September 2020 – Imagine entering a serene, 600-acre sprawling resort – beautifully manicured rolling hills with a view of the Smoky Mountains and miles of the sparkling Tennessee River. Leave all your cares in another realm for a few days.
“A sanctuary for the soul.” That is exactly what Paul and Jean Cowell, founders of Whitestone Inn, dreamed of making a reality for full-time ministers and missionaries.
Drawing from the text of Revelation 2:17, they hoped to offer a setting where tired souls would be drawn to their Creator, receiving peace, renewed strength, and reassurance of their eternal identity in Him:
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it. (Emphasis added.)
The vision came to life in 1997 when the couple began building Whitestone Inn, a resort level bed and breakfast in the East Tennessee hills southwest of Knoxville. Decades later, the New England style village of unique lodges spread across the secluded acres overlooking Watts Bar Lake is still offering refuge.
A pastor for 25 years and a visionary entrepreneur, Paul loved to bless others, especially those who sacrificially dedicate their lives to serving others. He dreamed of giving them a getaway they would otherwise not be able to afford. Though he went to his eternal home in 2016, his dream continues to live as each guest drives through the entrance of the AAA four-diamond resort property.
Gabe Collier, Whitestone director of operations, will never forget the first time he drove through the entrance barn in 1998.
“I was just blown away, even at 17 years old, by the beauty of the property,” he told AFA Journal. From a rocking chair on the front porch of the stately Whitestone farmhouse, he continued: “Since the day I walked on the property, I’ve always felt like God had a reason for me to be here.”
While still in high school, Collier worked part-time washing dishes and waiting tables. He worked in the office more than a decade, and he has managed the property for the last 11 years.
Collier calls it his “home away from home.” For many guests, he has become a comfortable part of their experience at Whitestone. He enjoys warm camaraderie and conversation with guests, often reminiscing about previous visits and common friends.
In their daily ministries, pastors and missionaries are often overwhelmed by the weight of meeting the needs of others. Some push forward with such dogged determination that they neglect their own needs far too long. They persist in a state of “grayness,” needing months to rebuild strength spiritually, emotionally, and physically – or they quit altogether.
In a 2016 study conducted by Barna Group and Pepperdine University, 47% of pastors said it was somewhat or very difficult to find time for their own spiritual growth. And in mid-April, after COVID-19 entered the scene, Barna found a two-digit increase in the number of pastors struggling in this area. That same study found that only 17% of pastors rate their mental and emotional health as excellent, compared to 39% three years ago.
“I know pastors, church staff members, and missionaries who have received gift certificates to Whitestone,” said AFA Journal editor Randall Murphree, a frequent visitor to the peaceful campus. “I cannot imagine a better gift for a ministry leader who’s in need of a short season of sanctuary.”
Because Paul Cowell was a pastor himself, he knew the demands on pastors and missionaries, and he dreamed of serving them well. Whitestone Inn is the fulfillment of that lifelong dream.
My favorite memory
My husband and I visited Whitestone in early July. One evening as a rainbow dissipated, and the threat of rain loomed in the clouds, we strolled up the paved path to the top of the hill. After walking through the incredibly stunning chapel, we shared quiet conversation from the rocking chairs on the chapel gazebo – in our opinion, the most magnificent view on the property.
A whole lot to offer
• Pastors and others in full-time Christian ministry receive a 30-50% discount.
• Overseas missionaries stay for $50 per night.
• Discounts apply to Sunday through Thursday nights. Call for info: 865.376.0113.
• Select from 22 rooms and suites – each one unique – in 6 lodges. (See website).
• Gourmet meals are served in a dining room with inspiring views.
• A fresh, hot country breakfast is included with each overnight stay.
• Optional picnic basket lunches are available on request.
• Optional classic Southern dining is offered each evening.
• Corporate and ministry retreats
• Weddings (chapel or outdoor venues)
• Walking trails
• Golf cart, kayak, and canoe rental
• Recreation room (pool, ping-pong, board games)
• Disc golf
• Heated pool and hot tub
• Spa treatment by appointment
• Carriage rides by appointment
For more information: whitestoneinn.com
1200 Paint Rock Road
Kingston, TN 37763