Nick Hall heading Christian retreat

Nick Hall heading Christian retreat

Posted

MACON — Neshoba County native Nick Hall is the new executive director of Lake Forest Ranch after the longtime director and his wife retired after leading the Christian camp retreat for nearly three decades.

Former director Rich and wife Sandy Malone have led the camp since 1993. Hall had served as assistant camp director under the Malones for the past eight years.

“We are very pleased,” said Steve Morris, who serves on the camp’s board of directors. 

Hall, a 1998 Neshoba Central graduate and a 2002 Mississippi College graduate, said he is excited to take on his new role.

“I feel great,” Hall said. “I feel prepared. I was the assistant director for eight years and had eight years of working with Rich to get ready. I love what I do. When you love what you do, it’s exciting to go to the office every day. So absolutely feel good about it.”

Hall is the son of Gary and Polly Hall of the Forestdale community of Neshoba County. He and his wife, Stefanie, have three children Eliot, 16, Ava, 13, and Emma, 9.

Hall said the interdenominational Christian camp is open year-round to church groups for conferences and retreats and holds summer camps for children 7 to 18.

“We run 11 camps from May to the end of July,” Hall said. “Those camps are divided into age groups. Then in the offseason, that would be this time of year, our campground is open as a conference center for churches and other ministries to come. We will host them and provide their lodging and meals and recreation throughout the rest of the year.”

Last Sunday, the Malones, pulling a U-Haul trailer behind their SUV, navigated down the gravel road, away from Lake Forest Ranch and the life they’ve known since 1993. They didn’t try to hide the tears.

Rich and Sandy Malone took leadership of Lake Forest Ranch in May of 1993. They loaded their two young sons and left Jackson for the wilds of Noxubee County and Lake Forest Ranch, the Christian-based youth camp and retreat center nestled just inside the county’s western boundary.

The late Charlie and Bonnie Barge established Lake Forest Ranch in 1950 at a beautiful site that was once the Sumter Lumber Company logging camp. In 1993, J.L. Morris, the Barge’s son-in-law, recruited the Malones for the position that his son, Steve, had held for the previous 17 years.

Rich and Sandy were both very familiar with the camp (she had worked there as a counselor) and jumped at the opportunity to share their faith and raise their children at the camp. Soon, the Malone family added a pair of daughters, and by then, they had come to love their new life in the Noxubee woods.

“This is a very special place, and we have enjoyed our time here,” said Rich, who announced in a Facebook post last January that 2021 would be his last as the camp’s executive director. He and Sandy had a year to prepare for their emotional departure last Sunday. Their children are all grown and scattered around the country, and they are prepared for the next chapter. For now, they’ve settled into guest quarters belonging to friends in Springfield, Va. “We’re preparing to take a year off there and then see where God leads us,” Rich said.

Under Rich’s leadership, Lake Forest Ranch has flourished. Many of the camp’s original structures have been replaced, including all of the cabins. There are now 10 duplex cabin buildings. A new cafeteria was added, along with an auditorium. He also oversaw the construction of a new swimming pool, a new camp office, and a new director’s home. The lake was drained and improved twice. Numerous other recreational improvements were completed, including an archery range, ropes course, climbing wall, zip line, a “leap of faith,” a disc golf course, and others. And, there’s Camp Macon that introduced the camp to so many kids who may have never had such an opportunity. 

“The Barge family and so many others have given faithfully to allow this ministry to grow,” said Rich. “There’s a lot to see and do here.” He also credits his staff, including longtime facilities director Jeff Troyer and Troyer’s father, Ray, who performed all the construction work.

Morris, grandson of Charlie and Bonnie Barge, said there’s no way to calculate the impact the Malones have had on Lake Forest Ranch. “I’ll be honest, there were some reservations at first because Rich was the first non-family member to become executive director in the history of the camp,” said Steve. “But, the Lord quickly proved why he was led to us. He developed a sense of caring within the staff and so many church groups who have brought their youth to the camp. Lake Forest Ranch will continue with the same family mission.”

As the Malones drove down the lane last Sunday, they filmed the drive with a cell phone. They were quiet. Only the sound of the tires on the gravel and the rattle of the U-Haul hitch could be heard. Can you imagine the memories they saw in the mirrors? The woods. The lake. The friends. The thousands of counselors and campers who became like family.

Hall said he appreciates his time working with the Malones and will miss them.

“I could go on and on about the Malones,” Hall said. “Somebody told me that I just get to write the next chapter of what’s already a great book. So following their 28 years of ministry, I’m just writing the next chapter of what is already really, really great, and I just feel honored to do it.”

In her song “I will remember you,” Sarah McLachlan responds with the question, “Will you remember me?” You can bet the Malone legacy at Lake Forest Ranch is firmly fixed.

For more information, visit the Lake Forest Ranch website at lakeforestranch.com or call 662-726-5052.





Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions