As a high school and college student, Rick Holbrook looked forward to summers at Caswell.
The son of a Baptist minister, Holbrook spent his teenage and young adult years working just about every job available to a summer staff member at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, from serving in the cafeteria to being a lifeguard and working with the boys’ summer staff.
Holbrook never dreamed he would one day serve as the facility’s director.
Fifteen years later, after spending time in the military and as the director of admissions at Gardner Webb University, Holbrook accepted that very role, moving his wife, Kathryn, and their children back to Oak Island.
Now, after achieving countless improvements at Caswell and serving as its director for over 32 years, Holbrook will be leaving the Assembly to retire this summer.
In 1984, Hurricane Diana devastated the eastern coast of North Carolina, and North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM) took on the site as its personal renovation project.
NCBM, then in its first year of disaster relief missions, along with Holbrook, who accepted his current position as director in 1985, worked together to renovate each residence and conference facility at Caswell, creating a place of retreat and growth for all who visit.
“Rick Holbrook has done an outstanding job in helping to make Caswell what it is today,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“The Lord has truly used him as an instrument to change lives, and I am truly grateful for Rick’s influence on N.C. Baptists. I do not believe we could have had a better person to lead our work at the N.C. Baptist Assembly than Rick Holbrook. For many years in the future, I predict we will continue to value and appreciate his accomplishments and influence at Caswell,” Hollifield said.
Under Holbrook’s leadership, Caswell also shifted from a seasonal facility to a year-round destination.
Today, approximately 40,000 guests visit Caswell yearly for events such as summer youth weeks, homeschool trips, senior adult events, women’s retreats, environmental stewardship classes, family retreats, and other activities.
As a result, the Assembly at Fort Caswell has become a place where hundreds of decisions for Christ are made year after year. During the past 16 years of summer youth weeks, a recorded 6,016 students made first-time decisions for Christ, and 3,441 answered a call to ministry. It is likely that more people have made decisions for Christ at Fort Caswell than at any other location in North Carolina.
BSC file photo by K Brown
For more than 32 years, Rick Holbrook has overseen Fort Caswell as its director. “Rick Holbrook has done an outstanding job in helping to make Caswell what it is today,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina executive director-treasurer. During the past 16 years of summer youth weeks, a recorded 6,016 students made first-time decisions to follow Christ, and 3,441 answered a call to ministry.
Holbrook led the organization through changes that reach beyond Caswell’s activities and programs.
Holbrook’s passion for Caswell and BSC staff created an atmosphere of humility and gratitude that imbues personal relationships at work.
“Personally, working with Rick has been one of the highlights of my time with the BSC,” said John Butler, executive leader of business services at the BSC. “Rick Holbrook is the epitome of what I believe Jesus wanted servant leadership to look like – he has always put the needs of our churches and N.C. Baptists ahead of his own desires and has trained his staff to do the same. (Holbrook) has become a friend, a confidant and an example for me, and I will never stop being appreciative of all he has done to help me be more effective in my role at the convention.”
Though much has changed over the years, Holbrook’s joy and gratitude have remained the same.
“These things are humbling – you have to believe that God could have accomplished His purpose with anybody here,” Holbrook said. “I just happened to be the one.”