JEFFERSON CITY — Windermere Baptist Conference Center on Lake of the Ozarks, will start the coming year with new ownership and renewed financial stability.
As a result of a “non-judicial foreclosure” process that culminated on December 11, 2019, a new owner, Straightway Holdings, Inc., (SHI) and a new non-profit management company, ArukahCove, Inc., will continue operation of the Windermere Baptist Conference Center (WBCC) property with a reduced debt load that will permit increased investment in capital improvements and quality Christian programming in 2020 and beyond.
According to Dr. Neil Franks, president of Straightway Holdings, Inc., the new owner, “An end is in sight to the difficult days that have been plaguing our beloved Windermere. God has used Windermere to change countless lives in the past, and we believe the Lord will do greater things still in the days ahead. The commitment to Christ-honoring recreational ministry of the past will continue to be the priority.
“When we learned of the likely foreclosure of Windermere, our board of trustees believed that Missouri Baptists did not want to the see the camp grounds sold and potentially redeveloped for secular purposes. That is when we took action,” continued Franks. “We felt that the opportunity for securing the land and stabilizing the future of the current ministry more than justified the purchase now, even if Straightway doesn’t own it forever.”
Franks is also president of Missouri Baptist Foundation, (MBF) who along with Waters Edge Ministry Services, Oklahoma, was involved in financing the new ownership structure. MBF incorporated SHI as a holding company for real estate investments. Franks will serve as a member of the board of directors of the management company, Arukah Cove, Inc., that will provide oversight to the day–to–day operations of the Christian camp and conference center.
The Missouri Baptist Foundation is an entity of the Missouri Baptist Convention, who formerly owned the camp property for more than 40 years before a 2001 governance change by the WBCC board of trustees and four other MBC entity boards. Three of the corporations were restored to the MBC by decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals, most recently in February 2019 saying that Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home, like the Foundation, had charters that required MBC approval to change. The WBCC charter omitted that provision and has operated as an independent non-profit since 2001.
The Missouri Baptist Convention itself is not involved in the new ownership structure at Windermere, but because MBF is a convention-related entity, Dr. Franks anticipates Missouri Baptists “will join us in rejoicing that Windermere has been reconnected to the Missouri Baptist family of churches and institutions.”
Franks said that Arukah Cove will retain the staff members who have been working at Windermere faithfully through the financial challenges of late, such as Tim Huddleston, CEO, and Wayne Crull, CFO.
Franks went on to say, “This transaction fits perfectly with the MBF mission to ’develop, manage and distribute funds to Advance the Gospel.’ Our goal is not simply to earn monetary gains through equity and fixed income exchanges, but actually to make investments that make an impact in the lives of Missouri Baptists.”
“Every Missouri Baptist church, individual, and Christian in the Midwest should consider utilizing Windermere on Lake of the Ozarks, for their next youth retreat, senior adult gathering, marriage conference, seminar, family reunion or for their own personal retreat or vacation” says Franks. For information on how to schedule your event at Windermere, call 573-346-5200 or visit their webpage at www.windermereusa.org.
“Rest assured,” Franks said, “Windermere will be operating at full strength in the new year, sharing the Glory of God with every new sunrise at the Lake, and proclaiming the power of the Gospel from this Providentially–provided platform as never before.”