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The Cross on the Hillside

The fire spread to more than 750 acres, but the Ridgecrest Conference Center is still standing–overlooked by a beautiful white cross high on the hillside. 

Cross on hill at Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center. Photo by Rey Castillo, Jr.

Fire just above my house. Four homes burned to the ground. 100 acres on fire. Helicopters overhead. Smoke and ash. I think we’re okay, but pray for all involved. Those words appeared on my friend Lori’s Facebook page a few days ago.

I immediately clicked over to the website for our local television station to see what I could find out, and then stayed glued to the news for updates. From the news reports, I knew that the wildfire had started really close to Lori’s house.

The flames spread quickly, expanding to a 500-acre fire. Firemen headed into the woods as the black bears headed out. 

When I called to pray with Lori, she told me that her teenaged daughters had walked across the bridge near their home, and they could see flames in the top of the trees on the mountain above their house.

I was worried about Lori’s family and home, but I also knew that if the flames were above her house, that the Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center (just outside Asheville, NC) must be at risk from the fire as well since she lives just down the street from them.

Ridgecrest has played a huge role in my life. The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference is held there each year, and that’s where my writing career began. The idea for my first book came during a devotional session there.

I met my co-author for my Just 18 Summers novel while at Ridgecrest. I’ve worshipped God there and hung out with some of the dearest friends a person could ever want. And now it’s my joy to serve on faculty for the Blue Ridge Conference each May at Ridgecrest.

The Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival was also at Ridgecrest for many years, and that’s where I received an option with a film company for my Just 18 Summers® movie project, with a record company to record the Just 18 Summers® music, and where I met the filmmakers who are working with me on my documentary project about families.

As you can imagine, this place is special to me. I added them to my prayer list, asking God to put a hedge of protection around the buildings and folks there. As a year-round conference center, I knew so many people would be impacted if their buildings were destroyed by the fire.  

I was awed the next day as I saw an amazing photo on Facebook that Rey Castillo, Jr., had taken of Ridgecrest during the fire. It was an impressive sight with the flames raging on the mountain above the conference center. But then I noticed something in the photo that brought tears to my eyes.

There’s a large white cross that sits high on the Ridgecrest property. Look at his photo above, and you’ll see what I saw: The cross was standing between the flames and the Ridgecrest Conference Center.

I can’t tell you how that blessed me. It’s impossible to be more protected than that.

Four days later, the fire is still burning. At this time it’s 86% contained and the fire has spread to more than 750 acres, but Lori’s house and the Ridgecrest Conference Center are still standing–overlooked by a beautiful white cross high on the hillside.    

I will lift up my eyes to the hillsFrom whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Thanks so much to Rey Castillo, Jr. for allowing me to share the photo.

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