By Laura Kuntz
There are times in our lives when we provide for others, and there are times when we need to be fed. I had spent two years in seminary, a full summer in the hospital for CPE, and would soon begin a year-long internship. In the two months I had free before internship, I knew that I needed to be fed. I had heard people talk about a Lutheran retreat center in the state of Washington called Holden Village. They told me about the beautiful mountains, the community of people, and the uniqueness of the village. This past summer I journeyed there with my partner Sara.
Even before we arrived at Holden Village we had a feeling we would love the place. When we finally arrived in Chelan, Washington, we saw a breathtaking view of the lake. After a two-hour boat ride we boarded an old yellow school bus. The bus carried us up the mountain and along a bumpy road that maneuvered through nine switchbacks. We arrived in the village to the waves and smiles of a crowd of people sitting on the lawn and standing nearby. I heard someone ask, “Who are those people?” A staff member responded, “They are staff and guests in the village.”
As we stepped off the bus the people clapped and greeted us with what they call “Holden Hospitality.” Holden Hospitality is all about sharing the gifts of the village through welcoming others, sharing meals, and serving one another. Many different things contribute to a meaningful experience at Holden. For me it began with the people I came to know, the daily worship, and all that I learned. All of these things were enhanced by the beauty of the mountains.
Holden Village is what remains of an old mining village that closed in 1957. A man named Wes Prieb saw potential in the empty and abandoned facility, and envisioned the place as a retreat center. My thankfulness for Wes Prieb’s vision is tremendous. It gave me an opportunity to be renewed and to be connected to a community. The village itself is a testimony to restoration and renewal.
A breathtaking scene greeted me each morning outside my lodge at Holden. Mountains rose up in every direction. Until my trip this summer I had never seen mountains like these. Although the snow was melting more each day plenty remained around the tops of each peak. Sometimes, when it was foggy, you could only see a small portion of the tops of each peak floating in the air.
The air was cold, but it was so refreshing to breathe in because it was so pure. I spent much of my time in the hotel where we ate our meals and I volunteered in the kitchen. I spent my summer feeding people and being fed. I came to appreciate the tasks of dish team and “garbology,” where we sorted through the trash and mixed in the past day’s compost. I liked that I didn’t need to worry about answering my cell phone, since there was no reception. I appreciated that I could walk anywhere I needed to go.
At Holden we encountered restoration in the little things, like when the power suddenly failed and faithfully returned, or how we made rugs out of old rags in the craft cave. I miss the everyday events of drinking coffee and eating meals together, and the daily gathering of people for worship. I wish that I could faithfully describe Holden to everyone, but like most people say, “it is something that must be experienced.” At Holden I encountered the wonder and love of God, and was sent back down the mountain renewed and mindful of God’s presence in whatever comes next.
As we left the village we said goodbye to those who had become a part of our lives for six weeks. Our love for the people and this place called Holden Village made those goodbyes even harder. I spent my summer feeding people, but mostly I was fed—by the people, the daily work, the presence of God, and the view of the mountains.