by Tim Bryant, Board Member, DLC ‘77, TTR ‘87
“Tim, the whole family is on the stairs waiting for you!” Jay Fesperman exclaimed over the phone as I stood in a hot phone booth in downtown Franklin. “The van has broken down”, I said, feeling like my faith should be strong enough to lay hands on it so that it should recover, “I don’t know what’s wrong with it or when we can get back to the Inn.”
It was the summer of 1977 and I was participating in the eight week Disciplined Life in Christ (DLC) program. I was “in charge” of the town crew that day and we were responsible for doing the laundry and “town errands” for the 35+ young people in the program. We were expected back at the Inn by the time the family gathered for lunch. I don’t quite remember how we got back that afternoon but I have thought about that phone call and Jay’s words to me many times. The word “family” sums up the entire focus of this ministry and the original vision the Lord gave Jay and Sally Fesperman. The Inn has always been a place for “family” and those who come here are placed “in family” by their participation. The staircase at the Inn is the place of gathering before each meal for every program, retreat or meeting. On the stairs a song is usually started to focus everyone’s attention on the Lord and then someone is asked to give thanks for the meal. I have many vivid memories of Jay leading the family in song before a meal as we stood on the stairs.
I spent a lot of time on those stairs throughout the summer of 1977 and in later years at reunions and retreats. In 1987 I returned to the Inn for the first Train to Reign program and stood on those same steps with my wife and two sons (we now have three sons and one daughter). I remember experiencing the same familiar feeling of friends and family on those stairs. I had come there as a young man without a clue as to what my future would hold and ten years later–there I was trying to keep my children “in line” as the family gathered before each meal.
In 1992 we stood as a family once again on the stairs to mourn the loss and celebrate the passing of our friend Jay Fesperman. Jay’s words echoed through my head once again “. . . the whole family is on the stairs waiting for you!”, as I remembered our time over the years at the Inn. What a special place. A place God has blessed. A place that inspires change in people. The ministry of Jay & Sally Fesperman was and is a “standard” for the Body of Christ; a call to walk out in God that which He has called us to–without waiver. That vision and commitment continue to inspire and change others today through the oversight of the board of directors, a talented and active staff, and the dedication of Larry & Susan Pons.
If you haven’t experienced the special feeling of family “on the stairs” at the Inn, or if it’s been a long time since you were last there, I encourage you to come to Franklin to experience the Lord in a special way. “The whole family is waiting for you!”