Kiah Ridge Christian Conference Centre is the NSW & ACT Baptist Associations camp and conference venue. It provides a place for groups to stay, gather, learn and recharge, and is a valuable resources for churches, schools, and other ministries. Like many Christian conference centres, they understand the power of going away on a camp or conference. They understand the opportunity camps present to form intense community and to build relationships. And, most importantly, they know how a camp can challenge and change lives.
There is an Arabic church who comes to Kiah Ridge every January. They are mostly Egyptian, but also have some Lebanese and Syrians, and a significant proportion of their congregation came to Australia as refugees.
This camp is a bit different to Kiah Ridge’s usual camps, as it is conducted almost exclusively in Arabic, with only minimal English spoken, typically only with our staff at mealtimes. The majority of the older congregation don’t speak any English at all.
In early 2020, Pastor Omar*, lead pastor at the Arabic church, and his assistant visited the venue just prior to their usual January booking. The area around Kiah Ridge had recently been hit by the 2019 bushfires. The fire had narrowly missed the conference centre, but the bush around the driveway looked burnt out, dead and empty. Pastor Omar arrived in the carpark, got out of his car, and just stood with tears pouring down his face.
“Yes. He is here,” Pastor Omar said, “the Holy Spirit is here”.
He went inside and lay flat on his face in the Conference Room and prayed for half an hour.
After the heavy burden that the season had been on Kiah Ridge’s staff, Pastor Omar’s presence and prayers felt like a manifestation of God’s Spirit, and a reminder that the venue was spared for His purpose, not by a random change in wind direction. God was reminding them that His hand was over this special place, as the destructive fire had literally swept past their front gate.
Taking a step back, as a booking this church is hard work for the team at Kiah Ridge. They are loved, but they are hard work. Culturally, they are who they are, and they are always after a deal. As such, there is always haggling around the price. Once they arrive, the language barrier is a challenge. Pastor Omar struggles to convey to his congregation what the venue and service will be like, so many of the congregation members arrive with unrealistic expectations.
For the largely middle-aged Anglo-Saxon team at Kiah Ridge, the ethnic and cultural barriers, the lack of English language skills, and the perceived lack of manners is a challenge. This is also a challenge for Lorna, as Team Leader at Kiah Ridge, as she leads her team through the booking. The majority of the team are unsaved and she has to model and lead them to a place of grace and patience. But from the time the church first made an enquiry, God softened Lorna’s heart for them.
In January 2023, the church came to stay at Kiah Ridge once again. At the final lunch of the camp, Lorna’s team was exhausted from a long camp and were serving lunch. Pastor Omar comes over to Lorna in the servery and says, “Lorna, my sister. So that you know why you are here, we just had a Muslim family give their lives to Jesus this morning“.
And there it is. Just like that, Pastor Omar captured exactly why Lorna was there.
Why Kiah Ridge exists.
Kiah Ridge exists to create a platform for the Holy Spirit to roam and abide, and meet unsaved souls who visit.
All the logistics; the bother, the stress, and the fatigue; all melt away and you can see it, pure and simple.
*Name changed for privacy reasons