By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LINDEN — “This building is a work of love … by a bunch of people,” said Tim Bearden last Saturday as the new Worship Center of Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center was dedicated. The service drew about 350 people.
“In my life I’ve never done anything like this,” reported Bearden, who oversaw the construction of the building. He is senior manager, Tennessee Baptist Convention conference centers.
“Everything we needed to make it happen, every volunteer, skill, the Lord led us to it.
“It’s actually been awesome to see what God has done.”
Bearden thanked the total of 800 volunteers, mostly from the Tennessee chapter of Campers on Mission but also other Tennessee Baptists, who basically built the building. Volunteers from five different states also worked. A total of 22,933 volunteer hours were given, he said.
“I cannot tell you what they have meant to us,” he said.
“The past four years has been a journey for us. The past two and a half years have been an amazing journey,” said Bearden. He referred to the fact that the conference center’s Tabernacle was damaged by the historic floods in 2010. The building of the Worship Center to replace the Tabernacle began two and a half years ago.
He also was referring to the fact that his wife of 38 years, Janet, died last year of cancer.
Bearden, who has been managing the conference centers/camps for nine years, said some years ago he thought Linden Valley “had outgrown” the Tabernacle and began praying about that.
“Be careful what you pray for. He (God) created a flood. He created a need. He created an uprising of God’s people who created a building and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Randy C. Davis, TBC executive director, said the building was “a miracle of God.”
He noted that when it was determined that the Tabernacle could no longer be used as the worship center, “it was not a good time to be entertaining a multi-million dollar building project.”
Amazingly, the Worship Center is debt-free, reported Davis, thanks to gifts to the project and the volunteers.
The Worship Center is estimated to be worth $2.2 million. Besides special gifts, Baptists funded it through the Hearts Awaken special offering. The work by volunteers saved several hundred thousand dollars of expense.
For instance, Davis said, Thompson Station Baptist Church, Thompson Station, gave $20,000 toward the project though their church was also damaged by the historic flood.
Davis said what is more important than the lack of debt on the building is the “personal investment of blood, sweat, and tears of so many in this site.”
The TBC executive director also spoke on the leadership of Nehemiah and of Tim and Janet Bearden. The couple held camp the summer after the flood and Tim led “a pretty massive project” despite his “personal storm” and did it with the “character of Christ.”
“This (Worship Center) is not for us. This chapel is built for those yet to come to Christ,” concluded Davis.
Doug White, chairman of the TBC Executive Board and pastor, First Baptist Church, Oneida, said, “We recognize that all that’s here is His and to be used for His glory.”
James Porch, retired executive director of the TBC, said “Change happens here. … It also happens … as He works among people. … My prayer is that this will be a place of continued change.”
Janet Bearden was remembered during the dedication ceremony by Linda Chinery of Church Hill, Journey Camp director, and Jeff Williamson, associate pastor, Union Avenue Baptist Church, Memphis, and Impact Camp director. Stained glass windows in the center were dedicated to her memory.
Also furniture in the Worship Center was given in memory of the late Johnnie Hall, who was Discipleship Training director, TBC. The gift was from Don Mauldin, Mary Allen, and Helen Kennedy, all of whom worked with Hall on the TBC staff.
Mauldin spoke of years when Hall, he, and their staff spent as many as eight weeks teaching and leading students and adults at one of the TBC camps. He said he is often approached by adults who thank him for their experiences at one of those camps. Of Hall and his experiences at TBC camps, Mauldin said, “People loved him. … His footprints are all over this camp and it is hallowed ground.”
Bearden thanked many including Tennessee Campers on Mission as a group, one couple, and three individuals by presenting them an award.
Gene and Billie Haynes, construction volunteer coordinators, were honored. The Hayneses are members of New Prospect Baptist Church, Lawrenceburg, and members of COM. Charlie Mitchell of Mack’s Grove Baptist Church, Dresden, was honored. He also is a member of COM. Finally Dennis Hays of Parkburg Baptist Church, Pinson, and Terry Walker of Trinity Baptist Church, Manchester, were honored.
Additionally, the Hayneses recognized Raymond and Doris Burton of Gateway Baptist Church, Atoka. They were recently named National Campers on Mission of the Year for 2013.
Gene Haynes said during the ceremony, “I love my Lord. I love Camp Linden. I love Tim Bearden.
“This has been the most rewarding experience of my life and I thank the Lord for the opportunity.”
The Hayneses have worked toward this day since a day or two following the flood when, after talking to Bearden, they arrived to help with needed equipment loaned free of charge to them from their nephew who operates an equipment company.
They told the Baptist and Reflector that about two and a half years ago after plans for the Worship Center were completed and they were approved as volunteer coordinators, they moved their RV to Camp Linden though they had a room to use. They just returned home to attend church, mow their yard, and coordinate the Stephen Ministry of their church which meets on Tuesday nights.
“We’ve had an incredible experience,” said Billie. Gene nodded.
The couple noted that Bearden, who was senior manager of two camps (including Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center, Newport), building a new building, and trying to help his ill wife, needed their help.
“He’s the one who deserves the recognition,” said Gene, who is a retired construction engineer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gene helped build dams for flood control. Billie is a former teacher.
Most people they worked with were self sacrificing and frugal, they said. “Many people didn’t turn in their hours,” noted Billie, adding, “Everything was done as economically as it could possibly be done.”
She said she will never forget watching COMer Mike Semich of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, trim carpet around some stone work. As a result, all of his knuckles on one hand were bleeding.
Others besides Semich left their DNA in this place, added Gene.
Very skilled people who are paid a lot normally, up to $50 an hour, served, added the Hayneses. People not only gave their time and labor, they gave products. A man in Memphis gave sod. A painter brought his crew of six who worked two weekends.
The Hayneses also noted that work on the rest of the conference center was done by volunteers during this period. For instance, volunteers repaired the floor and foundation of the kitchen and installed roofs on many buildings.
Concerning the stained glass windows which were given in memory of Janet Bearden, Billie said Janet, who created stained glass, had started preparing the design before she became ill. Then Doyle and Pam Combs of Columbia came to Linden Valley to volunteer. Interestingly, Doyle had just started a stained glass class. He took on the project and completed the windows. Cost of materials was donated.
The Hayneses said they certainly learned a lot from their experience as volunteer coordinators.
“Our lives have been changed. We know God is here. We continue to be drawn to this valley,” said Billie.
Others who were honored
Mitchell, who spent time working as a stone mason and doing other work on the Worship Center, said Christians should use their God-given talents for God rather than to fill their pockets. “The reward is greater when you give it back to Him. …
“People come to Camp Linden to enjoy nature and they take salvation back home with them.”
Mitchell encouraged the crowd to support Linden Valley and “try to be here more often.”
He spent from four months a year to about nine. “I got some of my mail up here,” Mitchell commented.
Hays, who worked here as a plumber, warned those in attendance to use their talents while they can. Walker, who did most of the landscaping work for the Worship Center, said, “I can’t wait to see what He’s (God’s) going to do with it (Worship Center).”
Raymond Burton spent about 13 weeks here doing various work. He drove three hours one way to Camp Linden.
Burton told the B&R he started coming to Camp Linden about 60 years ago as a boy. His mother didn’t attend church at that time and his father died when he was 10 years old.
“Men come up here, counsel you, and love on you. It impacts your life.”
He has returned to Camp Linden often to help with the RA Camp-O-Ree.
Additional volunteers thanked
Bearden also thanked several others including Frank Green of Sparta, retired RA/Baptist Men specialist, TBC, who built some shutters for the window behind the pulpit; Andrew Green, son of Frank Green, who created a fountain; and Doug and Tawana Flatt of Lebanon who installed flooring.
Finally Bearden thanked the Linden Valley staff, who hosted the volunteers.