Opening new doors in the Poconos

Grace Nolt, Public Communications Coordinator, Spruce Lake Retreat,  grace@sprucelake.org

For 48 years, Spruce Lodge has been the changeless hub of Spruce Lake Retreat, but a new door to the future has opened!

Spruce Lake has embarked on a visionary yet demanding $8 million “New Horizons” capital campaign to build a new hospitality center. Ribbon-cutting is anticipated for May 19, 2013, in time to celebrateSpruceLake’s 50th anniversary.  Confident of God’s hand in the decision to move forward in spite of the current economy, board and staff see this step as an opportunity God has put into place.

Possibly the oldest building on the grounds, Spruce Lodge is well-loved, like a favorite pair of worn shoes in which we feel comfortable. It’s also a kind of holy place; many who have entered through its doors have been changed forever.

Yet the familiarity—and the patience—is wearing thin. Staff frequently serve meals for 250 people or more in space intended for 140 at best. Guests worm their way through the often crowded lobby to tiny public restrooms. Those who lodge upstairs can hear what their neighbors do or say in the next room. And there are more old boards, leaks and fire hazards than staff would want anyone to know! Spruce Lodge has even been referred to as the Achilles’ heel of Spruce Lake.

Spruce Lake has been inching toward the new dining room for 20 years. Since 1991, five different plans have been proposed. The board believes that now is the time to act on building a new Hospitality Center that will meet Spruce Lake’s program needs while maintaining a responsible budget and meshing fluently with the natural environment.

Chad Davidheiser of Bethlehem, Pa., has attended Joni and Friends Family Camp for nearly 20 years. (Left to right: Chad Davidheiser, Mark Swartley, and Jackie Swartley.) Photo by Grace Nolt

Some guests can hardly wait! Joni and Friends International Disability Center (JAF) is one such group.

“For more than 20 years,” said JAF founder Joni Eareckson Tada, “Joni and Friends has been a partner with Spruce Lake in serving families with disability. The new Hospitality Center means that Joni and Friends will be able to serve 45 more special needs families every summer. That is huge!”

JAF holds three weeklong Family Camps at Spruce Lake each year. All are full, with approximately 40 families each week. As many as 38 families are on waiting lists.

Increased accessibility will enhance Spruce Lake’s long-held commitment to provide facilities suitable for persons with disabilities.  Other features will also allow Spruce Lake to continue honoring guests with an enjoyable, inspiring and quality experience through which God can ease his way into their hearts.

In July, 2011, RIPPLE Allentown, a Franconia Mennonite Conference Partner-in-Mission, held its first church leadership retreat at Spruce Lake. That experience was just what the group needed for listening to the voice of God more clearly.  “Leaving the city to meet elsewhere was new for us,” Pastor Tom Albright said. “Some of our group had never been away from an urban setting.”

“God was present (and) we grew closer to Jesus,” Albright continued, “as we realized that we all are broken, healing, hurting, loved and forgiven people. That breakthrough has brought us to a place where we are listening to God and to each other, while being disciples of Jesus.  Our return to the city has included thanks and praise to God, and the desire to return to Spruce Lake to hear, see, taste, touch and smell that God is so good!”

As Spruce Lake moves through the door that God has opened, the $8 million needed for the New Horizons campaign is indeed a big goal. And it will require the cooperation of many hands and hearts so that future generations can also “hear, see, taste, touch and smell” that God is good!

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