Caraway Conference Center and Camp honored its founder and first director, Bill Jackson, by naming a new worship center after him last September. Now called Jackson Hall, the old multipurpose gym was remodeled into a 300-seat worship center in June 2016 and includes a new stage and sound system. A new gym was built to replace the old one.
Since renovations were completed, churches and groups have used Jackson Hall for staff retreats, youth weeks and other gatherings. Jimmy Huffman, Caraway’s current director, said a dedication service for Jackson Hall will likely be held this summer, when former and current staff meet at Caraway for a reunion.
The worship center is not the first Caraway location to carry Jackson’s name. A suite in the conference center and a small outdoor chapel near the lake are also named after him. Huffman, however, said he wanted to honor Jackson with a more significant building.
“We have retreat groups that come constantly, and we never really had a true worship area for groups to use,” Huffman said. “Now Jackson Hall is something that really, truly bears his name in an honorable way.”
Jackson served as Caraway’s first director from 1963 to 1988 after serving with the Brotherhood Department of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“When we originally bought it, it was just raw land. There were no buildings on the property,” Huffman said about Caraway. “He [Jackson] was responsible for getting the conference center built. He really took it from Camp Caraway to Caraway Conference Center and Camp.”
Jackson’s children, Sybil Jackson Samaha and Craig Jackson, told the Biblical Recorder they were anxious to see the new center. The two have countless memories from years spent at the camp. Craig spent most of his summers and weekends at Caraway from the time he was 13 years old through his college years. As a student, he worked in the kitchen and with the construction crew, helping build the conference center.
“Dad’s fingerprints and footprints remain all over Caraway,” he said. “He knew and loved every square inch of the property. Placing his name on the worship center and other spaces points to that presence for those who did not know him.”
Samaha also grew up going to summer camps at Caraway and considers it a childhood home. She also worked in the kitchen and as a lifeguard in the summer. The staff became her family.
“He [Jackson] felt God’s presence there daily, and he wanted others to feel the same,” Samaha said in an email statement to the Recorder. “I believe he would be humbled to be honored in this way but ultimately would want the honor to go to God. My father truly believed in being able to feel God’s presence in creation. Caraway is a special part of that creation.”
Samaha has shared her love for Caraway with her own children. She hopes her grandchildren can also experience Caraway and sense Jackson’s character through the place he was so instrumental in building.