Somewhere in the woods between Greensboro and Eutaw there’s a bit of a sleeping giant, Faye Colburn says.
It’s an 80-acre property that’s got a pond, a chapel, a kitchen, some bathrooms — and a lot of cleaning up to be done. But Colburn, a member of New Hope Baptist Church, Moundville, said it’s going to make a fantastic campsite.
And if anyone in Hale County knows her way around a campsite, it’s Colburn.
For nine years before she retired, she went up to Cade’s Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to work as a seasonal park ranger, checking campers in and inspecting campgrounds from May to October.
“Then my age caught up with me,” said 70-year-old Colburn.
But age hasn’t stopped her from taking on a big project back where she grew up — turning around the retreat property owned by Hale Baptist Association.
“God just put this on my heart to work there,” she said.
The acreage was bought in 1965 and the Charlie Thomas Memorial Chapel was built in 1972 with money donated after the death of Thomas, pastor of Moundville Baptist Church.
Volunteers renovated the chapel and added the fellowship hall and showers in 2001, said Bobby Hopper, but it’s gotten a little grown over since then.
“We have been realizing that we have got this gift from God and we need to be good stewards of it,” said Hopper, director of missions for Hale Association.
Colburn has taken that to heart. Hopper said listing all the work she’s done on the property “would take all day.”
Recently she has been working to clear a walking trail, clear a space for a children’s playground and get things ready at the chapel and kitchen for an association-wide fish fry.
Hopper said it took Colburn and others a month to prep for that event.
But when they held the fish fry May 19 more than 125 people representing all 13 Hale Association churches showed up.
“A lot of people had never been to the retreat,” Hopper said. “The fish fry was a way to say, ‘Hey, we have this available.’ Ultimately we want to use it to nurture Christians and also to help people get out in the woods and get to know their Creator.”
It would make a great area for a pastors’ retreat as well, he said.
Funding is an issue for improving the property, but Colburn has “grandiose ideas,” Hopper said.
She’s offered to move her large house to the property and donate it for the retreat’s use. It could house a dozen boys on one end, a dozen girls on the other and still have room for her to live in the middle part and help manage the property, she said.
Colburn also is working hard to get the pond up and running for fishing, adding lime and consulting with fishery experts on the best ways to restock the pond with fish.
She’s thought about adding an amphitheater, and she’s thought about developing a beach at the lake.
There are so many ways the property could be used, from camping to fishing to using it as an outreach to people looking for a place to camp on their way to the beach.
‘God has led me to this’
Colburn isn’t sure which dreams will come to fruition, but she’s working hard to make it the best it can be for whatever God might have in mind, she said.
“God just led me to this,” Colburn said. “I just want to help get it to where it can be used.”
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