In 1996 an idea was born in the minds of Mark and his friend Grant. Mark's ministry as an associate pastor was about to change and his long time dream of starting a prayer retreat had begun. But was God really calling him and Grant to take this step of faith or was it just a dream? One Sunday morning while agonizing over the decision Mark asked God, "Do you want me to move my family and build a house in the mountains?' In a rare act of desperation Mark randomly opened his Bible, looked down at it, and saw a verse he had never noticed before, Haggia 1:7-8. It reads, "Thus saith the Lord, consider your ways, Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord." Mark took this as a special confirmation that what was upon his heart was from God. But it wouldn't be easy, that's why God made His leading so clear.
Being young men with little experience and no big money backing them it would be hard to sell the idea. So they decided to take an 'if you build it they will come' approach. But where would they find property they could afford? Property that would suit the vision. In September of 1996 Mark and his wife Lori Ann hiked in an old gold mining trail, took their shoes off and crossed Sowaqua creek to a parcel of land for sale. As they stood on the shore of that land, the trees were like a blanket around them and the creek sang through it. It was perfect, the busy commotion of the world seemed so far away.