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Ferncliff: Connecting with the Divine through Nature & Service

The latest Disaster Partnerships Conversation on the Sunspots Podcast features Emily Hooker, the Associate Director for Ferncliff, a camp and conference center located just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas.

If you listen to the podcast, you will hear Emily wonderfully summarize the many ways Ferncliff lives out its passion for mission and outreach through several partnerships and offerings that support individuals, families, and communities touched by disasters and traumatic events both locally and nation-wide.

I won’t give it all away here, because you should really hear it from Emily herself. Here are some quick links to some of Ferncliff’s offerings and partnerships if you are in the mood for a deep dive:

  • Disaster Assistance Center: the 10,000 sq. ft warehouse where your PDA Gifts of the Heart kits are prepared, stored, and shipped in coordination with Church World Service.

  • Sharing the Goods: a product redistribution program that connects churches and nonprofits with goods from companies like Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Grainger, Ferguson, Tempurpedic, and more.

  • Hosting Mission Teams: hospitality and service opportunities are provided to church mission teams on Ferncliff’s facilities and around the Little Rock community

  • Healing Camps: survivors of disasters and mass shootings are offered a time and place for respite, healing, and the rekindling of hope

Ferncliff’s Sharing the Goods program redirects perfectly usable items away from landfills and into the hands of nonprofit agencies, including diapers!

At the end of my conversation with Emily, I asked her to challenge us with one thing we could do today to connect with the Divine through nature and service (a statement I found in her staff bio). Emily encouraged each of us to go outside today, whatever day you might be reading this, and to listen to what the Divine is saying to you. I’ll just give you a moment to read that again and let that challenge sink in.

Kathy & her family took Emily’s challenge to heart and spent a little time connecting with the Divine in nature.

It just so happened that on the day I recorded the podcast with Emily, my children were actually up for playing in the park across the street from our house after dinner. It was a surprisingly mild 86 degrees! And in no time, my two boys were climbing trees and playing hide-and-seek with other kids in the park. While we were in the park, I remembered my conversation with Emily and her challenge to me, to all of us. I took a moment while I was “hiding,” and I looked up to see the light filtering through the leaves of the majestic oaks in the park, and I realized that Emily and I did not make an important connection that I believe often gets lost when we talk about the work of disaster response and recovery: our care for Creation itself.

As I write this, Louisiana has had over 500 wildfires last month, something I never heard of in my lifetime. Florida has endured another major hurricane making landfall on its shores, and then there are the tornadoes in Michigan, hurricane and landslides in California, the wildfires in Hawaii… There is just so much. And so I am that much more grateful for the incredible ministry of Ferncliff, the open invitation to people of all ages and journeys of faith to encounter the Divine through connection with nature and service. Thanks be to God for their calling.

Thanks to generous grant funding from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Ferncliff was able to offer scholarships to Ferncliff camps specifically for children and youth affected by the spring 2023 tornadoes in Arkansas.

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