By Hannah Boggs and Hannah Fleming,
Message Staff Writer
From new paint to new programs to new buildings, Louisiana’s Baptist encampments throughout the state have been extremely busy and productive making improvements and, even expanding, all the while keeping up with a busy summer camping season.
Here is what has been taking place at some of those encampments:
ACADIAN BAPTIST CENTER
EUNICE – For the past 39 years, the Acadian Baptist Center, a former Baptist school, has provided Southwest Louisiana with a quality camp and conference experience. Their vision is to con tinue that service for another 100 years.
In order to accomplish this feat, though, it would take money … a great deal of money. Well, ABC has been getting lots of money thanks to a capital building campaign which was started more than a year ago in June.
Within a few months of its start, through God’s blessing, the money began to flow into the campaign. It not only surpassed its original goal of $1.4 million but organizers were so encouraged, they set a new goal which would take them over the $3 million mark. Currently the camp is just $45,000 shy of its $2,030,000 phase 1 goal.
“It’s just getting really exciting seeing how God is at work here,” said ABC Camp Director James Newsom.
Before setting the new goal, ABC hired a company to do a feasibility study to see how much support was out there for the camp and how much money that could be raised. ABC is supported by six associations, 80 churches, numerous individuals and companies
“The company interviewed a hundred of our constituents, board members, campers, local pastors, and supporters. The results showed there was a lot of love for ABC and the ministries we have here. A lot of kids have been saved here at the camp over the years.
“So, we decided to look to the future and begin a capital campaign. We called it Lighthouse for the Next Century. We started in June and I believe it’s around $1.95 million and growing daily. It’s exciting to watch God at work. The Lord has really blessed us and this campaign.”
The Baptist encampment, which is located just outside of Eunice, plans on renovating its dorms while also constructing new ones. In addition they will be retiring the debt for the purchase of additional acreage, the expansion and renovation of its cafeteria and the replacement of the roof around the gym complex. They also plan to build some new cabins for the worship center as well.
“We’re going to renovate the dorms right after the conclusion of our summer camps in August,” said Newsom, “and we are going to make them really nice. We are also going to build a new dormitory because to be honest we could use the additional beds.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the camp is indicative in the number of campers who show up for camp at the center.
“We had three camps in the last two weeks of June and we just finished with one during the first week in July that had more than 400 kids,” he said. “We will have more than 8,000 campers this year.”
Among the camps hosted by ABC, there has been an equestrian camp for girls; a Church of God youth camp with about 140 and a day camp with about 50 kids. They’ve also held RA, GA and Missions camps as well. And to wrap up the summer, ABC will also host a number of band and football camps.
LORANGER – “The Lord has really blessed us over the last six years,” said Living Waters Camp Director Keith Maddox.
Currently the camp is working on a building called the “Promised Land.” The project which is now in its third year, is a set of duplex cottages (25 x 25 feet) that have private rooms on each side. It will have 10 different cottages and a couple of breakout rooms and a worship center when it’s complete. To date, Living Waters has completed seven out of the 10 cottages and the funding for an eighth.
“We are moving right along,” Maddox said.
Living Waters continues work on a long-range plan that was put into place a few years back and we are also raising funds toward a retreat lodge which will have 10 private rooms and a meeting room all under one roof. The lodge, when completed, will have 4,800 square feet.
“Once that long-range plan is completed, the camp will be able to house and facilitate 750 people,” said Maddox.
Just in the last six years, Living Waters has doubled its capacity. Where it could only sleep about 160 people, the encampment can now host 300 easily.
“It is our plan, as God provides, to do more in the next 10 years,” Maddox said.
And God and supportive churches have definitely been providing.
“We’ve had our churches step up and donate $10,000 dollars for a cottage,” Maddox said. “Almost all of our labor is volunteered. We often have different churches say ‘Hey, we want to be a part of this’ and they give us a check.
“We have even had some individuals who have stepped it up as well,” he said, “so that’s the way we have funded the building most of those cottages.”
The lodge, the cottages and repairs to the infrastructure has been funded by two programs started by the camp and called ‘Be the One’ and ‘Vision Partner Program.’
The first is directed to the churches that support Living Waters. They are asked to see if they can incorporate the camp into the budget for a $100 a month or 1 percent of their budget or maybe a $1,000 a year. Several churches responded and donated.
“Our goal was to find a 100 churches who could do this,” said Maddox, “and right now we’re up to about 45 to 50 churches that have been able to include us in their budgets.
“The other program we started is for individuals. There are 300 churches and if we can find three people in each of these 300 that would be 900 people who would give $10 a month, we could raise $9,000 a month,” Maddox said. “We set our goal to find a 1,000 people. We’ve had this program for about two years and it has grown steadily but it hasn’t quite taken off.”
Still, Living Waters has received a lot of money just not in the large sums.
“It’s true a lot of the money has come in little numbers,” said Maddox, “but that’s OK. There’s an old hymn they’ve put on their program that says `Little is much, when God is in it.’
“So that’s been our philosophy,” Maddox continued. “If we could get a 1,000 people, that would be $10,000 a month and $120,000 a year. That sum would build a pretty good building for us here. Everything that’s been done is because God’s people felt led to give.”
Maddox said $10,000 is probably the biggest gift Living Waters has ever received. “We haven’t had a big influx of money,” he said. “It’s always been in smaller numbers. But for every dollar we receive we are truly grateful and blessed.”
It has been a busy summer for Living Waters which has hosted three children’s camps and a youth camp they programmed themselves. The remainder of the summer has been filled with churches that come and do their own camp.
“We’ve either hosted or put on camps,” Maddox said. “We will end the summer by having some high schools use our facilities for their football camps. We also have numerous small retreats and small groups year round.
“We’ll run about 85 to 90 percent occupancy throughout the year on the weekends,” Maddox said. “So, there is not many weekends we’re not busy doing something which is a good increase and we are able to handle the increase because our budget has tripled and our capacity has doubled. God just continues to bless us.”
WOODWORTH – Tall Timbers Conference Center is literally bursting at the seams.
“It seems that way some weeks, but it’s a problem I don’t mind,” said Sam White, Director. “Everybody here looks forward to the summer. We know the days and weeks are going to be long but no one seems to mind. From start to finish, there’s not a whole lot of breathing room for my staff like there used to be but I think everybody here looks forward to this time of the year.”
“I guess it is because of all the lives that can and have been changed here,” White said. “So, we are excited to see all the camps and children who do come here.”
Camps are not the only thing keeping White and his staff busy this summer as the center is finishing up a cabin that used to be the old maintenance shop.
“I think originally when the camp opened in the 60s it was a cabin, and then whenever we grew and our needs expanded we needed it for a maintenance shop,” White said. “Since maintenance now has its own, new building set up further away on the other side of the camp, we’ve decided to turn it back into a cabin which provides more space for campers.”
The refurbished cabin, which opened at the beginning of July, holds 40 beds.
“We were able to open it for use just in time for our three large youth camps, which actually kept us from having to house a few churches at the Wesley Center down the highway and drive to camp here each day,” White said. “The guests love the new setup (four small rooms housing 10 each rather than two large rooms of 24 each) and enjoy the added amount of showers and restrooms it has.”
Tall Timbers, which opened for camp use in 1963 after being purchased by the WMU (Women’s Missionary Union), is the LBC’s only state camp instead of an associational camp. Like so many other camps, the facility is also involved in a significant fundraiser.
“We’re in fundraising mode for the $1.5 million Georgia Barnette Conference Center,” White said. “The center, which was begun as an initiative of the LBC’s Missions and Ministry team, is trying to raise the necessary funds to build the GBCC. It’s to be a center that can be utilized as a missions training center for the entire state where all Baptists can come for training in missions, Sunday school and other church leaders.
The new center will replace the Kathryn Carpenter Chapel, which existed at Tall Timbers from 1975 until the widening of U.S. Highway 165 was expanded to four lanes in 2003. Tall Timbers lost land to the expansion and in the process lost the chapel and the director’s house.
“It’s been an ongoing effort through the years that we wanted to replace the chapel, and we decided we want to have one large building that we could use for a chapel but also use for different areas,” said White.
The center – planned to be built to the left of the dining hall – is to include a coffee bar in a spacious foyer, assembly areas that will seat 280, or up to 400 with wings expanded, seven conference/training rooms, restrooms and an office.
“We’re just waiting for some additional funding before we break ground on it,” White said. “The center has also set aside a new area for an RV park.”
To date, $742,898.02 or almost half of what is needed has been raised. However no date has been set to break ground for the new center.
Tall Timbers has been booked this summer which goes through August and into September. Also, schools utilize the center’s facilities for orientations. It has already hosted nine camps. Three kids’ camps by One-Way Ministries, an RA Camp, two GA Camps and three youth camps are booked.
PELICAN – Clara Springs Baptist Encampment, a 61-year-old, 70-acre campground, is a hidden jewel nestled in the midst of beautiful pines and stately oaks just outside the DeSoto Parish town of Pelican, located in Northwest Louisiana.
The Baptist encampment serves the 123 churches of District Eight which includes the associations of DeSoto, Natchitoches, North Sabine, Red River and South Sabine while also playing host to numerous summer and kids camps. Among the camps offered there this summer has been an Autism camp, DARE camp, Spanish camp, family camp, as well as youth, girls and boys and pre-school camps. They also allow and encourage churches to hold retreats and a monthly fish fry there.
Needless to say, camp manager Bubba Mills, his wife Mandi and the camp’s workers stay pretty busy during the summer. However, they may soon find themselves becoming busier with the completion of a new lodge – Eagle Lodge – which can handle 24 people on either side and contains a meeting room in the middle.
They have also built a new gym, tractor shed, new gift shop, seven new dorms and have completely remodeled the worship center. Also, a new 12,000-square foot dining hall, capable of seating 450 people, was completed and is being utilized. The dining hall includes a full kitchen, a snack shack and a camp gift shop.
All the new construction not only makes things more central, but provides a safety factor as well.
“One of our mains concerns was the kids having to cross the highway so much,” Mills said. “As a result of this, they have relocated the dining hall and built any new buildings on the other side of the road so the campers only need to cross the street once.”
A new parking lot across from the dining hall was also recently finished and is now in use.
Though Clara Springs has finished many renovations, they are currently in the middle of turning the old dining hall rooms into multiple offices.
The money for all of these projects has been donated from multiple individuals and churches throughout District Eight and even from people outside of the state.
“Every time we come up with something, God provides a way,” Mills said. “Lee Dixon, our director of missions, is the one who helps us raise the money, promote it and get the support from the churches we need.”
Clara Springs is casting a vision and God is faithful in providing for it.
“We’re all just trying to find a way for them to know the Lord,” said Mandi Mills.
EROS – Seeker Springs ministry in Eros is on the path of serving God in the community by providing camps and retreats for those around. Seeker Springs hopes to be “set apart in God’s creation to provide life changing opportunities for people to seek God and serve others.”
The camp’s executive director Terry Slawson and his wife Tammie are working with teams to help create a God-seeking environment at Seeker Springs.
To help better the atmosphere, they are in the middle of a number of renovations. Currently, they are remodeling their camp lodge by putting on a new roof and fixing the insides. This new lodge will provide the camp an additional 6,000 square feet of space and give them the ability to hold more than one event at a time.
This is only the start of their overall master plan.
Seeker Springs, formerly the Old Okaloosa Baptist Encampment, has bought more than 190 acres over the years.
“Our master plan takes in the development of the new property,” said Slawson. “We plan on building a new youth lodge, a worship and dining hall, additions to the ropes course and much more.
The funds for these projects are being donated by individuals and multiple church groups.
“We are doing it as the Lord provides,” said Slawson when asked about how long the projects will take. They are still in the process of completing the master plan and its costs.
One thing that may be different about Seeker Springs is the amount of mission camps they provide. Mission teams from all over Louisiana and other states come to the camp to help provide for the people in the community that cannot provide for themselves. They help set up camps for children who cannot afford them.
These mission camps began in 1999 and are only growing.
“This camp is a model of what the Christian community is all about. We cross cultural boundaries for the sake of the Gospel.”
They also offer day camps, boys and girls camps, sports camp and a SLAM (Student Leadership and Mission) camp. Seeker Springs welcomes adults, families and children to come and experience Christ.
DRY CREEK — The camp which operated only 10 days a year in the 1950s has flourished into a year-round camp and retreat center. Dry Creek Baptist Encampment is not only a camp but a growing community in Dry Creek.
Todd Burnaman, the camp manager, has great plans for the camp which is helping those who attend to better experience Christ and part of Burnaman’s vision/plans can be seen in the recent renovations.
The biggest of these projects is the recently completed Thomas Building. The building is a 1,800-square-foot house featuring two bedrooms and two baths that is set aside for pastors, ministers and missionaries to rent out for a limited time.
“It’s a big need for pastors,” said Burnaman, “if they have had a bad week and just need a place to get away this is the place. I believe it is going to be a huge blessing for any pastor who comes.”
The camp is also working renovating the dorms and making them moveable for future plans as well as adding on to the dining hall.
The second, and perhaps the biggest project, was the completion of a new pool which replaces the old, original pool. The new pool is fully automated.
“Besides being new, what makes this new pool nice is the automation. We now can take those nine hours we used to set aside to maintain the old pool and instead use it to take care of people instead,” said Burnaman.
The camp has also invested in the purchase of an additional 45 acres. Dry Creek has spent more than 30 years trying to buy this property. Its addition will allow the camp to build a new meeting space, a pond, nature trails and much more.
“Our kids are disconnected from nature and don’t spend enough time outdoors anymore,” said Burnaman.
He plans to reconnect the kids with nature and use it to connect them to the gospel.
All of the money was donated for these projects. By the time they needed the money, the money was there and God provided.
Dry Creek Baptist camp is in the middle of a busy summer with camps such as two opportunity camps for at risk youth, girls and boys camp, GA camp, mission camp, journey camp, adventure youth camp, preteen camps, and a back to school camp. Rental groups from churches also come and rent out places for their own conferences throughout the year.
Dry Creek Baptist camp is reaching out to the community around them and is connecting people to the gospel every day.