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October 28, 2009
Column #1,470
Honoring Pastors
By Mike McManus

If missionary couples stay at the Whitestone Country Inn in Kingston, TN, a AAA 4-Diamond resort, from Sunday through Thursday, they stay for FREE! Pastors and spouses can do so at half price ($75 up a night), in luxurious cottages, each with a fireplace.  They can hike 8 miles of trails, swim or canoe on a 39,000 acre lake, play tennis, etc. (

       One pastor wrote, "Thank you so much for creating such a peaceful place and for being a part of refreshing us so we can go back home and pour into the lives of our children, family and church members."

       For some, it is life-changing. Couples once on the verge of divorce rediscover their love for each other.

Paul Cowell, the man who built this resort to honor pastors, was a pastor himself for 25 years in Knoxville.  He also bought and sold 14 different businesses, such as America's second Home Shopping Network.  In addition, he owned a chain of 99 Book Warehouses.

He jokes, "How to make a small fortune with a country inn? Start with a large fortune."  Though Fortune 500 companies hold retreats there, and development lots are sold, Whitestone has only begun to turn a profit.

In 1991 he began buying two miles of riverfront land on the Tennessee River, 40 minutes from Knoxville.  Whitestone encompasses 600 acres and is 16 miles from the nearest convenience store. Opened in 1997, it now has 25 rooms. 

Whitestone donates 800 nights a year to missionaries, and 2,000 more go to pastors and Christian workers at half price.  That's nearly half of Whitestone's 6,000 room nights a year!

What motivated Pastor Cowell to honor missionaries in such a generous way?  He explains, "Less than 50 percent of missionaries make it through their first term.  Therefore, I want to find experienced, mature missionaries who are still in service and say, `THANK YOU.' It is a message from the body of Christ."

Whitestone hires comedians to entertain his guests.  A missionary's wife told Cowell, "My husband has not laughed in five years!"  Why?  "Every day they see people dying of starvation, coming to their doorstep.  If you were to send them money for a vacation break, they would simply use it in their ministry. A couple with 20 missionary years in Cambodia observed this was their first vacation in 20 years."

The Innkeeper flatly states, "My goal is not teaching them something new, not educating them, but simply saying, "Thank You."  Missionaries cry when they hear him.

One estimate from Focus on the Family is that 70 percent of pastors' marriages are in trouble.

        Why? A woman calls, "My husband had a heart attack! Can you come?"

The pastor is always available for people who are hurting.  Author Rebecca Barlow Jordan writes: "God gave them tender hearts to hold the hurts of others. He gave them gentle hands, to reach out with compassion and love. God gave them eyes to see the beauty and worth of a single soul.  He gave them feet to move swiftly, to pursue justice, restoration and peace."

However, in serving others, too many neglect their marriages and wives.

When he was a pastor, Pastor Cowell did lots of marriage counseling that convinced him that "If the folks could get away, have a good night's sleep, have a marvelous breakfast they did not have to prepare, and time to reconnect with one another, a lot of marriages could be restored."

He quotes Matthew 11:28-30: "Are your tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?  Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." ("The Message")

Jesus rested, and he wants his workers to rest.

October is "Pastor Appreciation Month."  What have YOU done to show your pastor your appreciation? David Ferguson, who organizes mid-week get-aways for Senior Pastors and their spouses, established a ministry he calls "Galatians 6:6:"

"Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches."

What if you live far from Knoxville?

Pastor Cowell has an answer.  He created a Christian Hospitality Network of 800 inns and hotels with discounts for pastors and missionaries. No X-rated movies.  Discounts are 25% to 50% off for off-peak reservations, typically Sunday night through Thursday night.

You'll find many in your state at  After the discount, YOU pay the balance for two-three nights, and present the gift to your pastor.


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