Lives were changed at Lake Junaluska
In 1983, I came to work for the summer at Lake Junaluska Assembly in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Along with the responsibility for the summer youth events, I was assigned several other tasks. One of these jobs was the summer staff ministry. Even before I was back in Mississippi from having been hired for this job, I contacted Keith Elder about coming for the summer as the staff minister as well as being a part of the youth ministry team. His job was to provide a source of support and nurture for the 100 plus young staffers who would be spending their summer working in the various responsibilities assigned to them.
For the summer these staffers were to live in the old Lakeside Lodge which was known for its totally inadequate living conditions. As they moved into their assigned rooms, we asked them to inform us of any problems they encountered in their living spaces.
As Keith and others were leading them in some of their introductory orientation sessions, Chuck Bideaux and I, equipped with our tool boxes, went from room to room making what repairs we could (replacing outlets, fixing doors that would not close...or open, installing light bulbs, repairing leaky faucets or toilets, and many other similar tasks). This was just one way, along with the program led by Keith, that we wanted them to know that it was important to us that their summer experience be as full, rich, enjoyable, inspiring and as life-changing as possible.
Likewise, we expected from them that they would do a good job in the tasks assigned them, whether that be caring for children, waiting on tables, cleaning rooms, working with the youth events or running sound and lights in the auditoriums. But, we also tried to instill in them an understanding that what they did was an important part of the overall ministry at Lake Junaluska Assembly just as were the sermons, lessons and prayers of the program leaders.
Did this symbiotic sense of shared ministry catch hold in the minds and hearts of those summer staffers? Not always, but it did so often enough that many of them kept coming back summer after summer, turning down many much more financially lucrative offers.
Many of those young persons now have their own families, are involved deeply in their own churches, are now serving in their own vocations of ministry, and some even have their own homes on the grounds at Lake Junaluska. Did the program work? For them it did, and it continues to do so for many whose lives are being significantly changed by their summers at Junaluska.
The Rev. Millsaps Dye, now of Weaverville, was youth minister at LJA for several years.