Story By Bella Said
Photography By Kristin Goode

The beauty and wonder of the wetlands surround the buildings, which were built entirely by volunteers with materials donated or paid for with contributions. Birds sing in trees outside of the chapel while the sun warms the wooden walkways. It is a place where people will come — to serve, to heal, to worship and to admire nature’s beauty.

Galilee by the Sea was the vision of Philip Pennington, a man with a passion for God and service.

Pennington walked a long road to get where he is today. He has done mission work in the rainforest and Southeast Asia, worked in music production and run a construction company. But nothing fulfills him the way his new work — community outreach — does.

Pennington relocated to this area 10 years ago, serving as a pastor for two community churches. He soon began to see not only a deep need in our community, but also a deep passion for service among those he pastored. He began organizing missions into neighborhoods where there was a need for repairing and rebuilding. Then his scope grew wider, encompassing the idea of youth mission camps and spiritual retreats and an all-in-one adventure for school-aged children from all over North and South Carolina, where they can not only serve, but also see the ocean and enjoy our beautiful beaches. At the same time, plans for Galilee were underway, providing a home base of sorts for those who came to serve.

Pennington has always had Galilee in his soul. He began drawing plans for a mission camp at age 11 and vowed that if there was a way to create that place he dreamed of, he would do it. And he has, in a way his 11-year-old mind couldn’t have imagined.

Galilee has taken a decade to build. Most everything, from the 3,000-square-foot chapel to the handicapped accessible walkways, has been built by volunteers willing to donate time, materials and knowledge. It is truly an amazing testament to the length and breadth of God’s vision to use not only Pennington’s life, but also to use those in our area willing to give of themselves to create a beautiful place where all are welcome.

Galilee by the Sea is a nonprofit organization, and it has allowed these beautiful lands to be held in perpetuity. It will never fall into private hands, and it will always stand as a wildlife sanctuary and refuge. When it opened its doors just a year ago, it began to do good work immediately, serving the area and also allowing those whose hearts lead to service to have a home base. And now, this summer, things are beginning to ramp up steadily, with planned mission camps and service projects.

Pennington’s dream is for this place to be one of inclusion, where everyone is welcome, everyone is safe and everyone can contribute. Galilee is to be utilized for youth camps, for youth ministry and for service trips into the neediest areas. Pennington wants youth to work side by side with the elderly, helping them to come from nursing homes into a place of beauty.

His greatest need is to have tradesmen, builders and volunteers donate of their time to create tree houses and walkways that special needs children and the elderly can navigate.

“I want children, particularly those in wheelchairs, to be able to stand on a place they could never see, and experience the beauty of nature,” Pennington says. “I want the elderly living here in retirement homes to be able to come and see the beauty of these wetlands.”

He will also continue his youth missions into neighborhoods in need. They will come and help repair what is broken, using their hands and minds to do God’s work for those who do not have either the physical or the financial ability to do so for themselves. In so doing, they will gain as much as they give. This is a win-win situation for so many churches with youth groups and limited funds — the children can combine their mission trips with retreats. They will serve and also experience the beauty of our beaches.

The goal of Galilee is simple: to be a central location where all people can express their gratitude for life and love. It is a place where those serving blend seamlessly with those being served; where one of great wealth digs in the same dirt with one who is needy, tilling the soil to plant vegetables for everyone to eat; where children who have come to serve a mission push children in wheelchairs along walkways built by volunteer hands; where the elderly are honored for their life experience and given a chance to see more than the walls of their retirement home.

And all of this grace and goodwill lies between the walls of this beautiful building, built with love, created with purpose and dedicated to serving our area.

As the mission statement for Galilee by the Sea states so clearly: “We want to enable all people to express their spirituality through community service and the arts.”


If you are interested in donating your time, your services or your knowledge to help create the handicapped-accessible tree houses for Galilee by the Sea, or to serve this community, please contact Pennington at (910) 269-9276 or