For 10 days we retreated to Montana on the eastern slope of the Western Continental Divide in a beautiful home made of antique reclaimed logs riparian on the chortling Big Hole River, one of Montana’s blue ribbon trout streams.
Here deep history is steeped with lore. Nearby is the only place Lewis and Clark on their national epoch exploration are known to have stood. The Beaverhead Rock which when seen by native American Sacagawea on Aug. 8, 1805, as she guided the Lewis and Clark expedition identified the area where her native tribe spent their summers. The battlefield where Gen. John Gibbons mercilessly attacked Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce in 1877 is also close by. Tipi rings and buffalo jumps are reminders of a bygone era.
Majestic and historical conclaves abound. Ghost towns dot the high plains harboring hidden history, and the spirit of classic pioneer communities such as Bannack, Virginia City, and Nevada City. All served as capitol during their Gold Rush era.
Mt. McCartney, the tallest free-standing mountain in North America, keeps guard on the ranch. From the slopes of the mountain indigenous animals view the Hilton Head-size ranch. Along the river in the marshes moose browse while on the high desert the deer and antelope play. On the mountain ridges two large herds of elk graze. Bald and golden eagles sore overhead while pelicans, yes pelicans, glide along the river’s surface. The primordial cackle of Sandhill cranes pierce the air. Bears, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are often seen and heard.
The flora adds to the monochromic landscape: Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Columbine and Arnica abound.
Fifteen-foot drift boats with full rowing/fishing frames float the highly fishable waters of the storied Big Hole River.
Now the purpose. This is a place one’s spiritual self meets God’s glorious earth. The more the conscious mind becomes captured by the beauty around you the freer the subconscious is liberated for creative contemplation. The setting gives occasion to explore oneself on an introspective journey inward. Here elevated thoughts can breathe freely.
For several years I have taken student athletes and coaches from Shorter University to Montana for a week of Christian leadership training. When I was Chairman of the National Board of the Fellowship Athletes my friend Harvey Gainey, who was vice chairman from Grand Rapids, Mich., established the ranch. He developed a large part of it as a Christian retreat. At his expense he provides a free week for students from 13 universities.
Among Shorter athletes attending were members of our men’s basketball team that finished the season number one in the nation, our three-time National Champion cheerleader squad, our National Champion Girl’s Softball team, members of our men’s indoor and outdoor National Championship track team, and our girls’ basketball team that finished with the second highest GPA in the NAIA in the nation.
The purpose is to equip these athletes to inspire and encourage faith among teammates and all students. They are intended to be spiritual catalysts on campus.
Ensconced in the mystique of the old west the majesty of God elevates one’s spirit.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.