The Lodge provides Life Action Ministries a retreat for pastors

Published 5:25 am Tuesday, April 11, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
BUCHANAN - The final sharp, paper clip-like turn along the driveway to The Lodge was made for a reason. It is supposed to signal a last look at one world before heading into a week of relaxation and reflection in another.
After the last narrow turn, the road swoops down past an oversized croquet lawn and ends in front of a 1920s-style French hunting lodge. The one-time summer home to the family of the Clark Equipment Co. in Buchanan has been transformed into a retreat for pastors from across the U.S.
Pappas called Life Action a “revival resource and a team to local churches.”
The organization sends in a team to deliver messages of protection, direction and vision to ministries in an attempt to put life back into a pastor and his congregation, Pappas said.
The Lodge is an extension of Life Action and what it offers to Christian faith-based communities, Pappas said. The historic home, built in 1921, sits on part of Life Action Ministries' 80 acres along Niles-Buchanan Road just west of the U.S. 31 bypass.
Director of The Lodge, Ron Evans, said the property was anonymously donated in 2001. The whole property was listed at $2.4 million when it was donated to Life Action, Evans said. The only catch was the organization had to build their headquarters on the adjacent lot.
In the years before Life Action Ministries owned The Lodge, Evans said the land along the St. Joseph River passed through many hands, including private investors and the University of Notre Dame.
Pappas said prior to opening The Lodge, Life Action came across some startling statistics about pastors and their families. For example, an astounding number of U.S. pastors - around 82 percent - said they would leave the ministry if they were financially able to.
Evans said The Lodge and its revival programs were created to help heal that type of attitude. To do so, the days at the retreat are split into a pair of seminars with free time in-between.
Life Action invites a pastor who is part of a successful ministry to lead the groups in reflection and discussions on how to improve the life of a pastor and his or her family, Evans said.
The time spent working in the seminars at The Lodge have turned more than a few lives around.
Often times, taking a well-deserved vacation is out of the question for many pastors, Evans said. But, many times members of a congregation want to help their pastor and his family.
Pappas said that is where The Lodge has been available to refresh a pastor's and their spouse's, drive to continue at the church. A visiting pastor is yet to pay for a trip to The Lodge, and with the help of a scholarship fund, Evans said that tradition could continue.
The fund is continually growing and received a huge boost already this spring from an anonymous donor who added an endowment of $50,000, Evans said.
Open mainly for pastor retreats, the Lodge also offers marriage seminars, staff outings and leadership functions.
The home has been remodeled and improved, but remains as close to its roots as possible.
The retreat has kept a link to the past. None of the furniture is original - most of it has been donated - and the home has seen a few additions over the years, but the atmosphere at The Lodge still manages to feel like a step back to the early 1900s.
Supporting the roomy, open ceiling of the Grand Room are the original dark wood beams that were used to first construct the home.
The supports stretch and zig-zag overhead from wall to wall above the fire place and large windows of the Grand Room.
The enormous gas log stone hearth fire place was added later, Evans said. It resembles a structure of yester-year but functions with the ease of modern technology.
Many of the windows in The Lodge look out over a wide section of the St. Joseph River, and the picture window of the Grand Room is no different. And, it too has been updated with a high-tech touch.
A guest can drop a projection screen down from the ceiling for use with a presentation or film. Or, a separate shade screen can be lowered to diffuse any bright sun that may shine in over the river.
On the west side of The Lodge rests the sun room, where guests can have a closer view overlooking the river while socializing in the comfort of the indoors.
Many times, the pastors' spouses will gather on the couches of the sun room and talk most of the afternoons away, Evans said.
A closer view of the water is available on the river-side deck and donated pontoon boat.
Down the hall past the bedrooms and on the opposite end of The Lodge is where dinner is served. Evans said there is space in the dining room for up to 24 guests to eat off the China dinnerware.
All the meals and cleaning duties are performed by two couples who live on-site, Evans said.
One couple stays in the lower level of main house and another husband and wife are living in one of the guest houses adjacent to The Lodge.
Out of the four full-time residents, Evans said two of them are experienced gourmet cooks.
The property is not without outdoor activities either. There is one-and-a-half miles of walking trails, a grape vine arbor, tennis courts, a large field designated for croquet and an 18-hole golf course in Orchard Hills Country Club next door.
At least not in a world outside of The Lodge.