How One Camp and Retreat Center Embraces Hospitality
Over the past years, Pilgrim Firs in Port Orchard, Washington, has worked hard to be seen and understood as a place of Christian ministry. For a long time, when groups came, they only saw the place as a physical site for their programs. Donors knew that they gave to Pilgrim Fir through their faith community, but they didn’t fully embrace that we were their place for Christian ministry.
Now, because of their work in the area of intentional hospitality, the perceptions are changing.
Director, Wade Zick, has taken a particular interest in this work area, especially when it comes to food.
Because this had become such a cornerstone of the mission of Pilgrim Fir, when it came time for Wade to take a sabbatical, he settled on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel and learn about food and hospitality. Zick said, “We knew that if Pilgrim Fir was going to be a hospitality site that changes the world, we needed to up our game, and we were ready to learn how!”
The focus during their travels was centered around experiencing, enjoying, and learning about food and hospitality. They traveled through Italy, Malta, Greece, and Cyprus. During this time, they took food tours and cooking classes, learned about sustainability practices, and deepened their understanding of how food done right can be a game-changer. We experienced firsthand that the welcome we received opened the door for meaningful storytelling and relationship building.
Zick notes that it was also a time of self-renewal and finding centeredness. He was able to recognize just how burned out he was. “The culture of the pandemic, political strife, war, unrest… it has made us very on edge,” he said.
“Being on the receiving end of gracious hospitality and care from others was a profound experience. I consciously processed what the most healing, valuable, and helpful parts of that care and love were,” said Zick.
Since he has returned, there have been several things that have evolved at Pilgrim Fir. Zick is quick to credit fantastic staff and volunteers for joining together to “up the hospitality game.”
First, the team is working on some physical changes to make the spaces more hospitable.
Second, they have added a new Pride Garden, which volunteers created.
Third, their whole community has embraced the idea that food matters. Zick recognizes that growth for Pilgrim Fir doesn’t need to mean that they serve more groups and more people. It means that how they serve the people who come needs to go deeper – finding and embracing opportunities to connect in ways that show God’s love and carry that forward. Zick says, “that’s where true transformation happens.”
Food and hospitality have always been an essential part of the work of Pilgrim Firs. Now, it is just more intentional.
Recently, a group of soldiers came to address challenges with PTSD. During their time at Pilgrim Fir, the menu was built around the things they were learning.
Zick says, “These men and women are in the program because they are in a challenging time in life. They are struggling. They typically haven’t been eating well. So when they come here, we want their meals to help them see that food is healing, connects them to the earth, and helps them tell their story.”
Recently the group ate a fresh, homemade greek breakfast – pita bread, eggs, zucchini latkes, locally roasted coffee — all made with simple, affordable ingredients and a healthy dose of love.
“We have long known that how we host, feed, and connect with people is hugely important. This ministry is powerful and unique, and we love that we are called to do it.”