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Intimacy strengthens leadership

For the 35 years (more than 11,000 days) I have worked with Michael C. Blackwell, we have enjoyed wonderful mountain top experiences together. One of those experiences was celebrating the first decade of his management group in Glendale Springs. It was the summer of 1998 and Dr. Blackwell invited the five members of his management group and their spouses for a long weekend retreat at Glendale Springs Inn –– it is the same hotel where President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore stayed when dedicating the New River as the cleanest river in the United States.

Dr. Blackwell calls me “Mr. Relationship,” but I submit that he is master of building relationships. In fact, he has mentored me in building quality relationships throughout his tenure as leader of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).

In fact, Dr. Blackwell’s primary reason for taking his management group to the Ashe County mountains was for his management group and spouses to build stronger relationships. Dr. Blackwell says “school is never out for the professional,” and he is always challenging us to grow in all aspects of our lives.

That weekend was built around structured time to work on our plan of work for BCH. However, more time was allowed for playing games, enjoying delicious food, fun fellowship, and planned outdoor activities.

One of those outdoor activities was canoeing down the New River with our spouses. We each had a prepared box lunch for the ride as we enjoyed the sights and sounds of God’s creation. As we launched our canoes from Zaloo’s Canoes, we enjoyed a big belly laugh when one of our management members, Jennie Counts, so gracefully was boarding her canoe. But instead of getting in the canoe, she flipped and was baptized in the “clean waters” of the river. You should have seen the look on her husband Howard’s face. After that excitement, we all made it successfully down the river.

In the evening we enjoyed each other’s company during a quiet dinner. I remember each couple sharing about their families. Dr. Blackwell always keeps our families at the forefront of what we do. He says we must take care of our own family first before we can rightfully serve other families. That has motivated me to serve both better.

On the last day, Sunday, Dr. Blackwell led us onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to a special place called “The Lump” (elevation 3465). We trekked up the grassy knob with wind blowing briskly in our faces for a special time of reflection and communion with our Heavenly Father. One spouse led us in songs and Dr. Blackwell led in worship. That God-moment certainly was the pinnacle and helped us reaffirm our relationship with each other. The retreat was truly a mountain top experience that I will always cherish and remember always.

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