We’re happy to announce an exciting new aspect of the Greeter Falls Campground: Abri*.
Please Note: We are still very much in the conceptual stage. At this juncture, Abri is simply an “intention” and direction we are moving towards, in keeping with the vision and mission of CareCom, inc. our parent 501c3 non-profit organization. We welcome your feedback and thoughts as we evolve.
Since we opened in 2021, working with and alongside workampers and long-term campers, we noticed that many have been in the midst of type of life transition: recently retired, changing vocations, embarking on a new lifestyle, trying out workamping, working remotely from the road, home schooling while traveling, needing new life direction, seeking spiritual renewal.
In the process, we’ve observed a serendipitous/organic ad-hoc community develop that naturally supports one another in/thru whatever transition is taking place. It’s been rewarding to be a part of. Along the way, I read about a Swiss couple that founded a transient “refuge” and community for travelers back in the 1950’s. As I learned about them and it, many of aspects of their organization and process seemed appealing and potentially applicable.
Abri comes from a French word meaning a shelter. It also references a rock shelter formed by the overhang of a cliff or a place of refuge, especially during a time of war.
L’Abri – History and Background
L’Abri (L’ in front of the word meaning “the”) is a Christian organization founded by Francis Schaeffer and his wife Edith in Switzerland in 1955. They opened their alpine home as a ministry to curious travelers and as a forum to discuss philosophical and religious beliefs. Today, there are L’Abri centers are in many parts of the world that continue to offer people a place to stay when they travel. The following are some key elements:
It was the Schaeffer’s dream to work with young people. As it evolved, L’Abri centers came to include four kinds of people:
1. short-term guests
2. students, who divided their time between study and communal work
3. workers, who participated in discussions and the work of hospitality and
4. members, who were part of the decision-making process.
Abri is not a retreat, a commune, or a seminary, although it incorporates elements of all of these. Visitors are referred to as students, and personal study remains central to L’Abri’s work, but there are no fixed “classes” or courses. Rather students (who may spend any time from one day to a whole “term,” usually 2–3 months) meet regularly with a member of the staff to discuss the issues they wish to study, and are recommended to available resources
A student’s typical day is divided into half a day of study and half a day of helping with the practical tasks of living together – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. Meals often involve discussions centered on a topic raised by a guest or worker. All of these provide the opportunity to learn through questions and discussion. Students are also encouraged to pursue interests in art, music and literature.
Abri created space for people of all different backgrounds and nationalities to receive honest answers to honest questions, engage in community, and pursue truth. Many have come to study and are surprised to find rest, close bonds with others and a new perspective on culture as well.
Although, L’Abri was founded as Christian organization, it has always been open to any/all sincere “seekers” and to those just wanting a retreat or needing a temporarily reprieve.
• It is a place for seekers, for those who want to dig in to the deep questions of life, for those who are hungry for truth. People of all backgrounds come to L’Abri, including atheists, agnostics, and believers in a variety of religions. We strive to create an environment of hospitality and safety, where all are welcome regardless of belief.
• Many find that L’Abri is a much-needed retreat from busy or oppressive situations. For those looking for a place with a slower pace of life than the normal Western experience, community with others, teaching and study on relevant topics, a break from the demands of technology, and other benefits of “retreating” for a time from other pressures
For more information about the history and work of L’Abri, please refer the organization website. Their Ideas Library contains over 2,500 recorded lectures. The How should we then live series is Schaefers 10 part documentary on the The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. The Swiss Abri website is also notable. Check out the FAQ and Work and Study pages. Each L’Abri center maintains its own unique style and characteristics.
Greeter Falls Abri
As noted, we are not affiliated or endorsed by L’Abri Fellowship International. Nevertheless, we resonate with much of the overall vision and structure that was developed by its early pioneers. Functionally, we operate as a private, rustic campground that offers a wide variety of accommodations; RV/Travel trailers, Furnished Yurts (Glamping) as well as primitive tent sites.
Nestled within a rural timberland environment, Greeter Falls Campground is adjacent to a 16,000 acre state park with 50 miles of trails, amazing vistas and three waterfalls within a 1 mile hike. Campers have the opportunity to retreat and find renewal through a gentle immersion within nature. As the well-known writer affirms, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith.”
We seek through our own version of the Abri program, to extend the general benefits one can receive through camping, to the next level. Synchronous with Schaeffers vision, we wish to provide a welcoming shelter to travelers of all sorts and kinds. They referred to those short-term passersby as “guests” who stayed from one day to several days. For us, that simply equates to our regular campers. They don’t have to join or believe anything… they just wanna go camping. Our top priority at the campground, is to help them have a good experience and to serve them well. Happy Campers is the goal!
“Students” were those (visiting Abri) who were seeking a deeper immersion and experience -usually joining the community for a week or more. Sometimes they would stay for an entire season, lasting 2 or 3 months. Their day was evenly split between work and study. We don’t have “students” per se. We have Workampers.
Workampers are provided a no-cost site/shelter (usually in the form of a free RV hook-up, utilities and access to amenities) in exchange for part-time responsibilities around the campground such as landscaping, maintenance, cleaning and hospitality. Typically, workampers stay with us for a season. We hope to expand upon that to enable short-term workampers (a few days to a few weeks) to stay and work with us as well. To that end, we have developed a couple of large Group tents spots in our Abri Section, wherein short-term workampers can pitch their own tent or utilize one of our 13′ Bell Tents.
For us, Abri “Workers” would simply equate to those Workampers that have a background or interest in hospitality, philanthropy and service. They would typically extend their stay beyond a couple months – perhaps year round -and adopt the mission to help organize, serve and mentor our guests (campers), students (transient workampers) and serve the community at large (Grundy County). They, with our full-time camphosts would become the cornerstone for ongoing care, guidance and support for the Abri program.
“Members” would be represented by our full-time Camp Hosts, General Manager and Board of Directors to provide oversight and administration.
Ideally, Long-Term Abri “Workers” who stay and serve on a long-term basis would become seasoned leaders/facilitators equipped to help “seekers”/transient workers of all types and kinds in/through whatever life transition they may be going experiencing. It would be both their mission and joy. They offer mentorship, guidance and above all else, warm friendship.
Community meals would be important too. It’s a chance to relax and enjoy each other. Sometimes, just sit quietly together around a campfire and take in the sounds of nature. At other times, enjoy the deep insights and profound human connections that can result from the informal conversations or musical revelry that naturally emerge. We would love to evolve the idea so that Abri participants could share an evening meal together 6 nights a week.
Also on the drawing board, would be a weekly sponsored communal meal which would be open and available to all (campers, neighbors, community), free of charge. There would be no obligation other than to come and enjoy. It would be a great way to meet and get to know those participating in the Abri program as well as to extend fellowship and service to a larger circle.
For those seeking an extended retreat with an opportunity for service and community, we offer the same type of camping alternatives – RV sites, Furnished Yurts or tent sites – within the Abri confines (Area E) of our campground.
Abri maintains its own bathhouse (with washers & dryers) as well as a community study/media center equipped with Google fiber Wi-Fi. There are 8 RV sites (including 2 FHUs and a pull through), each with 20/30/50 amp power, water hook-up, picnic table and fire ring with grill top. There are also two large tent sites where Abri participants can set-up their own shelter or enjoy one of our furnished Yurts. We hope to develop an outdoor communal cooking and meeting area. We are also planning for a community garden and green house.
Greeter Falls Campground will continue to operate and maintain its private campground within Areas A, B, C & D where traditional camping options and services are provided. However, those travelers who participate in the Abri program, whether for a couple days or a couple months to participate as volunteer workampers, do not incur any site rental charges. It is free. Would-be participants will need to submit a brief application, agree to the basic community guidelines and sign our regular liability waiver.
Acceptance and continuation within the Abri program is contingent upon availability and resources. Guiding principles for the Abri community are pretty simple: love and respect for others and the environment. Determinants for length of stay and course of work/study are dynamic and consensual.
ABRI Work Crews
ABRI Volunteers are provided a no-cost site/shelter (usually in the form of a free RV hook-up, utilities and access to amenities) in exchange for part-time responsibilities around the campground such as landscaping, maintenance, cleaning and hospitality. Transient Abri residents participate alongside Workampers in these duties as well.
Administrative Responsibilities such as Finance and Accounting, Legal and Tax Issues, Strategic Planning and Campground Expansion/Improvements as well as General Oversight and Management will remain the exclusive domain of GFC Owner in Association with Camp Hosts.
Camp Hosts, along with the Owner(s), are ultimately responsible to provide a suitable campground environment for our guest campers based upon building and maintaining excellent grounds, pertinent amenities and outstanding service.
The mission and service of Abri is to foster an environment that provides for and enhances our transient campground community (serving our diverse campers and their needs) while simultaneously building Abri members socially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
- Camp Hosts: Operations Management. Responsible for the booking, preparation, coordination; i.e. the total camper experience. Camp/Site Improvements. Assess & Reorder Supplies, Manage Store, Handle Daily Phones, E-mail & Drop-ins.
Clean-up: Daily Cleaning & Maintenance/Bathhouse (busy weekends need multiple times), Campground/Site Trash, Site Grooming and Upkeep, Post Reservation Notices
Construction & Chopping: Cut & Bundle Firewood, Campground Maintenance & Repair, Building/Construction Projects, Campground/Site Improvements, Landscaping, etc.
Customer Relations: Answer phones/store for Camp host on their day(s) off, social media (photography, writing copy, posting), Activities/Crafts/movies , Marketing
Cooking: Menu Planning and Prep, Shop/Order Groceries, Cook, Serve & Clean-up for Daily/Weekly Community Meal and Order/Maintenance of Day-Time Snacks.
Community: Service Projects to Altamont/Grundy County Government, Churches, Schools and Non-Profit Organizations including State Parks and Natural Areas.
Coordination: Scheduling and supervision for work crews – with Interface with Camp Host, Quality Assurance, Mentorship/Leadership, Crew Planning, Coordination & Triage.
Note: Based upon seasonal occupancy, week-to-week site rental and ABRI/Workamper/transient mix, volunteers might need to fulfill the responsibility for more than crew. Crew allocation may be (re)assigned daily/weekly basis, dependent upon need and priority.
Obviously, the work of “coordination” (item #7) only evolves and becomes active and operational as the number of Abri Members and thereby responsibilities involved attains and sustains a sufficient threshold to merit exclusive dedication to this role.
Practically speaking, when there are only 4 to 6 total Workampers and/or Abri Members: All the duties envisioned for the Clean-up, Construction & Chopping, Customer Relations, Cooking and Community Outreach crews will all fall to the members at large under the direction of the Camp Hosts and needs of the campground, perhaps in a somewhat abbreviated form.
All Workampers and Abri residents will be required to sign our campground policy statement and liability release waiver. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.
Greeter Falls Abri is just beginning. We don’t have all the answers or even know all the questions to ask. We recognize that we and it are a “work in progress”. We hope to build on the basic intention and principles that spawned Schaffers program originally but further developed within the unique context of our location, environment, culture and time.
We welcome all sincere seekers. You may not even know for what you seek. It may be healing. You may be in a life transition and just need some space/time to regroup. You may be struggling with an addiction/compulsion. Abri can offer the strength and hope that comes from a safe and supportive community. There is no doctrine to ascribe to. Just the willingness to be Honest, Open and Willing. That’s HOW transformation happens.
We welcome your inquiries and questions. Feel free to contact us via phone/text at 615-722-7326 or by email at Robert@GreeterFalls.com. Thank you for your interest.
*Greeter Falls Abri is not associated or endorsed by L’Abri Fellowship International. Rather, we have simply sought to “borrow” key elements of their vision and format to integrate into the fabric of our endeavor. To that end, a basic understanding of their history and background is recommended. We remain thankful for their unique work.