Glory Ridge: A Very Special Place
By Jackson Fernandez, Rising Senior at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
In the fall of 2017 over Thanksgiving Break, I got to enjoy my Trimester Break from school at NCSSM in Durham. This particular break my goal was to determine and schedule exactly what my academic and activity schedule would look like for this summer (my last one prior to my senior year in High School). I was fortunate that many summer opportunities presented themselves to me in various learning opportunities and disciplines. However, the one opportunity that I was determined to participate in again (for the fifth summer in a row) was Glory Ridge. Everything else revolved around my commitment to this very special place.
Glory Ridge is nestled in the mountains of North Carolina near the French Broad River. Being an avid fly fisherman and outdoorsman, I immediately loved the peaceful and spiritual location of Glory Ridge five years ago with my first summer experience through Christ Church. The annual rituals of evening worship, prayer circle at the top of the ridge, playing in the creek, and helping do chores around camp strengthens my faith each summer.
However, that first year I participated, I quickly realized the extreme poverty, lack of proper medical care, and poor educational resources located just two hours from Charlotte, all around this beautiful setting of Glory Ridge in Madison County, North Carolina. Each year at Glory Ridge has brought different yet similar situations of need which our incredible team of leaders and peers were challenged to improve.
This year our group received multiple projects with families within driving distance of Glory Ridge. Each day started early with breakfast followed by a prayer circle at the top of the ridge. This summer we had a dedicated group of youth and adults from Christ Church along with the always helpful and amazing Glory Ridge staff members. We were divided up into three work sites for the week.
My group was assigned to a work site to repair local resident Mrs. Janie’s porch. Mrs. Janie is a kind and gentle 85-year-old woman. However, we were all blown away with her work ethic. She lives alone in a home that her husband built in the 1950’s by hand with wood from their property. Our project for Mrs. Janie started out as a simple fix to one corner of rotted wood on her porch. Unfortunately, once we got into assessing the repair, we realized that underneath the porch was almost completely rotted and was structurally unstable. We implemented a plan to joist up the roof so we could remove the porch railing. In addition we removed the decking and sections of the subflooring along with rotted wood supporting the deck. As a team, we worked daily to ensure we finished her porch.
On Thursday of that week, my team was asked to build a new bench for Glory Ridge. We were given standard 2x4’s to build the bench. But in an effort to add some history and flare to our bench, we decided to ask Mrs. Janie if we could use a piece of hand sawn wood from a stack in her barn. I went and asked her in person and she immediately said yes and told me the wood in the barn was sawn from her husband’s hands. The special piece of wood I got had original tool markings. We built our bench using this meaningful piece of wood on the back and armrest of our finished product.
Participating in the Glory Ridge experience through Christ Church has been life changing for me. I have been fortunate to never have to worry about food, running water, heat, and all of the other basic necessities that are easy to take for granted. Working with these families in need in Madison County made me realize that we are all the same, just in different circumstances. It has been incredible to watch each of these people welcome us into their homes, offer us food when they can barely feed their families, and the genuine appreciation for the small impact we have each year on their living situations. Every one of them has shown faith, kindness and warmth as we come into their private (typically run down and disheveled) homes. For anyone looking for the opportunity to really grow their faith and touch the lives of others close to Charlotte through sweat equity, teamwork, and faith, Glory Ridge is the place to give your time. The memories and the stories from this experience will remain in ones heart for a lifetime.