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Lifestyles

June 4, 2014

MOSS: Nonprofit County Lake Christian grows by helping people get away

UNDERWOOD — As summer begins and school ends, Country Lake Christian Retreat gears up for a busy season.

Make that a busier season.

This 202-acre oasis in Underwood, alongside Clark State Forest, stays busy into this, its 15th year. As many people are expected come fall as will attend summer camps. Quilters visit each winter, scrapbook groups as well. Visitors break for coffee around the fireplace and, when the weather warms, they rock on the porch overlooking a sprawling lake. Some but not most are from Southeast Christian, the mega-church that dreamed up and set up the place.

Maybe, or probably, their stays bump into at least part of Country Lake’s three-fold purpose — spiritual renewal, personal refreshment and inspiring relationships. Ross Knecht, the executive director, isn’t there to preach. He is there to please.

“We’ve developed a spirit, how we serve,” Knecht said. “Our goal is to create and offer an environment free of distractions.”

The retreat succeeds because it is away from hectic city life but not too far away — 3.4 miles off Interstate 65’s exit at Henryville. It succeeds because Matt Chalfant, a Southeast lay leader and businessman extraordinaire, donated idyllic land and built above-and-beyond amenities. And it succeeds because Knecht, a pastor’s son, realizes his is a calling as unique as it is challenging. Keeping grass cut, laundry clean, meals hot, that’s but a beginning.

“I have to be able to look through the operations — the tactical side — to see the service side,” Knecht said.

“That’s the rewarding side.”

Chalfant stepped up to meet a need now filled beyond his wildest dreams, he said. With zip lines, paintball and something called the Swing of Faith, Country Lake increasingly ties fun to faith. Getting prayerful and getting dirty can go hand in hand.

“The Lord’s just chosen to bless that ministry in a way we never could have imagined,” Chalfant said. “I’m sure grateful for it.”

Groups come to train, to picnic, and leave by nightfall. Others, of course, stay over in the 52-room lodge, in dorms, even in wagons and teepees. Or they bring their tents. Knecht welcomes guests every week except the one between Christmas and New Year’s.

He had a bunch and then some in the aftermath of the March 2, 2012, EF-4 tornado that tore through nearby Henryville. Country Lake put up more than 10,000 volunteers, Knecht said, affording the retreat a chance crucially to help as well as to build relationships. Knecht intends for and believes indeed-busy Country Lake to be an asset, not a hassle, to its neighborhood.

Knecht, 42, lives across the street, by the way, with wife Leana and their three children, whom she homeschools. Ross Knecht left a comfortable corporate job in 2011 to manage the not-for-profit Country Lake, to build on the Retreat’s promising start.

“To say this was a step of faith is an understatement for us,” he said.

A big fan of Knecht, Chalfant said the plan is for Country Lake to be still busier, to offer more and more. Knecht stands ready to deliver, to show the love visitors easily feel. Though independent of Southeast Christian, Country Lake zealously shares the church’s stated mission of connecting people to Jesus and one another.

Or Knecht added, “Our desire is to plant the seed that ultimately could lead our guests to a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

To learn more, go online to countrylake.org or call 812-294-4789.

 — Send column ideas to dale.moss@twc.com

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