Welcome to the Farm...
The Farm at Bible Grove is not only going to be an amazing Christian "Glamping" Resort, in 2023 we will also begin hosting Christian educational and discipleship retreats. With our own 27 acres nestled between the five lakes and 55,000 acres of wilderness in Natchez Trace State Park, we are building a one-of-a-kind experience for those seeking to improve their Christian walk, discover their purpose or refine their ministry. We specialize in Christian retreats that include all the great outdoor activities that the park has to offer: boating, fishing, hiking, horse back riding, ATV and off-roading, biking, hunting, nature watching, camping and more. Whether you prefer a premium hotel experience, a private cabin or a villa to share with family and friends, an RV campsite or simple tent camping, The Farm at Bible Grove is literally in the middle of it all.
Jesus gave us the "Great Commission" in the 28th chapter of the book of Matthew, verses 18-20 when he said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).
While we believe strongly in evangelism, we also believe the corporate Church today is, in large part, missing the mark when it comes to the Great Commission. For many years, the Church has focused on making more believers in Christ, but without instruction, those believers may miss out on so much more that Jesus offers beyond eternal life. While we celebrate their decision to believe in Him and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, we want to also empower those believers to walk in the fullness of what the gift of Jesus offers each of us. Only then, can we find hope, healing from past wounds. reconciliation of lost relationships, purpose in life, true joy, true peace, honest rest and the overwhelming love of our Creator. Only then, will the Kingdom grow the way God grows things... by making more believers into disciples or as Jesus described them, "fishers of men."
How did we get here? I mean, how does a family from Franklin Tennessee end up building a Christian Resort in the tiny lost community of Bible Grove way over in Henderson County? Well, I'm JD Inman and I spent much of my childhood in Bible Grove. Being raised by a single mom meant we spent a lot of time with our grandparents. They were Milam and Ruby Scates, life long residents on a small farm located in the community just north of Chesterfield. My grandparents, like their parents, were strong believers and followers of Jesus. Like most of the people in Bible Grove in the early 1900's, they were hard working, independent and resourceful. Both were born in Bible Grove community and they made a life there from the time they were married in 1933. For more than 50 years my grandparents overcame (with the help of the Lord) incredible hardship including the Great Depression and World War II. They even saw almost every single one of their neighbors and kinfolk forced out of their homes and off of their farms by the State of Tennessee in the 1940's, 50's and 60's, first when the boundaries of the State Park were drawn and later, with the building of the surrounding lakes.
By the end of 1960's, most of the families had been forced to sell out against their choice. They were paid for their land at a price set by the State. Somehow, Milam and Ruby (and less than a handful of others) managed to hang on. My grandparents farm was reduced to only 48 acres, less than 1/4 of its original size. The rest of the land around them, more than 55,000 acres in total was taken by "eminent domain" to create the State Park and the lakes we all enjoy today. But the small community of Bible Grove, founded by Christian settlers from the Carolinas in the 1850's was virtually lost forever.
In 1946, Milam and Ruby had their only child, Nancy, who grew up to marry my father, David Inman out of the neighboring town of Parsons Tennessee. They had my sister Beth in 1968 and I was born in 1969. In 1977, we all moved to Franklin. Dad had served in the Army and was a combat veteran, an officer and helicopter pilot in Vietnam and Korea. Although he was never shot down nor wounded in battle, he brought home many scars we could not see. When mom and dad divorced a few years later, my sister and I became latch-key kids with a single mom who managed, again with the Lord’s help, to keep us fed and keep a roof over our heads. We were in church every time the doors were opened which gave us a foundation of following Jesus. Every chance we had, my mom packed us up in the car and made the two-hour drive back to Bible Grove. It was a sanctuary to our little family of three and I, for one, never wanted to leave it.
My grandfather was the most brilliant man I have ever known. He was soft spoken and had an incredible ingenuity. He seemingly could do anything he put his mind to... and he put his mind toward doing a lot. He was from a family of educators, a school teacher himself, a scholar, a farmer, a fisherman, a hunter and a lover of nature. He single handedly built a small log cabin using only a come-along and a small tractor when he was 80 years old, even after he had suffered a heart attack. But more than that, he was a great husband, father and grandfather. My grandmother, (Granny as we called her) was that kind of strong woman they write books about. She had a fire in her belly and a spirit about her that was unmatched. Together, Milam and Ruby Scates were quite a duo. Together, they were of the last remnants of the Bible Grove community that once thrived up in those hills.
I spent nearly all of my summers, Christmas breaks and many weekends at the farm in Bible Grove. One day, during my Sophomore year in high school, I came home from school to find our church pastor at our home. Mom was home from work too. Together, they delivered the saddest news I have ever heard...my Papa Scates had suffered another heart attack and died suddenly early that morning. In an instant... everything had changed.
My grandmother tried to manage the place by herself for a while but it became obvious that living alone out in the middle of nowhere was not going to work. She was a mile from her closest neighbor and it was no place for an elderly widowed woman...even a fiery one ...sleeping with her pistol under her pillow. So, in 1987 (about the time my life went a little off the rails) My Granny Ruby and my mother decided it was time to sell the farm.
Within days, the wife of our associate pastor overheard a conversation my mother was having with another lady telling her about their decision to sell the farm. The pastor and his wife drove down that same afternoon and came back with a contract to purchase it as a get-away and place for them to retire. I never set foot on the farm again. I vowed to myself that I never would. And, for 36 years I didn’t.
Granny Ruby came to live with us in Franklin. She lived to be 99 years old missing her 100th birthday by only a few months. We laid her to rest next to my grandfather back in the Bible Grove Cemetery just down the road from their old farm. Brittany and I had been married for five years and we had just had our first child, John Harley. Driving through the park that day to the cemetery I found myself longing to see the old farm. I wanted to show it to Brittany and show my boy where his dad played when he was just a child too. I knew our old pastor still lived there and thought we'd take a chance on them being home. So we dropped in (you can still do that in some places). I could not hold back the tears walking that land again. Every step it took, I could see my grandfather walking beside me. As I retraced the steps of my childhood, I couldn't get over the familiar smell of the trees and fresh country air. It brought back so many sweet and precious memories.
Over the next few years we went back to visit a few times. We even started RV camping at Pin Oak Lake every few months. Ironically, the RV campground is almost directly across the lake from the old farm. Slowly, I began feeling God was calling me back to that land. I felt a connection with it that was like nothing I had ever experienced. And, although it didn't make sense in the natural, Brittany and I began to dream about what we would do if somehow we were able to go back there one day. "Are You making a way for me to go back to the farm?" I asked the Lord. "Or is this just some crazy dream?"
The pastor and his wife were now in their 90's and it appeared that their children didn't have much interest in keeping the farm once they were gone. On one visit, the pastor's wife greeted Harley and me with "I wish you would just buy this place. "What?" I thought. "Was God doing something?" I told her I had really been praying and thinking about it and I asked what price she thought the farm and the 3 houses on it would bring. The number she quoted was almost double what I was thinking. "So, if God was doing something," I thought, "He will be working on that number for sure."
Over the next few months, Brittany and I prayed and planned and dreamed a lot about buying the old farm back again. At first it still seemed crazy. How could we come up with that kind of money? We'd have to sell our home in Franklin and move our family to Bible Grove. Was God calling us to do that? Could we really make a living doing what we do (selling real estate and managing rental property) from West Tennessee? Bible Grove is literally in the middle of nowhere. There is barely a cell phone signal much less high speed internet nearby. "How could we raise our growing family so far away from the life we knew?" But God was already working all that out. Slowly, the idea of being on the farm really grew on us. Over time it started to feel more possible and less like a crazy dream. "Maybe one day... when the kids are grown," we thought. "Once they are out of school."
God began to give us ideas, much of what you see on the Vision page here, of how we could serve Him there on the farm. How we could use it to build a sanctuary of sorts, a place where believers could come and really spend time with the Creator of all things. We had recently attended a marriage retreat with our church and, while it was a good retreat, the accommodations were not much more than a college dormitory. "How amazing," we thought, "would a retreat like this be if we could host it at the farm?" We started dreaming about what we might do differently to make it special. RV camp sites, tiny-house cabins, geodesic domes, treehouse sanctuaries, bunk houses... all sorts of ideas came to mind that lend to more than just a get-away, they lead to an experience, a one-of-a-kind experience that puts God in the center and builds around Him.
Meanwhile, God began to move in our lives in other areas. We both began mentoring and discipling several young men and women. We started hosting Life Group meetings in our home. We started believing God was calling us into full time ministry of some kind... "ministering to ministers" was something that felt good to us. We started planning for the future and what we would do with the land once we bought the farm. We started talking about it like it was already settled. We just had to wait on God's timing.
Then COVID. One thing for sure, The COVID pandemic changed everything. Our "new normal" was a shift that we didn't see coming. God confirmed over and over again that He was our source, that everything is in His hands and He has plans to prosper us. We shifted our plan to home-schooling our kids, to being "intentional" and "on mission" for Jesus. The farm seemed more and more to be a part of God's plan for our future.
So, in the spring of 2021, I wrote a proposal to the pastor and his wife to purchase the farm. I proposed a way to come to a price that was fair to them and to us and we even offered them a way to stay in their home after they sold it. I tried not to get my hopes up but a few weeks later, I got a response that tore at that old wound again. They had discussed it with their grandchildren and had decided NOT to sell the farm after all. Instead, they would leave it to their grandsons. I was so disappointed. But it looked like God had finally answered all those questions we had, and the answer was, “No."
But the dream didn't go away. In fact, the idea of hosting marriage retreats and mens and ladies retreats began to grow even more roots. We began to see that, we could still host them using the facilities the State Park has in Natchez Trace. We realized that we could do so much with what the Park already has to offer. We met with Park officials and began familiarizing ourselves with everything going on in Natchez Trace. We could start to do our "experience" retreats in the Park and maybe, one day, we could still buy the farm and build that "even better experience" at the farm. The dream was still growing into something. But what?
Then one Saturday morning, I got the notion to look to see if any other land was for sale around the Park. I hadn't considered it before because "the old farm" was the only land down there that really meant anything to me. I found the name of the owners of a few pieces nearby and, through an old obituary notice, found the names of some of their children. I located one of those names on a Facebook profile and, sure enough, we had some shared friends. I messaged the profile I found and in a few minutes, got a response that she was, in fact, the land owner's daughter and (believe it or not) they had just listed the land for sale only a day or two ago. She didn't know who the agent was, or the list price, but I found it pretty quickly searching the West Tennessee MLS.
Wow, it was the property that bordered my grandparents farm. It was land I had hunted as a child with my grandfather. In fact, I remember thinking back then that the land was his (ours). Incredibly, the listed price was less than 1/10th of what the pastor's wife had quoted me. But this was just land. There was nothing on it, no homes, no barns... just thousands and thousands of trees. It was exactly what we needed. It sure looked like God had intentionally provided a way for us to establish a presence to begin to build our dream.
So, we bought it. Why? Because we figured, if we ever do get the opportunity to buy my grandparents old farm, we'd be very disappointed that we didn't buy this acreage when we had the chance to go with it. And, if we never got the opportunity to buy my grandparents old farm, we would have missed out on part of what we believe God was calling us to do. Either way, it felt like God had made a way for us to start pursuing our dreams without having to sell our home, invest our entire life savings or uproot our family.
Since buying the land, we've seen God answer more prayers. He has continued to move and grow Brittany and me. In fact, He has even grown our family…we had our fourth child in April 2022. Last year, Brittany was instrumental in initiating "Flourish," a mentorship program for women in our Church and I recently stepped into the role of Ministry Leader of our Celebrate Recovery. We continue to host our Life Group every other week and we are active in our church. We are also mentoring and discipling as many as God leads our way. Every chance we get, we go back to Bible Grove. We've cleared a lot of trees, identified building sites and solidified our plans. We're currently establishing water, power and natural gas to the property and will soon break ground on the first of what we believe will be many projects over the coming years to bring it all to fruition. We are looking forward to whatever God has planned for us with The Farm at Bible Grove.
The Farm at Bible Grove is a 501C3 Christian non-profit organization. Our goal is the full-time ministry of discipleship training. So, we asked God, "How can we make a living while we're doing what You have called us to do? And... God answered.
Hosting marriage retreats and Christian discipleship adventures is not a business you'll see featured on Shark Tank any time soon. There's just no way to offer an affordable experience and pay ourselves or any employees for the countless hours of preparation and service required to put on such events. To do so, would demand a price that the average Christian American simply would not pay to attend. But in August of 2021, God brought us an opportunity in the form of 27 acres of forest land situated in the middle of the Natchez Trace State park in Tennessee.
So, while we are organizing and planning retreats, we are also simultaneously building a "camping experience" that we believe will generate enough income to fund the daily operation of the non-profit ministry. The Farm at Bible Grove will be home to a new outdoor experience commonly referred to as "Glamping" or "Glamorous Camping." We will construct both communal facilities (barns, bath houses, swimming pool, outdoor kitchen etc -click on the Vision page for example) and private camping sites including: cabins, treehouses, geodesic domes and custom campers. When not being used for ministry objectives, these sites will be marketed and rented to guests for a premium "Glamping" experience. The rental income will be used to build and maintain our facilities and the remaining share of the proceeds will go toward paying salaries, monthly expenses and capital improvements of the camp.