Beechtree Circle was owned by the Berg family, members of Circle Church. They bought it when the husband received a large retroactive bonus for good performance on the job. They bought it in 1978 with the intention of sharing it with others, and over the years it has blessed many.
I firmly believe that Circle Urban Ministries would not exist in its current form if there had been no Beech Tree Circle.
You had to reserve your time in advance–stays were three or four days and you had to clean the house before you left (and you had to take your garbage with you). There were four bedrooms and two bathrooms in the original house. There were extra mattresses so groups could do retreats there (and many did).
It was 12 miles or so from South Haven, Michigan. You could really get away from it all. There was a long, winding driveway with lots of trees along it. The Austin Community Fellowship men had to shovel it out after the big snowstorms in 1979. Their retreat was several days longer than expected because they couldn’t go back to Chicago until the driveway was usable and the roads were cleared.
For many years there was no TV. It was a place to relax amidst the beauty of God’s creation. It encouraged reflection. One could forget, when there, about all the complications and ugliness in Chicago. After a few years, they added a sun porch to the lake side of the house. It was wonderful to sit there and just look at the lake.
There was always wood for the fire place, books, jigsaw puzzles, and games. There was a hot tub, which caused them much grief, but it was an essential part of the Beech Tree experience. Both of the Bergs had grown up in Japan, so they were familiar with the concept. Some people really enjoyed getting out of the hot tub and running down to jump in the lake or the snow.
It was a special blessing to Austin Community Fellowship and the people who worked at Circle Urban Ministries–no one was getting rich working there so vacations were not taken often because of the expense. Individuals or families could go for several days, taking food with, so the only expense was the gas to get there.