, Big Mac conferences, Bible Preaching Weeks, Mission Conferences, BSU retreats, Deacon retreats, Director of Missions events, Music conferences, and many others. I began as a child and then progressed to youth and student events. I brought groups from the churches and associations I served. Later I came to Windermere as a conference leader for the Home Mission Board and the State Convention.

I saw my first copperhead snake at Windermere, and I learned to ski at Windermere. I grew and learned more about my commitment to Christ at Windermere. It would be impossible to recount all the times God’s Spirit has touched my life through the ministry of this special place and those who served there. Windermere really is a place where God is Building Lives!

During the weekend celebration the Windermere Board of Directors announced the naming of the Lakeview Lodge for Don and Marion Wideman. More than 10 years ago I had the privilege of following Don Wideman as executive director. Don’s leadership was instrumental in the development of the Windermere Board of Advisors and the redevelopment of the Windermere Campus. By the time Don came to serve Missouri Baptists many of Windermere’s older facilities needed to be updated. The campus had a lot of deferred maintenance. In addition Windermere needed new facilities to meet the changing conference needs of groups from across the Midwest. Don’s vision and leadership began a process that the Board of Directors has continued. I am grateful Windermere has named the beautiful Lakeview Lodge for the Widemans.

I have visited many Baptist conference centers across the nation, and Windermere is one of the finest conference centers anywhere. If you have not been to Windermere recently, you need to bring a group from your church soon. It truly is one of God’s masterpieces.

Over the past several years some in our state have sought to undermine and destroy Windermere’s ministry. I am proud the Baptist General Convention of Missouri continues to provide financial support for this ministry, and we are thrilled it is available for our conferences and events. Windermere still needs our support and help. In addition to the gifts of our convention, Bettie Jo and I give to support Windermere’s ministry every month. We want this conference center to continue their important ministry for the next 50 years. This anniversary year would be a great time to make a special gift to Windermere. Let’s celebrate by helping to ensure the future of Windermere’s ministry.

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