The website for the Wesley Center in Woodworth invites retreat and conference goers to “Meet in the Middle,” a reference to its location in central Louisiana, about 10 miles south of Alexandria.
But those who recently have visited the peaceful grounds embraced by a horseshoe-shaped lake are more likely to zip to the bottom or climb to the top as they participate in the Wesley Center’s newest amenity – a military training-style challenge course featuring a zip line that carries a person across the 32-acre lake.
“The zip line and challenge course give us the opportunity to do team building and leadership training,” explained Roseanne Borland, executive director of the Wesley Center. “It also gave younger people a reason to come.”
The zip line, in particular, has become probably the most popular feature of the 22-year-old center. A zip line is basically an industrial-strength clothesline from which a person dangles with the aid of a wheeled pulley attached to a harness. One end of the line is attached to a 50-foot tower; the other end is anchored to a post behind a wooden platform. In between is 700 feet of air over the lake, an anxious distance for many first-time zip liners.
“They just learn to surrender and let go,” Borland said. “There’s something about overcoming your fear and getting to the other side that gives you a newfound confidence.”
The zip line is just one element of the challenge course, a series of physical tests with names like “Trust Fall,” “Spider Web,” “Mohawk Walk” and “Triangle Traverse.”
Though it sounds like a feature more at home in a playground than a spiritual retreat center, Borland explained that the challenge course is designed to test more than physical prowess.
“When you look up at the 50-foot tower, you’d think, ‘I can never climb that.’ But through the phenomenon of encouragement of others, people get over the top.”
The challenge course helps groups build teamwork, solve problems, develop trust and identify leaders. But, there’s another benefit to the challenge course, which Borland identifies as the real goal.
“A lot of things we do as humans, we have to take a leap of faith,” she said. “For every activity on the course, you have to surrender to what the fear is, what the challenge is, and have faith in Christ.”
Since one of the goals of the center is to provide a place of spiritual reflection, evaluation, discovery and renewal, the challenge course and zip line perfectly fit the mission of the Wesley Center. And, even though the center markets itself as a place to “meet in the middle,” Woodworth is still a healthy drive for most people in Louisiana.
“For a true retreat experience, you have to travel away,” Borland said. “Jesus did that. He made a point of going away and spending time with God alone.”
The Wesley Center has two lodges with a total of 64 hotel-styled rooms, 20 multi-dimensional rooms that can serve groups up to 300, a main meeting/dining room, a pavilion, two chapels and a sports field.
For more information and to make reservations, call 318-449-4500 or visit their website.