To explain the peace and serenity you feel just moments after taking Exit 55 off of I-40 is wonderfully difficult.
The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove is one of those places where you have to experience with your own senses to understand.
To describe. To appreciate.
“Gorgeous,” said Janice Morrow of Greer, S.C. “Just one word says it all.”
“Absolutely gorgeous,” said Debbie Steamey of Asheville, N.C.
“Peaceful. Serene. Quiet,” her 16-year-old daughter Jordan said.
“It’s beautiful here,” said Jill Chapman of Knoxville, Tenn.
These were just a small smattering of impressions during Saturday’s annual Open House event, giving anyone who has ever wondered about the 1,200 acres sitting a half mile up in the Blue Ridge mountains a close-up look.
“There’s no street signs or lights,” said Chapman, who drove two hours with her children Andy, 14, and Cori, 12, to the Night of Worship. “Just a good quiet time with God.”
“I like the mountains and the trees,” she said. “It’s pretty.”
Andy found a slightly different appeal: “I like the yogurt.”
And, well, who could argue with frozen yogurt?
But Saturday was less about man-made treats and more about eternal treasures. And 1,265 came out to the Open House, which featured Camp Cedar Cliff, 106.9 the Light’s studio and The Billy Graham Training Center.
“It’s an incredible place where you feel close to God,” said Marla McCabe, who brought five family members 90 miles from Lawndale, N.C., to experience the Open House. “You’re so aware of His presence from the chapel to the verses on the walking trail.
“It’s not hectic here. There’s no electronics pulling you away. We’re so bombarded all the time. It’s nice to come to a place where that’s not the focus.”
‘The Simplicity of it All’
Janice Morrow of Greer, S.C., had heard her cousin Renee Spangler talk about the Cove’s beauty for years. If you ever go again, Morrow had instructed Spangler, she was definitely interested.
“When you come here you really feel the Spirit of God,” Spangler said.
So when Spangler heard about the Open House, she told Morrow and plans were instantly set.
“Just natural beauty,” Morrow said of her first impression. “It’s the simplicity of it all. It’s not commercialized at all.”
Morrow and Spangler spent the afternoon touring the grounds, the Billy Graham Training Center and the Chatlos Memorial Chapel, learning about the centuries-old pulpit and pews that Ruth Bell Graham had shipped to Asheville from a London antique warehouse.
By the end of the tour, Morrow could definitely see returning for one of the many seminars offered at The Cove, or perhaps an Evening at The Cove, where artists like Newsong, Point of Grace, Aaron Shust and Natalie Grant are performing this summer.
“They have wonderful seminars,” Morrow said. “I have a friend that comes to the seminars all the time and she says they’re outstanding.”
Morrow, along with other first-time guests, found themselves thinking about returning for a weekend or overnight retreat.
“We were just talking,” said Steamey, referring to her daughters Jordan, 16, and Katie, 10, “We could spend an entire weekend here.”
‘You and the Lord’
She lives an hour north of The Cove in Jonesboro, Tenn., but that hasn’t stopped Tona Moyers from volunteering her time to a ministry she feels so passionate about.
“Transformation is what The Cove is all about,” said Moyers, who despite living in another state volunteers to serve here once a month. “I’ve really experienced more transformation and spiritual growth here than any Bible study or church service.”
Moyers doesn’t know exactly why or how this happens, but she has a few leading theories.
“When you come as a guest, you don’t have to worry about your meals. You don’t have to worry about cleaning up after yourself,” she said. “The Cove staff provides for your physical needs. And that frees you up from all your distractions.
“There’s no family responsibilities. It’s just about you and the Lord.”
‘One of Everything’
If you’ve ever wondered what the food is like at The Cove, just ask Ed Marler, who along with his wife Joyce came for the Night of Worship and the optional meal beforehand.
“It was wonderful,” Ed Marler said. “Whatever they had, I had one of everything.”
For years, Ed has heard from his wife how beautiful things were at the The Cove, where she’s been involved in Jane Derrick’s Bible study.
“The grounds were incredible,” said Ed Marler, who lives 15 miles away in Asheville. “We were driving around and I asked ‘How come you’ve never taken me here?’ We live so close.”
This had been Joyce’s personal retreat spot, although she doesn’t mind sharing.
“It’s an excellent study,” Joyce said. “I’ve been going the last five years. It keeps getting more crowded every year. Word’s getting out.”
Night of Worship
Which style of worship music pleases the Lord? It’s a trick question really, as there is no right or wrong answer.
During Saturday’s Night of Worship at The Cove, Pastor Steve Harris of New Life Community Church in Asheville spoke on the subject. In between sets of different contemporary music styles, Harris delivered a challenge that resonated with the diverse crowd.
“Find the style of music that brings you into the presence of God,” Harris said. “And find music that will make you cry. It’s intended to touch our hearts. It’s intended to touch our emotions.”
Harris freely admits he lacks any musical talent. “I sing worship like I’m in jail: I’m behind a few bars and looking for the key.
“But that shouldn’t stop you from engaging in worship to connect with the Father. Let it be part of your personal devotion to Him.”
The full room brought in people of all ages, from both local and surrounding areas, including the Dixons. As soon as Josh, 31, and Maria, 30, heard about the Night of Worship advertised on 106.9 the Light, they got online and mapped it out from their home in Greenville. “58 miles exactly,” Maria said.
But it was more than worth the drive.
“The whole experience was great,” Josh said. “It built through the evening and you could feel the Spirit fill the room.”
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The Billy Graham Training Center The Cove is a 1,200 acre getaway in Asheville, North Carolina where gifted Christian leaders, teachers, and speakers guide people in studying God’s Word. Support their ministry efforts with your gift.