Dreams still exist
Returning to Ohio has afforded me the opportunity to see many of my dreams started in the decade of the 70's, not only continuing, but many times larger than when I left.
One such event is the annual Minister’s and Laymen retreat started in 1975 where a small group of 45 attended at Big Prairie at an older winterized camping facility. Our speakers were Henry Van Kluve, Herman Hersey and Roy Thomas. The latter two have moved on to their reward, but I remember this meeting well. Men from our Akron church prepared the meals and the services were in an informal fashion, but it was the beginning of something that would bring our men together. And it has!
This year this continuing event, now called Ohio Men’s Retreat, had 518 (Shown Above) who attended at Heartland Retreat Center in Marengo, Ohio.
Over these 35 years this retreat has had great speakers and continued growth. It grew steadily in those early years until 1993 when I moved on. To say the least, God has honored this
I am so thankful that my successor, Rev. Edwin Hayes, has had the remarkable growth he continues to have.
This event is made up mainly by Christian laymen from every stratus of employment
-Bankers, Insurance executives, plant employees, ministers and down to bikers and those retired. But since everyone is casual no one knows the others role in life, but that his spiritual responsibility is the same before the Lord.
For 18 years I have been away from Ohio and was amazed at the new retreat facilities that house this growing group. As in times past the preaching and music were fabulous creating a closeness of all the men and bringing an in-depth inventory of their spiritual condition.
The speakers this year were both friends of mine and for whom I have great respect. This made me want to go even more.
The speakers were the Rev. Henry Horne, a native of North Carolina, who attended Bob Jones University and Free Will Baptist Bible College. In 1987 he became the Pastor of Union Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Chocowinity, North Carolina, where he has served the past 23 years. He has had a remarkable ministry at this church.
Dr. Danny Dwyer has been pastor of the Cramerton Free Will Baptist Church (North Carolina) since 2004. He holds a B.A. from FWB Bible College, a M.A. and PhD from Columbia Pacific University. Dr. Dwyer is a founding board member of Southeastern Free Will Baptist College. Not only have I known them for a long time, I have also had the privilege of speaking in both their churches. Their ministries have been fruitful ones giving them the credibility to be heard.
Even though my health was weak, I called my son and asked him to go and he prepared by leaving his successful insurance business to take me. We were both blessed.
These services were filled with many surprises. One was the testimony of Jose Luis Rivera, a former light heavyweight champion of the world, who gave his testimony at the retreat.
Jose Luis Rivera grew up in the Cleveland FWB Church. He started boxing when he was very young, becoming the light heavy weight champion of Ohio and then world champion. What a great 18 minutes of acknowledgement this was. To hear his commitment to Christ was well received after being introduced by my lifelong friend, Robert Pritchard of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Cleveland where I have spoken countless times. Likewise, I have served with him in state leadership roles for many years.
At the last nights service, the Executive Secretary requested every group gather together in their room and discuss the retreat and what it had done in changing their lives.
As I entered one of the two large rooms where the men of our church slept, I immediately noticed the soberness of the occasion. As I sat down, looked over and noted a retired banker friend of mine as he gave his testimony. Another, an insurance agent responded and wept pleading with God to help he and his family. An engineer expressed his nearness to Christ because of the meeting, while a commercial painter was filled with the goodness of God. Thereafter, in a spontaneous review, many stated their blessings and later many began to reveal their spiritual needs and asked each to pray for them.
What a blessing for me to listen and feel these responses and what the retreat was to them.
Yes, what was started years ago has grown to endear the hearts of these men who return year after year and bring new men every year to share in His abundant grace. And this is because everyone knows he will one day meet a righteous God.
“The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.”-- (Ruth 2:12)