By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LINDEN — Tennessee Baptists from across the state braved the heat and humidity on Saturday, July 25, to help dedicate the Janet Bearden Welcome Center at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center.
The welcome center will house the conference center offices and serve as the focal point as people drive onto the property. “It will be the crown jewel of Linden Valley,” observed Mark Proctor, associate administrator and supervisor of the conference centers.
Current conference center manager Cole Campbell said the welcome center “has been a long needed addition to Linden Valley. We are thankful that the hard work and dedication of loyal Tennessee Baptist volunteers has produced a facility that is poised to welcome guests as they enter camp.
“This new facility will provide a welcoming atmosphere that sets the tone for campers’ experience while at Linden Valley,” he told the Baptist and Reflector.
William Maxwell, administrative director of the TBMB, expressed thanks to the volunteers who provided 4,500 volunteer hours which saved an estimated $200,000 in construction costs, enabling the welcome center to be built debt free.
Maxwell also read a statement from Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB who was unable to attend due to a death in the family.
“Jeanne and I deeply regret not being present on this special occasion at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center, one of two incredibly beautiful Tennessee Baptist retreat centers.
“I express a profound sense of gratitude to every single volunteer that used their skills, hands, and hearts to make the Janet Bearden Welcome Center a reality. It is excellent in every way, and it is debt free because of your labor of love,” Davis said.
Davis praised the efforts of current TBMB and Linden Valley staff who have been able to build upon the good work of long-time conference center manager Tim Bearden (now retired).
Davis thanked Bearden for his love of the conference centers. “It is fitting that the welcome center bear Janet’s sweet name. This very spot will provide a warm welcome for tens of thousands of campers in the years ahead.
“In years past, Janet provided that warm culture of hospitality to thousands of previous guests of Linden Valley. Her God given legacy follows her today.” Janet Bearden died of cancer in 2013.
Bearden, who retired in 2018, after 23 years on the TBMB staff, reflected on his wife’s ministry and love for the conference centers. He noted she “would have been embarrassed if she had been here today.”
He recalled that Janet’s love for camps began in 1974 at Camp Glynn in Brunswick, Ga., where he first met her. “Janet fell in love with camps and I fell in love with her,” he laughed.
When Bearden became the senior conference center manager in 2004, he and Janet were able to work together in a ministry they both loved. “Janet fell in love with Linden,” he recalled, adding that she learned most every job that took place at the conference center.
Campbell, who served as assistant manager under Bearden, joked that he learned to love people from Tim Bearden and how to work hard from Janet Bearden.
Bearden added that he and Janet learned at Camp Glynn that “camp is for the camper.” Janet “took that phrase to heart and that is what she lived by,” he said.
Though Janet Bearden would not have wanted this building in her honor, she would have wanted this building for the conference center, Bearden reflected.
While the name of the building honors the memory of Janet Bearden, it is imperative to not forget the real reason for the celebration, Proctor said.
“We stop to worship an almighty God whose thumbprint is on this facility.”