The rhododendrons have bloomed, preparations for summer are in full swing at Montreat Conference Center, and the first Montreat Young Adult Experience participants (MYAEs) have completed their time as fellows in our valley. Emma, Savanna, and Zach have been working for the conference center since September of 2018. In that time, they have experienced work across all conference center departments, built bonds between each other and those within the Montreat community, watched many sunsets and their good share of sunrises, and come to know the beauty of this place across a span of seasons many Montreat friends have yet to experience. From their orientation to their final potluck party, the MYAEs want to share that they have felt so welcomed by the people they have met in this valley — fellow employees, cottagers, conference directors, retreat goers, and hikers alike!
Along those lines, they wish to extend their thanks below. Thank you for reading these blogs and taking an interest in the lives of our MYAEs! Emma, Savanna, and Zach will be missed!
Hello, Montreat friends, near and far!
Our time as MYAEs has come to an end. Montreat has treated us all well, so we have many thank-yous to extend! First off we would like to thank our home for the past eight and a half months – Walnut Lodge. Communal Montreat living has been a key aspect of our fellowship and strengthened our bonds both at home and at work. Knowing what goes on with our fellow MYAEs through conversations after work has made us valuable sources of information for the rest of our departments. The simple pleasure of going home for lunch at Walnut has also been an invaluable addition to our work experience this year. The privilege of warm and spacious conference center housing is one of the things we are most thankful for about this year. Having a roof over our heads and enriching work to do has enabled meaningful self-reflection and discernment for all of us, and for that, we are so thankful! Thank you, ‘Nut!
Next, we are so thankful for the nature of our work here at the conference center. Development, Hospitality, Program, and Sales, Marketing & Communications have taught us all unique lessons. We are very grateful to our supervisors Martha, Nikki, Sarah, and Alli.
We’re also thankful for the many activities provided for us outside of work time. For every Bible study, book club discussion, Mutual Invitation practice, community activity, and all the coffee meetings in between, we are most thankful.
Below are our personal expressions of thanks.
Emma – I’d like to first and foremost thank my family for introducing me to this awe-inspiring, healing place. I have the fondest memories of coming here with my grandmother, a life-long Presbyterian organist, for Worship & Music – attending hymn sings, eating sweet summer peaches, and playing in the creek. Now as a young adult I have even more wonderful family experiences to associate with this place: campfires with cousins, hikes up Lookout, and sunny afternoon strolls with my parents. I’d like to deeply thank each of the departments for respecting me and trusting me with interesting projects and tasks. Doing such a wide variety of work over the course of the year has made my strengths clear and allowed me to develop strategies to cope with my weaknesses – an extremely powerful lesson to learn this early on in my professional career. I’d like to thank the Development team for welcoming me into my new position as the Director of Development Operations. I’m incredibly excited to start my work here after having such a concentrated time of growth and reflection through the MYAE fellowship. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the communities I have become a part of during my time here: the Black Mountain YMCA, Bounty & Soul, Black Mountain Presbyterian handbell choir, Grace Covenant Presbyterian handbell choir, my kickball team, and my new friends in the Asheville area. BIG thanks to Savanna and Zach for tolerating me and my ridiculousness. They have been the best roommates with which I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a mountain cabin. Thank you ‘Nut!!
Savanna – I want to especially take the time to thank Lauren Mathews and Sarah Akin for seeing this program as a starting point for many great things, not only for the conference center, but also in our personal lives. Because of their quick actions and many, many meetings, the program was able to grow and morph into something much more individualized. I want to thank all the people that I didn’t directly work with at the Montreat Store, the kitchen, maintenance, housekeeping, the night audit crew, and so many others that don’t fit into those categories for welcoming me so warmly. I, of course, also want to thank all the people that I did work directly with during my time here. Thank you for patience and many laughs! Big thanks to Zach for listening to my drawn-out retellings of the course of work events pretty much every single day. Thanks to Emma for late night hair braiding, early exposure to tweet drafts, and hugs when I required it most (a big deal). And finally, thanks to God for guiding me to this place and for teaching me a recurring lesson I am so apt to often forget: life falls to His timing and not mine.
Zach – Though I didn’t “meet” Montreat until fairly recently and was introduced to it later in life than many who come here are, I now know what the fuss is all about. The town, the mountains, and, most importantly, the people have welcomed me with open arms. I now know that even though Montreat is different than what I grew up with, it really does offer an astonishing ministry; there truly is a place for everybody here. I would like to thank every one of the staff members who have played a part in making this experience possible and for teaching me so much during my time here. Thank you, Savanna, for being an ever-present source of compassion, charisma, and understanding. Thank you, Emma, for teaching me to have an honest heart and for being a beacon of goodwill and justice to all you encounter. I am so grateful that God led our paths to cross. We have been very fortunate to have been given so many amazing opportunities to learn and to grow through our work and through the people we met. I’m going to miss this valley and I will cherish my memories of this time for the rest of my life. As I head off to graduate school this fall to begin the next chapter of my life, the lessons I learned and the unconditional love I experienced here will stay with me. Despite my best efforts, after participating in the Montreat Young Adult Experience, Montreat is a “home” to me. It is with a full and grateful heart that I know it will be a home to many others in the future.
Until we “meet” again Montreat,
Savanna, Emma, and Zach