The 2017 Mountaineer Christian Ashram was held August 3-6 at Parchment Valley Conference Center in Ripley, WV. This year, we saw another increase in attendance, with quite a few first-time participants. We had strong children and youth groups as well.
Our Ashram has a wonderful mix of cultures, church affiliation, race, and social economic backgrounds. We have urban and rural, African-American and Caucasian, professionals and blue-collar, Baptist and Methodist – all equal at the feet of Jesus. There is such love, fellowship, and acceptance in our Ashram that we clearly recognize that “this is what the kingdom should be like.” We see in our Ashram the verse from the song “Ashram Fellowship:”
How marvelous the level ground
We find at Jesus’ feet!
Where else on earth does love abound
In fellowship so sweet?
This year’s Evangelist Cleveland Mason and Bible Teacher Keith Sholl are no strangers to our Ashram, and faithfully delivered the Word of God and led our Church in Action time. Passages in Mark and James, as well as a study in Titus, were informational and inspiring.
Our Ashram continued our tradition of traveling to a local nursing home and spending about an hour singing hymns and sharing the message of the Gospel. The children created pictures with inspirational notes and hand delivered them to residents. It seemed this year was the biggest crowd in recent memory.
Speaking of music, our Ashram was once again blessed with leadership that helped everyone worship. We had several members offer special music that was inspiring and fun at the same time. We are very fortunate to have Don Stephens in our Ashram family, who is an extremely gifted musician. During one worship hymn, he provided background accompaniment from the piano, a ukulele, an accordion, and a recorder – switching to the different instruments with each new verse. His piano compositions played from memory are absolutely inspiring.
Participants shared how the Ashram brought them closer to God while surrounded by the beauty of our retreat setting. The Prayer Groups brought people together in special ways, even when they didn’t know each other. This led even more to the deep feeling of family with our Ashram; through our diversity, we are united to one another through Christ.
It must also be mentioned than our Ashram community was dealing with the grave illness of our Director Clifford West, who was too sick to attend. Each day, we received updates from his daughters, who courageously continued to lead us in the midst of their worry and suffering. On Saturday night, we were able to use Facetime and a cell phone to talk with him, and while he was weak, he prayed an amazingly powerful and Spirit-filled prayer that blessed everyone, and led into a wonderful experience during the Anointing Service. His emergency admittance into the hospital early Sunday morning tempered the morning, but our Evangelist, Bible Teacher, and newly named Director led us through the day to a powerful Overflowing Heart experience, which included a second time attendee who is only 8 years old sharing how much the Ashram meant to her.