By Lonnie Wilkey
FRANKLIN — As a pastor in Tennessee, Mark Proctor knew the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board operated two Baptist conference centers/camps but he did not fully comprehend the impact of those two facilities.
“I did not fully understand what the camps were about while I was a pastor. I knew the work of the TBMB but did not fully understand the breadth and scope of all that we had available to us,” he acknowledged.
Since arriving on the scene last November as associate administrator of the TBMB with primary responsibility to oversee the facilities at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center in Linden and Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center in Newport, Proctor has quickly acquired a deeper appreciation for the ministry of the conference centers.
“I have been so impressed by the legacy of our conference centers and the stories and testimonies from people who have attended camps over the years,” Proctor said.
He recently attended the Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union Get-Together held in Gatlinburg. “Hearing stories from women who talked about their experiences years ago at camp was a tremendous blessing,” Proctor said.
He also has had numerous people tell him they are doing what they do today (for Christ) because “they heard His calling to ministry” at either Carson Springs or Linden Valley.
“The legacy of these two beautiful properties and seeing the vision for how that ministry can continue in the future is exciting,” he said.
Proctor observed that “the world is a noisy place and time is short.
“When you go to English Mountain (Carson Springs), vision becomes more clear. You can see clearly from the mountain. When you go to Linden Valley, time stands still on the Buffalo River.”
The conference centers provide Tennessee Baptists places to go to escape from the hustle and bustle of the world in order “to hear the voice of God.”
Proctor fears that many Baptists, both laity and ministers alike, are not fully aware of the ministry tool they have in the conference centers and camps.
“My passion is to educate our churches on what we have,” he said. While the camps have provided recreation and rest for decades, they also have been, and still are, places of discipleship and transformation.
Proctor stressed that while the legacy and tradition of the conference centers is real and important to Tennessee Baptists, the primary reason they exist is to aid in the process of transforming lives.
Culturally, Romans 12:2 sums up the purpose of the conference centers, Proctor said: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God” (Holman CSB).
“Where better a place to renew your mind than on the river or the mountain?”
Tennessee Baptists will observe Sunday, May 19, as the Day of Prayer for the Tennessee Baptist Conference Centers, Proctor said.
The theme for the day is “Reflecting the Image of God,” taken from II Corinthians 3:18.
Proctor is grateful that directors of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board felt led two years ago to establish the day of prayer. “They exhibited foresight and wisdom in calling Tennessee Baptists to pray for our conference centers and camps,” he said.
“Take a moment to pray (on May 19) for those thousands of people who will come through our gates this year,” Proctor said. “Pray that they will be renewed and transformed and that they will reflect the image of the Living God,” he continued.
Proctor is optimistic that Tennessee Baptists will embrace May 19 as a day to pray for their conference centers and camps. He encourages someone from churches who pray for the facilities to drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know they prayed.
“That will be such an encouragement to me and our staffs at both Carson Springs and Linden Valley to know Tennessee Baptists responded to our need and desire for prayer,” Proctor added. He noted the conference centers will host several TBMB-sponsored camps this summer, including Journey Camp, Impact Camps, All Nations Camp, Special Friends Camp and Super Summer for Youth.
Proctor said the camp managers ( Kevin Perrigan at Carson Springs and Cole Campbell at Linden Valley) and their staffs are gearing up for a full summer of ministry.
“They have a desire to serve Tennessee Baptists,” Proctor observed. He noted that the TBMB cannot provide Ritz-Carltons, but the conference centers can provide their level of top notch service.
“We want to create a culture so that when guests leave, we want them to have loved their experience so much that they are ready to come back immediately.” B&R — For information about TBMB camps or to request resources for the Day of Prayer, call 615-373-2255 or 1-800-558-2090.