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A PLACE FOR SPIRITUAL RETREAT

A crowd gathered Friday for the grand opening of Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center in the former Heritage USA Grand Hotel in Fort Mill . Below, Rick Joyner, director and founder of MorningStar Ministries, cuts the ribbon.
A crowd gathered Friday for the grand opening of Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center in the former Heritage USA Grand Hotel in Fort Mill . Below, Rick Joyner, director and founder of MorningStar Ministries, cuts the ribbon.

FORT MILL -- MorningStar Ministries has taught Fort Mill resident Doug Corwin about himself and God.

Corwin joined flocks of followers Friday, including Praise the Lord members, who came to those same grounds in the 1980s and still return today, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the opening of Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center.

This official opening of the renovated hotel and conference center comes exactly three years after the ministry bought the 52-acre Heritage International Ministries property.

MorningStar Founder and Director Rick Joyner said the property once brought six million visitors annually before becoming an embarrassment to the church and York County.

"From when we first got here to what it is now -- it's like new. It's just got life now," said Corwin, who joined the ministry in 2001.

Since 2004, the multi-faceted ministry has worked to restore the 345 rooms, suites and office spaces of the Grand Hotel and the stores of the indoor market called Main Street. The property was owned and operated by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Praise the Lord ministry.

"These are just buildings, the people are what brought it to life," Joyner said. "It was closed for nearly seven years, so it was in terrible disarray when we started."

MorningStar's Christian ministry-base in the Charlotte area was established nearly 20 years ago. Joyner said the ministry still has a long way to go in restoring the property's reputation.

The newly renovated building sits adjacent to the 20-story tower the ministry hopes to convert into a 55-and-older, active adult, resort-class community. A public hearing on the development agreement pertaining to this change is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the York County Council meeting in York.

Jan Fennell, a MorningStar member for 18 years, said one of Joyner's visions is to have people come to a place to have fellowships like they did Friday for the three-day Harvest Conference.

Joyner said MorningStar's schools include students from every continent but Antarctica, and conference attendees were from all over the world.

"It's really an international ministry," Fennell said.

York County Council member Paul Lindemann and developer Earl Coulston, who Joyner said was a big part in making the renovations possible, also showed their support along with chamber of commerce members.

"We work hard to make this something York County and Charlotte are proud of again," Joyner said. "We have a long way to go, we know that."

What's next?

Three years after MorningStar Ministries purchased the former Heritage USA property, the hotel and church have been renovated. Future plans for the ministry include:

• Turning the unfinished 20-story tower into an active adult, 55 and older, community with a pool, restaurant, salon, nurses stations and possible stores. The finished tower will be expanded on three sides for space and support.

• Using two bunkhouses to create 32 rental units for students and others to use.

• Adding an MBA program and growing into a university-level school.

• Expanding the meeting facility in the main building.

• Moving some of the internal roads and creating more parking spaces.

• Adding a 2,500-seat gymnasium may be considered at a later time.

SOURCE: Rick Joyner, director and founder of MorningStar Ministries and MorningStar's Planned Development.

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