What will soon be an ADA-approved complimentary cottage at the forefront of Stay Dahlonega’s treehouse subdivision was once a building sliding off its foundation, headed for the bottom.
“It was sliding off the hill,” Rebecca Jackson, marketing director for Stay Dahlonega, said. “A lot of people would've said 'no let's level it.'”
Nathan Scranton, the leader of Stay Dahlonega’s team of treehouse builders, is not one of those people.
“I'm always a proponent for saving,” he said with a laugh, thinking about the poor condition the house was in.
Perhaps that’s because Scranton once found himself headed for the bottom and needing to be saved. He found that salvation, in all forms of the word, at Waypoint Ministry.
“Waypoint is a Christ-centered drug regeneration center, so basically you go and you're addicted to something,” Scranton said. “Usually heroin in this day and age, but I was more meth and alcohol.”
Realizing his state, Scranton made the decision to go to Waypoint and go through the intense, one-year program. On March 12, 2012, he arrived at Waypoint Ministry, prepared to one day leave as a new man.
“[I] smoked two packs of cigarettes on the way,” Scranton said. “[I was] a little nervous because I knew I wasn't ever going to be the same.”
Now, Scranton is the leader of a four-man crew tasked with building Airbnb tree houses, off Coppermines Road, for Stay Dahlonega. And all four guys are sure of one thing: they were never the same once they arrived at Waypoint.
LIVING TO LIVE
"It saved my life," David Peacock, the youngest member of the treehouse squad said. "This is the first time I've actually been stable in my life, so I've come a long way in the last three years.”
Jimmie Zwally shares that sentiment.
"I came to Waypoint not knowing what love was," said the fellow crew member. "I was seeking God, Jesus, and they showed me the way.”
Keebo Sanders, Scranton's right-hand man, had a similar life-changing experience.
"It got me a home," he said. "I'm from Columbus, Georgia. Dahlonega, Georgia is my home now.”
Scanton credits the ministry for saving his life.
“I didn't think I'd live past 35,” he said. “Pre-Waypoint, pre the Lord renovating my heart, I was my own worst enemy. I just lived to destroy myself. Now I live to live.”
Chris Gillhouse, executive director of Waypoint Ministry, can attest to the transformation of all four men.
“I can tell you where they were,” he said. “Where they were is not anywhere near where they are today. All four of those guys were at death's door, on one level or another.”
Gillhouse is quick to remind anyone that Waypoint is not responsible for any miracles, but rather just a tool in the hand of God.
“But it's not anything we do to change it,” he said. “It's what God does. That's what's pretty cool about it. Knowing those four what comes to my mind immediately is all four of those guys are committed to Christ. They know that that's why they do what they do.”
Getting to do “what they do” was a journey in its own.
DREAMING OF TREES
Scranton had always dreamed of one day seeing the Redwood Forest. That dream was completed during his honeymoon, where his wife planned a stay in a treehouse there. When he returned home to his job flipping houses with Greg Stipe, he brought an idea with him.
“Nathan came to me and said 'what do you think about building treehouses?' and inside I thought, 'this man has lost his mind,'” Stipe said. “...That's kind of how we morphed here, is Nathan essentially talking me into it.”
Stipe took the chance, now his treehouse squad is blazing an unprecedented trail in the area.
“They're doing something different, too,” Gillhouse said. “This treehouse thing is a totally different niche and it's their creativity and that kind of stuff that gets to come out. It's pretty cool.”
Now having one treehouse up and running, the team began a more ambitious project, a treehouse subdivision. Yet, the idea of building treehouses for a living is still baffling to the crew.
“I built several treehouses as a kid, nothing like this,” Zwally said.
The four-man crew operates as one unit, smoothly working together with great chemistry, despite the varying levels of experience.
“We've got a perfect crew for it,” Scranton said. “The Lord put it together to where we all have our individual contributions and it works and I don't think it would work without the group that we have together.”
“I think where we’re rooted really helps,” he said. “And the fact that we do know each other from a ministry that we were all a part of and has all impacted our lives.”
Scranton feels it’s his calling to pay it forward by helping out others at Waypoint.
“Five of the six people I've had work with me have been from Waypoint,” he said. “I just try to do that, I feel that's part of why the Lord sent me out from there, because I was perfectly content to work there the rest of my life.”
And while to some, the treehouse squad is building dream getaways, for those currently going through the Waypoint program, seeing Waypoint alumni living successful lives builds more than treehouses.
“It gives these guys hope,” Gillhouse said. “Gives them hope that I can have something like that, that it can be done, that they don't have to continue what they're doing, where they've been.”
And so Stipe hopes that his crew will become an inspiration, not only for the men enrolled at Waypoint, but for people struggling with addiction all over Lumpkin County.
“Addiction is a real problem in Lumpkin County,” he said. “These guys are living proof that you can get to the other side of addiction.”
For more information about Waypoint Ministry, or to donate, visit waypointministry.com or call 706-864-7110.