Tag Archives: Christian Conference Center

Behind the scenes at The Cove…A Faithful Servant

By Corinne Holmquist
 
Garlene greeting guests upon entering the Training Center

Push past the double red doors of the Billy Graham Training Center into the lobby with the living-room feel, and you might catch a glimpse of petite five-foot-two-inch lead hostess Garlene Johnson.

People have told her she resembles Norma Zimmer of the Lawrence Welk Show. “Not because I sing, but because of my big hair,” she teases.

But Garlene is more than her cute blonde bob. You’ll see her slender hands busy touching up and tidying around the place. Hands reaching out to greet and guide guests toward the dining room or auditorium. Hands clasped in prayer with someone over an illness or death. Or failing marriage. Or job loss.

Across from where she stands hangs a painting of her friend, Ruth Graham. “I like to look across the room at Mrs. Graham’s picture and think that as I greet guests…they feel they are entering the living room in her own home,” Garlene says, adding she always felt warm and comfortable there.

Garlene standing near Mrs. Graham's portrait

At 77, “and proud of every year”, Garlene is the longest-employed hostess at The Cove, logging in 20 years of service and memories.

“She’s the “quintessential Southern Belle” says Scott Holmquist, Cove executive director. “She’s known for her graciousness and warmth.”

Her touches, big or small, help people unwind so they can rewind with God in the seminars and surroundings ahead.

She’s lady-like, yes, (she doesn’t like to pump her own gas). But fragile, she is not. (She once owned a rifle thinking she could scare off an intruder, but gave it away). Blessed with energy, she’s presently planning 20 weddings for this year at Montreat College and Montreat Presbyterian Church. Through it all, Garlene’s compassion oozes from her life experiences knowing that God loves and leads you through the hard times. Being organized helps, too.

Born in Lincolnton, N.C. in 1935, Garlene was the oldest of three daughters. Her dad died in a car accident when she was 8; he was 39. Ironically, her grandfather also died at that age.

“Over the years I just accepted it as God’s will. Their faith (of her grandmother and mom) gave me the faith to go on,” she reflects.

Garlene moved to Montreat attending college, working, and later marrying Kay N. Stutts. They were blessed with two daughters, Joy and Becky. Garlene soon taught middle and high school English in nearby towns. She also taught Sunday school to two of Billy and Ruth Graham’s children: Anne and Ned.

When Kay suddenly died at age 49, Garlene clung to God, again remembering the faith of her grandmother and mother who were widowed early. Years later, Garlene found love a second time, marrying George L. Johnson, the widowed father of Karlene Shea, who is married to George Beverly Shea.

Sadness struck again when George, a “Christian gentleman of prayer and the Bible” (like her first husband), died after a long illness. “It was still a shock,” she says.

Garlene as a new Cove employee in 1991

In 1991, Garlene ventured into a seminar at the Cove. One of the managers, whom she knew from church, asked if she would like to volunteer as a hostess.
“Oh yes,” she said without hesitation. “I didn’t even have to pray about it. I’ve been there ever since.” She’s found inspiration from those who enter The Cove.

One couple she met several years ago had a daughter suffering with brain cancer for three years. “Each year as they returned, their spirits were uplifted as they waited for the Lord to call her home,” she recalls. “What an inspiration this couple was to me!”

“I also met a young boy in a wheelchair. He was born without legs and had stubs for arms. As he was leaving, he asked if he could give me a hug. What a precious hug that was—one of the best I have ever had!”

Says Garlene: “The years that I have worked at The Cove have been… rewarding. As I enter the property, I feel that I am on ‘holy ground’ where the property has been prayed over by so many, for so long. When I begin work, I am with my Cove family where we like to begin our day with prayer and devotions.

It’s fun to meet guests from all over the world. Some have been to the Cove numerous times; others for the first time. I hear exciting stories about how God has worked in their lives through speakers, worship, and through that ‘still small voice.’”

It’s a voice she’s heard before. And as guests walk through the doors of the Training Center carrying life’s loads, Garlene’s touches for the kingdom continue.

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When Garlene prays with guests, she often uses these verses from the NIV:

Isaiah 41:10:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Lamentations 3:23:
“They [compassions] are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Psalm 139:23-24:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

If you would like to learn more about The Cove and possibly meet Garlene in person, click here to visit our website.

Bev Shea: 103 and Still Singing!

This week, on Feb. 1, our dear friend George Beverly Shea celebrates his 103rd birthday! He has accomplished so much in his lifetime, ministering alongside Billy Graham since the beginning. Just last year, he was honored with a GRAMMY® for Lifetime Achievement. He is such a friend to the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and The Cove.  In fact, he donated the organ currently in the Chatlos Memorial Chapel, and he joins us regularly for our Senior Celebration events. And, he’s still singing! Here’s video proof:

 

 

George Beverly Shea

In honor of Bev’s birthday, here’s an excerpt we found from his memoir Then Sings My Soul:

One morning not long ago Billy and I were out for a morning walk through the enchanting streets of Lyons, France.

“Billy, how long do you think I’m going to be able to keep up with you?” I asked.

He stopped and said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Bev, I didn’t realize I was walking so fast.”

“That’s not what I mean. How long do you think I’m going to be able to keep going in this work?”

 

“Why Bev,” he answered seriously, “I want you to sing for me all your life.”

“I’d like that,” I told him.

And I would. Singing is my life, and I hope that I can serve the Lord with my voice, in some way, for many years to come. Yet I realize that the day will dawn when it will be better for everyone if I do all my singing “down behind the barn,” where I first sang as a boy. If I feel that God wants me to stop I won’t resist Him for a moment. Not that I think that that time is imminent – for never in my life has God opened as many doors as He has in the past two or three years. Opportunities have come to me that I never expected; I am still awed by the responsibilities He has placed on my shoulders. Yet with the additional challenges, He has given new strength, new insight, new friends, and sustaining old friends.

Please join us in wishing Bev a happy birthday!

GUEST POST: Seven BILLION Souls

By Ron Hutchcraft

I was just doing the math. At one point in time, we had one grandchild. I couldn’t believe my wife was old enough to be a grandmother! But then – within a matter of years, that one has become eight grandchildren!

But that’s nothin’. In that same period of time, a billion more people have joined us on this planet. And this week, our “global village” just changed the population sign from six billion to seven billion.

Not just seven billion people. Seven billion souls. According to Jesus, each one of them is worth more than “the whole world” (Mark 8:36 ). And according to the Bible, each one of them will ultimately spend forever in heaven or hell. And 150,000 of them will slip into eternity every single day. I don’t know about you, but I find all that more than a little breathtaking.

And the orders of Jesus remain unchanged: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15 - NLT). Everyone. Each of those seven billion humans deserves the chance to know that God “so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” (John 3:16 ) to take their hell and give them heaven.

So, with the seven billionth soul born this week, the stakes just got higher. The Final Orders (AKA, the Great Commission) just got more urgent.

But as the number of lost souls grows exponentially, something strange is happening. Many Western churches are cutting back their missionary budgets – sometimes to spend more on themselves. The percentage of believers’ income given to God’s work is declining – and the percentage of that which goes to reaching a lost world is shamefully small.

Missionaries who are ready to take that Good News to some needy place in the world can’t go yet – it’s taking them three years to find the support to go. And when some Christian young people tell their Christian parents they’re sensing God’s call to world missions, their parents are telling them to “do something more secure and just give to missionaries.” We want our kids to do something important, right? Don’t tell God that. His Son was a missionary.

With nearly a billion people more to reach with each decade, how can we possibly be content to do it the ways we’ve always done it? At this time of an unprecedented people explosion, we also have within our reach an unprecedented communications explosion. Through technologies like the Internet, social networks like Facebook, mobile systems like iPads and smartphones – and, in some parts of the world, the still powerful “old school” technologies of radio and television. Does this population explosion leave us any choice but to use “all possible means” (1 Corinthians 9:22 ) to give every soul a chance? To capture the most powerful delivery systems in history to deliver the most powerful Message in the world!

If Jesus wept over a city that was lost (Luke 19:41 ), how must He weep over a world that is lost? With more lost souls than ever before. But as world evangelist, D. L. Moody, said: “The Master’s heart is pierced with unutterable grief…not over the world’s iniquity, but the Church’s indifference.” Forget about the Church’s indifference – what about yours and mine?

The exponential growth of souls on this planet isn’t just a fleeting headline – it’s a mandate for the people of God. All of us. Each of us. To pray differently. Give differently. Even plan our future differently. We certainly cannot explain to God “business as usual.”

Because God so loved the world.

Ron Hutchcraft will be speaking at The Cove on March 23-25th.  His seminar is titled: “How Then Should We Live: Bold Living in a Meltdown World.”  Special offer:  FREE seminar if lodging on property! Click here to register and for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Ron HutchcraftRon Hutchcraft is an evangelist, speaker, author, and radio host. He is president of Ron Hutchcraft Ministires and founder of On Eagles’ Wings, a Native American leadership program. Ron Hutchcraft is committed to communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost in their language and to motivating and equipping believers to communicate Christ in their world. For more information about Ron and his ministry, visit www.hutchcraft.com

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Unparalleled Service, Majestic Beauty

 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31

Need a location for your next group retreat? At The Cove, you will discover an experience far beyond that of typical conference centers. Our year-round facility rests on 1,200 acres in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Amid rich natural forest, woodland streams and abundant wildlife, you will find stillness and seclusion within our gated, all-inclusive retreat.  Our well-equipped meeting, dining and lodging facilities, combined with scenic views and unparalleled service, provide a refreshing and relaxing atmosphere.  The Cove can accommodate small groups, such as board meetings and church staff retreats, as well as large groups up to 450 guests. If you choose The Cove, we know you’ll leave refreshed and ready for what God has in store.

But, don’t take our word for it. Listen here to what others are saying  about their group experiences at The Cove:

“Every aspect of our encounter with The Cove was done with Excellence.  I thought to myself, ‘Lord, this facility and people must please you and reflect a touch of what you intended for man in the beginning.  The grounds are well landscaped and maintained, the beauty of the mountains, the hiking trails, the architecture of the buildings, excellent food and rich fellowship, and so on.’”  — Guest from a large Christian Organization

“I cannot say enough about The Cove.  The ladies thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  The atmosphere was heavenly and the fellowship was second to none.  What a glorious time we had.  I’ll tell anyone before you go to heaven you have got to stop by The Cove.  A special thanks to your staff they were so accommodating.” – Guest from a large Church in Jacksonville, FL

 

 
For more information or to make a reservation, call 1-800-950-2092, visit our website at www.TheCove.org or email us at GuestGroups@TheCove.org

Praying for The Cove’s Future Guests

By Amanda Parrish

In a life often run dry by constant activity, the pressures of decisions, disappointments, anger and regret, many seek a chance to pause and breathe.

Giving participants this chance is part of the heart of The Cove. Challenging guests to relax, refresh and renew while growing and learning is an important part of ministry. This challenge lives within the hearts of staff members and volunteers. Beyond the greeting smiles, lies a heart of more than mere politeness. All incoming groups have been cared for long before entering the gates at the bottom of the mountain. Fully aware of life’s many challenges and difficulties, the staff and volunteers at The Cove commit to praying and providing for guests before their arrival and during their stay.

Nearly every department of The Cove, from office staff to house cleaning, has determined to care not only for the physical needs of the participants, but also the core spiritual needs.

To the approximately 20 housekeepers charged with cleaning the inns and cabins, scrubbing bathrooms and changing sheets is not just a necessary duty. Their goal is to provide a restful environment, relieving the guests of pressures and worries, allowing them the space to hear God.

“We are here to take the cares of the world away so they can focus on the Lord,” Tina McGuinn, who oversees lodging and housekeeping, said. “That’s our dearest ministry.”

Cleaning the sinks and dusting the furniture, these precious women dedicate much of their time praying for the participants. The housekeepers pray for the encouragement, the refreshment and the healing of the guests. They pray the teaching and quiet time will remain with the participants and be incorporated into life as they return home. They pray for an outpouring of joy, peace and rest. Their purpose does not lie solely in cleaning, but ministering in the simplest way. The staff’s desire is to help relieve the pressures of the world, allowing guests to be free to move toward the heart of God.

Deanna Sales, food service coordinator at The Cove, said the dining room staff prays for the guests as well. While greeting participants and serving their tables, the staff pray for the needs of the guests. Familiar with life’s struggles, each staff member can sympathize with the need for refreshment and a friendly, encouraging smile.

Before each meal, the dining room workers gather together, grasp hands and take a moment to share needs. Prayers for the refreshment of each guest entering the dining room, strength for the staff and peace for those “closest to eternity,” fills the small circle before the meal rush begins.

Kay Whithington, volunteer coordinator for the Prayer Intercessors at The Cove, also seeks to minister to guests and staff. “Our hope is to be a source of encouragement,” Whittington said.

This team of volunteers prays consistently for the staff and participants of The Cove. Walking about the grounds, meeting in the chapel and praying about the needs and concerns of all on campus is part of their ministry.

Office staff also grasps the opportunity to pray for the guests. Receiving a list of seminar participant’s names, each member of the staff prays for the group and for the individuals.

The importance of praying and caring resonates with many guests. Some face the difficulties of life and find strength to continue and others worn thin find encouragement to begin again. This is a ministry of caring ingrained into the heart and history of The Cove.