Glisson’s Dining Hall Enhances Ability to Serve Campers for Generations to Come

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On a crisp autumn day in October, C. Russell Davis, Director of the North Georgia Camp and Retreat Ministries, gave the Rev. Keith E. Lawder, President/CEO of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation, a tour of Glisson Camp and Retreat Center in Dahlonega, Ga. The camp’s architectural theme reflects an 1830s gold-mining town in honor of Dahlonega’s history as the site of the first major U.S. gold rush.

“Seeing Glisson firsthand was very important to me. Our relationship with Glisson and the North Georgia Camp and Retreat Ministries (NGCRM) illustrates the breadth of our services. We partner with them on long-term investments, medium-term certificates, loans, and endowments. It’s a rich relationship that benefits their family of ministries, but also helps the foundation in its work to support the other ministries of the North Georgia Conference,” Keith said. “Glisson is not only one of the best loved ministries of the Conference, but it is critical to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ through the camping experience.”

Davis agrees, “In taking time away from both the routine and the busyness of our day-to-day lives, we make ourselves available to God to be restored and renewed. We are also able to hear God calling and challenging us to do new things,” he said. “In all of our camping ministries, we are intentional about practicing our Christian faith rather than only learning about our Christian beliefs. We study the Bible, we worship, and we talk about the life and teachings of Jesus. What really differentiates us and what helps to form faith and leadership in children and youth is the opportunity to practice them in a living laboratory for a week at a time.”

Thanks to the ‘Serving Generations Campaign’ and a loan from the Georgia United Methodist Foundation, the extended Glisson family completed construction of an award-winning Dining Hall in April 2015 that dramatically enhanced its ability to serve campers and retreat guests alike.

“From a practical standpoint, the Dining Hall allows us to seat 465 people all at once and serve everyone family-style in five minutes. From a spiritual standpoint, it’s such a beautiful space. It sets a tone that helps us understand that meal time is a time for being the Body of Christ as we pass the food and care for one another. It’s a time of worship, and a time to give thanks for God, for one another, and for the blessings of the day,” Davis explained. “The air conditioned Dining Hall also allows campers to cool down three times per day making a great difference in their comfort and in their ability to enjoy each other and their camping experience even more.”

The 20,000-square-foot Dining Hall also features a lobby, a meeting space for 100, a gathering space for conversations, a camp store, a commercial kitchen, a cookout kitchen for campouts, and a prayer chapel that is perfect for unscheduled times of meditation and prayer.”

When asked why the NGCRM chose to work with the GUMF, Davis replied, “When we started planning the Dining Hall, we knew from the beginning that this was going to be a significant challenge and that part of the project would have to be financed. However, we also knew this project had to be done to secure the future of this ministry.

“We have had an investment relationship with the foundation since 1997. We were relieved and thankful that the foundation stepped up and creatively put together financing that allowed us to much more comfortably enter into the loan and to be able to serve that debt in a healthy, sustainable way. It also feels really good to know that the payments we are making on the loan go to help the foundation and to support other ministries that we partner with in the Conference and beyond.”

Keith adds, “It is a joy and blessing to participate with the NGCRM in this vital ministry.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 edition of Faith & Money, a publication of the Georgia United Methodist Foundation.