Greetings from Gilmont!
My name is Kenny Rigoulot and my wife and I are the new Executive Directors at Gilmont! Jennifer was a public school teacher and I was a pastor of a Presbyterian congregation when we felt called by God to serve as Directors of the camp where we met, where we have served in various roles, and where our kids have had formative faith experiences. Jennifer and I are familiar with many of Gilmont’s programs, staff, participants, partners and supporters - but there are many of you and many, many things that we don’t know about Gilmont. Every day is a new adventure with many new discoveries.
It is hard to believe that we have already been here a month. So much has happened in so little time!
*My family and I moved in while some of our awesome summer camp staff volunteered to host a wonderful Winter Retreat! Jennifer and I unpacked boxes and settled in at the house in between visits with volunteers and participants. The snowmen made out of our wooden name tags were adorable and the fireworks were spectacular!
*After getting the house in order, we rearranged and organized the office with the help of our amazing office staff. We are so grateful for all of the work that our staff, board members, and volunteers put into getting the house and camp ready for us!
*We had Circle of Friends on Martin Luther King, Jr weekend for the first time. I knew that James Hilliard was passionate about Circle of Friends and now I know why! Children with special needs and their siblings were each partnered with a buddy and enjoyed all kinds of camp activities, while their parents had the opportunity to rest, relax, share stories, resources, laughter and tears. Our teenagers, Kennan and Brayden, volunteered to help with activities for the kids, while our youngest, Grayson, helped me start a fire and play games with the adults!
*During our Board Retreat, we welcomed 13 new board members, with various skill sets and ties to Gilmont. The energy and excitement from our board that met in person and online was palpable. Many of our task forces are already tackling projects to be completed soon, as well as sharing dreams for the future. If you are interested in helping with various tasks around camp, let us know!
*We welcomed representatives from several of our Member Churches at our annual meeting, where we celebrated 80 years of ministry, highlighting this past year in which we had a smaller, but successful summer camp program, as well as the incredible blessing of hosting 80 evacuees from Evergreen Life Services (which provides homes and care for adults with special needs) after their homes in Lake Charles were destroyed by Hurricane Laura.
*Inspired by Clay Brantley’s poem (read it here), the board has come up with a new mission statement. Please let us know what you think before we start putting it on our letterhead and t-shirts!
Gilmont strives to be a safe, sacred place where all are invited to grow closer to God, creation, others and themselves.
Jennifer and I hope to see you at camp sometime soon! In the meantime, please pray for Gilmont and let us know how we can be in prayer for you.
Thanks and God Bless,
Rev. Kenny Rigoulot
Our hearts are full and our bodies a bit weary but we are so good!
Evergreen Life Services has 80 evacuees at Camp. We are not posting our videos singing "Amazing Grace" "Jesus Loves Me" "This Little Light of Mine", doing the energizer - "Change in My Life" or singing Bill O'Neal's favorite:"My Chains are Gone," but at worship in the much needed and welcoming breeze at the pavilion this morning, we sang our hearts out. Some sang verbally and some non-verbally. We talked about Hagar and how she was rejected and banished into the wilderness, but El Roi, "The One Who Sees," met her there and restored her broken soul!
I can tell you that if your heart is hard or your way is cloudy, worship with those in disabled bodies and minds that struggle to communicate, along with their broken and displaced care givers... and watch how the Holy Spirit meets them. There really is nothing like being in community with people who are struggling in the wilderness, nothing like hearing their prayers to change your perspective; prayers for their sweet Mamma who passed away years ago, their sister and brother who were displaced by the hurricane and are now scattered in different States, for their dear leader Hilda, who needs physical healing for mobility. There were prayers of thankfulness for Camp Gilmont, and our staff, and the good food. The simple prayer of thanks, just for waking up this morning and for a new day.
So much uncertainty around what's going on and loss of their group homes in the flood. Please pray for the Evergreen caregivers who hold so much burden with their own personal lives and families they are away from, plus the incredibly high level of care needed by many of these special individuals.
And, may we all pray with Hagar today, a prayer of thanks to El Roi, the God who SEES each of us! Amen!
Marie Nelson, Associate Director at Gilmont
In a lot of ways Rev. Clay Brantley is a big kid. In other ways, he is a wise old man. So, it might be best to describe him as a Gilmont Camper! He's led Spiritual Practices retreats for adults, served as a Bible Study leader at Summer Camp, participated in a variety of retreats and now serves on our Board of Directors. In the midst of the uncertain world we find ourselves in today, we hold to real stuff; that which is comforting, that which is reassuring, that which is hopeful. In that spirit, Rev. Clay Brantley wrote a poem in celebration of Gilmont’s 80th Birthday. Although we are not able to gather at Gilmont today, this place holds blessings of yesterday and hope for tomorrow.
I sense in me and in others a deep yearning
to connect and experience and know God,
the one who creates us, calls us
and gives our lives meaning.
In this yearning is the desire
To have extended moments,
A time for listening and being and learning with Christ
That is outside of our normal routine.
This is Gilmont
I sense in me and in others a desire
To connect and know others
In ways I cannot through emails and meetings and lunches.
I want to be known and to know others
Deeper than just their names or the work they do or where they live.
I want to encounter their soul and they encounter mine.
This is Gilmont
I sense in me and in others a profound wanting
To connect with myself.
To be willing to be present with me
Beyond the distractions of everyday life.
To bring together all the scatter pieces of me
That run in many directions.
I want some way to see me, know me.
Truly love me and be loved by me.
Where can I connect with me in this profound way?
This is Gilmont.
I sense in me and in others a hunger
To connect with nature
To connect with creation, with the Earth from which we come.
So many times, my connections
Have happened in the midst of nature.
There is something inviting, freeing, life-giving
When I spend an extended period of time,
Hours and days
Among the trees and flowers, birds and sky, lakes and trails.
This is Gilmont
We are in a time of disconnection
From God, from one another, from self, from nature.
More and more of us believe there is no God, no deep connections,
No life-giving gifts from nature we need to receive.
Gilmont is more than a conference center
A place to which retreat.
It is a critical piece to the survival of our species
To the sanity of our race
To the yearnings of our soul
To the connections with Life Itself.
Gilmont offers us the space to connect,
That we do not find in our normal walks of life.
This we must shout from the hills and lakes and trees of Gilmont
Come and connect.