CHILLICOTHE – Like many other association camp facilities across Missouri, the Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly is concerned about their summer camp schedule. The Grand Oaks board voted to postpone the opening of the facility until two weeks after state and local authorities lift social distancing restrictions. Depending on when the restrictions are lifted, that may impact some of the camps in the early part of the summer season.
Others are concerned that camps may not be able to be held at all due to several factors. Some are finding that association leaders are uncertain about the viability of the camps and are canceling their programs for the summer. Others are finding parents are expressing reluctance to send children and teens to a group living situation in light of the pandemic. Many camps rely on volunteers who take a week of vacation to volunteer and many of them will not be able to schedule vacation time due to being laid off from work earlier in the spring.
Some associations are postponing camps until later in the summer. A few are merging their camps with other associations and doubling up on available weeks later in the summer.
The Pathway asked several associations about their plans and received a variety of responses.
Jim Gentry, director of missions for the Cane Creek-Stoddard Baptist Association which is based in Poplar Bluff, said they use the South Missouri Baptist Assembly in Van Buren. It is also used by three other associations. Gentry said the assembly board has voted to cancel all activities at the camp until government authorities give an “all clear.” At that point the board will meet to decide how to proceed.
Gentry added, “So, assuming the ‘all clear’ comes before July, the next decision concerning hosting a camp would likely be centered around concerns of parents trusting the camp, having enough money to send their kids to camp, and having enough volunteers who don’t need to go back to work.”
John Vernon, DOM of Cape Girardeau Baptist Association, said he understands that the state authorities are considering a phase in re-opening of the economy. It may take all of May and most of June to implement that. He doesn’t expect groups to be able to have camps until August. They have a facility called Peaceful Valley Camp located about 80 miles south of St. Louis.
Vernon commented, “Peaceful Valley Camp is discussing the current challenges. We will not make a final decision until May 15.”
Vernon added they might have to cancel all camps this summer because of the concerns.
He said if they do cancel, they will try to have some weekend retreats later in the fall. “We will do some day events open to the community at our churches as they are allowed.”
DOMs Timothy Faber and James Plymale told The Pathway they are not planning to cancel or postpone their camps at present. Faber is in Lake of the Ozarks Baptist Association, Eldon, and Plymale is in Franklin County Baptist Association, Union.
Some associations have merged their camps with other association camps. Brad Walker of Harrison Baptist Association, Bethany, is working with Thousand Hills Baptist Association, Kirksville, Linn-Livingston Baptist Associaiton, Meadville, and North Grand River Associaiton, Trenton to host a four-association youth camp at Grand Oaks, Chillicothe, in early August. They are hoping to have an all-clear by that time.
Alan Brock of Linn-Livingston Association has invited the Thousand Hills Association camp for children to join with them in late July.