Expanding the Vision at Pinebrook

by Grace Nolt, Spruce Lake Retreat

On October 17, 2018, Spruce Lake took over stewardship of Pinebrook Bible Conference to refine and rededicate the ministry around its founding purpose of “Pointing People Toward Christ.”

The vision now, as then, might seem crazy at the start. Dare we believe that God is not done with Pinebrook, and wants even more people to see Christ through this property?

Young people gather in front of the sign for Pinebrook’s newly established “Church of the Air” Bible Conference. Circa 1933.

Percy Crawford, the charismatic pioneer radio and TV evangelist of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, founded Pinebrook Bible Conference in 1933 to strengthen the reach of his radio ministry, “The Young People’s Church of the Air.”

 The property, located at what is now 5339 Pinebrook Road, East Stroudsburg, PA, was just what Percy and his team were searching for. “We must have it,” Percy said to the real estate man. Never mind that they wanted too much money.

Furthermore, the bank would not even consider a deal without cash, and other buyers were closing in. But the bank conceded, giving them about four weeks to raise the money. This turned out to be rough as banks were closing right and left.

“Immediately I went to good Christian friends and explained my plight, “said Percy. “The day the money was due, I walked in and placed it in the bank’s hands.” Pinebrook had been acquired for God, and for the young people of the Pocono Mountains. Immediately they dedicated the place to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Percy brought the nation’s leading Bible teachers and musicians to Pinebrook – Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, Jack Wyrtzen and many others. He directed Pinebrook’s ministries for the next 28 years.

In 1968, the Bible Fellowship Church became the next stewards of Pinebrook, continuing it as a retreat and conference center with a “mission to the world.” Ongoing programs offered special ministry to the Bible Fellowship Church.

Representing PA Senator Mario Scavello, Jonathan Allotey (center) presented Mark and Jackie Swartley an award of recognition for investing in the community by revitalizing Pinebrook.

Then, on a day filled with bright sunshine and wind, over 200 people gathered at the open house service June 30, 2019, to witness the uniting of Pinebrook and Spruce Lake as one, refounding Pinebrook for “this day and this age.”

“I cannot tell you,” spoke Executive Director Mark Swartley, “how many people have stopped me since we have gotten involved with Pinebrook and said things like: I love that place!  I accepted Christ on those grounds.  I found my spouse at Pinebrook.  Those hills sing to me when I walk on the grounds.”

Pinebrook has had an amazing impact for Christ. As Billy Graham once said, Pinebrook is “where so many hundreds and thousands of young lives have been touched, and people are now around the world who were led to Christ and dedicated their lives to Christ at Pinebrook.”

Several hundred youth attended SnoGlo weekends in January at Pinebrook, programmed by the Bible Fellowship Church.

So, this is the day to carry forward the vision to reach more people for Christ through Pinebrook!

What might this look like? Spruce Lake is planning to:

  • Serve the Bible Fellowship Church and its members through its retreat ministries.
  • Invite churches in the surrounding local area and nearby states to retreat and seek a deeper relationship with Christ. As many as 13,000 new and returning people are expected through 2019.
  • Start a children’s Day Camp ministry the summer of 2021 to allow us to share Christ with Stroudsburg area children day after day.
  • Restore a ministry in this community so that it is fully flourishing – giving all glory to God for His provision and grace!

We will trust God and see where He leads as Spruce Lake continues “Pointing People Toward Christ” in the future at Pinebrook.

To this purpose we dedicate this property, O Lord!

For more information on the history of Pinebrook, visit percycrawford.com or pinebrook.org.