LaMoine Christian Service Camp & Retreat Center

Open Letter from Doug Hamer, Director

February 15, 2016

Dear Friends of LaMoine Christian Service Camp,

The purpose of this letter is to update all my friends and camp partners on how God has intervened in the camp’s plans to renovate and modernize our cabins. I am also putting this time in my life and the life of our camp on paper so that you might share it with anyone and everyone who you believe would be interested in knowing this part of our story.

For me the story begins way back in February of 2007 when a LaMoine Christian Service Camp 3-Phase Stewardship Plan was first created. This plan is currently available on the camp website. The camp stewardship plan was meant to be a dynamic plan, in that it would change over time. It also represented the camp’s best efforts to be good stewards of what God had blessed us with in order that we might maximize our ministry opportunities. Phase 1 of this plan was to eliminate our debt; which at that time was in excess of $100,000.00. This debt was taken on when we constructed our retreat center building and new offices. By the end of 2007, our debt was paid off. Phase 1 was complete.

Soon after the debt was eliminated, the Camp Board began to meet regarding phase 2 of our stewardship plan. Phase 2 was to improve current facilities to a higher standard of excellence and 100% usability, of which replacing the bath domes and converting our cabins into year round usability were a part. The Board determined early on to combine these two projects into one by adding restroom facilities onto each cabin. This would allow our campers to stay in their cabin structure throughout the evening and prevent winter retreat guests from having to use restrooms in another building. Above ground storm shelters were incorporated into the plan as well. While several building ideas were considered, the plan and design we have now was determined to be the best given the salvageable condition of our current cabins and the space constraints of the camp’s current layout.

The next step was to develop a timetable for raising money and completing the project without disrupting camp operations. Not going into debt was a high priority for me as well as our Camp Board. My feeling at the time regarding camp debt was that it might make sense for a single church to take on short term debt to grow its ministry reach, but that our camp supported by 40+ churches should not have to, and that if we did, perhaps we were getting ahead of God rather than waiting on His timing. It was determined that we would raise the money to remodel one cabin, Girls #1. This cabin would then serve as a “model” for people to see and get excited about what the rest of our camp would eventually look like. We would then spend a few years raising the funds needed to renovate three more cabins at one time. These 3 cabins would be the boy’s side of camp because the bath dome on that side is in the worst condition. After these were completed, there would be another phase of fundraising before renovating our final 3 cabins. During the years when only part of our camp was renovated, the new cabins would be used by our girl campers. We were hoping to partner with World Mission Builders on the 3 cabin builds. We were made aware of WMB by one of our camp friends, Rick Balmer, who was serving on their Board. Since 1975, WMB has built more than 230 churches and para-church buildings both foreign and domestically in 88 countries. Having WMB on our project would save us a considerable amount of money and time during construction. Our best estimate of cost was $50,000 for infrastructure expense and $100,000 to renovate each cabin. Once begun, the time needed to complete the project was estimated to be 5 to 8 years. While this plan would take several years to complete, it did meet our desire of not going into debt.

Over the past 5 years or so many things have taken place moving us along the path of this plan. We worked with a contractor and we parted ways with a contractor. We worked with an architect and we parted ways with an architect. Cost was a part of these decisions but mostly we decided to do our best with the resources around us. A Christian man in the Quincy area heard of our need and volunteered to do our architectural drawings at no cost to the camp; saving us approximately $25,000. We had a fundraising campaign called “$50,000 in 5 Months” (which we extended 5 more months) to raise the remaining money needed for cabin #1. We did our best to find contractors and volunteers willing to partner with us on our project. And we prayed a lot and we stressed a little too. Once we received our building permit from the state in December of 2014, we were as ready as we could be to begin construction on Girls #1 following the 2015 summer camp season. Fast forward to June 3rd of this year. Campus Student’s For Christ at Western Illinois University in Macomb was in the middle of constructing their new multi-purpose worship center. Barry Reed, CSC Director, invited me to an evening meal to speak to the volunteer work crew comprised mostly of WMB. Not only was I to give a brief overview of our ministry but I could also speak about our cabin plans. While some were already aware of our desire to partner with them on our project through Rick, I saw this as a great opportunity to share with them myself face to face. After my talk, I wanted to meet and speak with the man in charge of scheduling their domestic projects. This was the briefest of conversations but what he did say was that our vision was too small, and that we ought to be doing all of the cabins at once, but that it was our decision.

As I drove home that night, I experienced what I consider to be my “road to Damascus” experience. Yes, it was on the road from Macomb to my home outside of Burnside, and thankfully God didn’t blind me while I was driving, but nonetheless He was speaking very clearly to my mind and to my heart. During the next 30 minutes, God convinced me that it was not just this man who challenged me, but that it was God Himself who had a message for me and for our camp. God was about to not blind me, but to open my eyes. First God made it clear to me that I was wrong about several things. I had long believed God’s timing for our building project would be determined by when He gave us the money. The first thing God made clear to me was that His timing is His timing and His will is His will and it is not limited to what I think is best or by what might make me comfortable. He followed that up with how I had been persecuting Him in that I had put Him in a box built by the walls of my own personality and my own preferences. He also told me that I was another doubting Thomas and that is why He had to bring me to the CSC project so I could see with my own two eyes what WMB is capable of, or I would not have believed the scope of our project was doable in a shorter period of time. I shed many tears on this drive as God convicted me; as He showed me that I did not know Him like I thought I did, and I did not know what was best for our camp like I thought I did. In spite of experiencing the pain from these revelations, joy and anticipation overfilled my soul because I knew God was revealing Himself, and I knew He was about to pour out His blessing on our camp.

I must mention here that it is not uncommon for God and me to spend time together on camp business. As a matter of fact, it happens multiple times every day. I wake up in the morning and I go to bed at night trying to get my lead from God regarding our camp. I know He is in charge of this ministry and I try my best to be connected to His will for our camp. I like to think that all the good ideas come from Him and all the bad ones are mine. The other staff have some every now and then too; good ideas, that is. I also know God speaks to all of His children and I know for certain how God is very involved in what takes place with His and our camp.

This time was different though. Mostly in the clarity of the communication and in how it was so opposed to what I thought He wanted. It was clear God was laying out a plan for our camp that included renovating all of our cabins at one time with the help of WMB. I was scared to death. The idea of our camp being rendered inoperable as it is completely turned upside down was a very scary thought. Could all this work be done in one off season or are we risking not having a camp for a summer? And what about the money we don’t have? And how can I possibly communicate this to the Camp Board and our camp supporters? While I knew I had to process and act on these concerns, I also knew nothing would stop this plan from moving forward because it was from God and He would bless it.

The next day, June 4th, I came into work and immediately met with Jon, our Facilities Manager. I shared with him about my visit to CSC and what had transpired on my drive home. I asked him if we could possibly renovate all of our cabins in one off season. While he didn’t exactly exude confidence, he did say “yes” he thought it could be done. I’m sure Jon was just as anxious as many others to get moving forward on our cabin projects; perhaps to get them finished before he retires. He also knew God would be leading us.

June 6th was the day of our Open House and Auctions at the camp. Since WMB were still in Macomb on the CSC project, some of their people came out to our event. While Matthew, our Program Manager, has most of the responsibility for this day, it is a busy day for me as well. I mention this because it was in the busyness of this day that a WMB representative asked me if I had a few minutes to talk with him about our project. I managed to find a segment of time during our live auction and so we sat down in the office conference room. The man told me that WMB would like to partner with us on our project. This was great news because it was the first real commitment from a representative of their mission organization to be a part of our project. He went on to say they did, however, have two requirements. The first was that we would reinforce the rafters of our existing cabins. He mentioned he was a structural engineer and our roofs are sagging and if WMB is going to be involved with our project they want everything done correctly. He also offered to help do the work prior to the major renovations and at only the expense of materials to the camp. This all sounded good to me. The second requirement was that we had to do all of the cabins at once. Three cabins at a time was just not a large enough scale project for them to be involved in. This was further confirmation to me of God’s plan. If we were to partner with WMB and benefit from all the savings that entails, we had to do all our cabins at one time. After I told him I would have to talk about this with the Camp Board, he gave me yet another confirmation that God was behind this whole process. He told me how he thought and how I probably thought that God brought him to our camp that day to discuss this project; but in reality God brought him here for another reason. He told me of his own personal experience of spiritual growth and faith building that happened while at our camp that day for the very first time; even more evidence of God at work. I told him that did not surprise me; because the presence of God cannot be denied when you are on this blessed property.

On Monday morning, I went back into Jon’s office to update him on our story. Things were moving quickly. I remember telling him of the fear I was feeling and he acknowledged that what we were committing to do, was a somewhat scary proposition; but despite that, he did his best to reassure me. While I was still convinced that God was leading us, there was still an underlying fear present. Maybe it was the money, maybe it was not having a back-up plan if the cabins weren’t finished for the start of our camp season, or maybe it was, how am I going to get people to believe what I believe. That night I went to a fellowship dinner and camp meeting in Versailles. The speaker’s message was on following God’s will. He mentioned how when we follow God’s will, often times our natural response will be one of fear. He gave several examples in scripture of this very response of fear to following God’s will as well as how often “do not be afraid” is communicated at these times. The speaker also reassured me with how God promises to always be with us as we trust and follow Him. This was truly a message from God right when I needed to hear it; further confirmation that He knows what we are going through, He knows what we are in need of, and He knows what He is doing.

Later that week, the Camp Board met and I shared with them everything that had taken place. They shared with me, how God had worked on them to consider expediting the cabin renovations project a month before He had worked on me. Apparently in the previous Board meeting, one which I did not attend, Board Members shared how they were getting questions about our cabin renovations dragging on and would we be wise to speed things up even if it meant borrowing money. After all, interest rates are low and building costs are continually rising. It should be noted that I don’t miss Board meetings, but that as a leadership we believe it is healthy for the Board to meet at least one time a year without me present. By the end of this Board meeting, it was evident to all of us that God was leading our camp down a very exciting path.

During the next month, WMB put us on their schedule for the last two weeks of September 2016, Jon submitted a new permit application to the state of IL for all 7 cabins, and I secured financing at First State Bank of IL in Carthage. If needed, a line of credit would be granted at prime rate, approximately 4%, that we initially will be required to only make interest payments on. During this time; we also did our best to narrow in on a better cost estimate and discuss what local contractors and volunteers from the CSC project would be willing to work on our project. Do you think maybe God had our two projects aligned in time for His purposes?

In the July Board Meeting, I updated the Board on progress made since our last meeting. I then asked them to vote on three things. First and most importantly, I asked them if they believe that partnering with WMB and renovating all 7 of our cabins after the 2016 summer camp season was God’s plan for our camp. They unanimously said yes. Really, this is the only question that needed to be answered, but I wanted the Board to confirm two other things as well. I asked them if they believe that our camp partners and volunteers will rally around our camp during the construction process to ensure that we have our cabins ready for the 2017 summer camp season. They again unanimously said yes. Lastly, I asked them if they believe our Member Churches and financial supporters will provide the funds necessary to pay for these camp improvements and/or service a loan if needed. Again, they unanimously said yes. And so at this point, officially and together, we all became committed to following God’s plan.

I want to share one more, what I consider to be, key part of this story. Just like when God gave Saul some specific instructions about what he was to do when he had his road to Damascus encounter, God had a specific directive for me. Still on the road from Macomb to home, God made it very clear to me that I was to share His plans for our camp with the people of the Christian Church in Camp Point. I knew Camp Point was where our camp started almost 70 years ago, but besides that I didn’t really know why God gave me this clear instruction. Sometime later in July, I was reading the newsletter from the church in Camp Point, as I always read our camp area church newsletters, and I saw where they were going to be having a camp-themed service in Bailey Park. I sent an email to Gay at the church and asked if Wendy and I came would I be allowed to give an update on our summer camp season and what God has in store for our future. She responded with a very welcoming, yes. A few weeks later, I received another email from Gay asking if I could be their speaker that day as their Minister would be out of town. It was clear to me that God was even helping me to fulfill the instruction that He had given me. And so on August 30th, by hardly any effort on my part, I found myself in Camp Point, at Bailey Park, where the beginning days of our camp took place, on a stage in an open-air pavilion, sharing this story of God’s plan for our camp. And now you too have heard this great news!

Now I want to give you some specifics about our building project and how God has continued to work and bless our decision to trust and follow Him. Based on our conversations with Barry about his experience at CSC, we anticipate a savings in the neighborhood of $100,000 on labor and material costs by partnering with WMB. Let me give you one example of a significant savings. WMB already has an existing relationship with a Christian owned truss company in Illinois. In our case, a truss would be defined as a framework or structure to support a roof. This company will purchase the lumber we need to build our walls and trusses when prices are typically lowest. They will then set those materials aside, and when needed, they will build our walls and trusses and ship them to us. They will not charge us any profit on the lumber and they will not charge us any labor for building our walls and trusses. We also estimate that we will save an additional $100,000 by having our paid contractors working on all 7 cabins at one time and by incurring all of our costs at current prices versus rising prices over time. We also expect to cut a minimum of 5 years off the time needed to complete our cabin renovations; meaning Jon can get them done before retirement. And, of course, our campers, faculty, and retreat guests can benefit from them much sooner than previously thought. Another benefit is that we will not have half of our campers in new and air-conditioned cabins and half as they currently are for several years. Our best estimate of cost at this time is $75,000 per cabin with $50,000 for infrastructure needs. We currently have in excess of $167,000 that has already been generously given toward these cabin renovations. Let’s consider that amount will cover the cost of 2 cabins. We also have in excess of $94,000 in our undesignated general fund reserve. Let’s consider we may have to use about half of that money for our infrastructure needs. That leaves us with 5 cabins to raise the money for. Just this week a Board Member from one of our Member Churches called and informed me that their church was committing to contribute $15,000 a year for 5 years to our project and that this money would be given above and beyond their already generous financial support. Incidentally, their contribution in years 2 through 5 would cover the cost of interest on any loan that we would need to acquire. That leaves 4 cabins to raise the money for. There is a couple in our area who are very dear to our camp and to Wendy and I, and they love our camp and believe very strongly in our work, and they are going to take money out of their retirement investments to help the camp with our building project. Soon they will be gifting the camp $100,000; $75,000 toward the cost of renovating one cabin and $25,000 to our general fund. The gift to the general fund is to help offset any regular giving that may be directed away from our general fund needs and toward our cabin renovations in the upcoming fiscal year. That leaves just 3 cabin renovations that we need to raise the money for. If our estimates are correct, our current financial need to complete this project is approximately $225,000; or perhaps $275,000 if we do not need to use any of our reserve funds. Isn’t it amazing and even overwhelming what God is doing and has already done through His people, even though we are just now officially announcing this new direction for our cabin renovations?

I have shared with you what our alive, active and generous God is doing for our camp. I have shared with you how one of our Member Churches are creatively choosing to give their support to our growth initiative. And I have shared with you how one couple will take a step of faith to generously invest in the lives of our children for many years to come. Perhaps, the next story to be written will be yours. Perhaps, God has been speaking to you as I have shared this amazing and exciting news. Perhaps, now is the time for you to hear His voice, trust and follow His leading, and add to OUR story. We have less than a year before we will be breaking ground. We have about 18 months before we would need to secure a loan. We do not yet have approval from the state on our plans to renovate all 7 cabins. We do not yet have a concrete contractor that has committed to work on our project. We know that we will have a tremendous need for volunteers even beyond WMB starting in August of 2016 right through to the start of camp in early June 2017. This truly is an “all hands on deck” time for our camp. If you are a disciplined prayer warrior, I ask you to start praying now and to pray daily for this pivotal time in the history of our camp. If you are a leader in your church, please communicate the camp’s plans to the rest of your leadership and consider how your body of believers can be of help. Perhaps, your church has been waiting for the right time to give out of your abundance or maybe a big step of faith is what God is calling you to. In either case, please be open to God’s leading, and then trust and follow Him. Perhaps, you will consider a mission trip in your own back yard during the latter part of 2016 or early part of 2017 and you will allocate time to help serve on our project. Maybe you are a farmer and you will commit a portion of your acreage to grow crops for your camp next season. Whatever God is placing on your mind or putting in your heart, trust Him and follow His leading. If you pray, pray. If you give, give. If you serve, serve. If you lead, lead. Every prayer, every dollar, and every effort you make during this time of your camp’s need will be greatly appreciated and blessed by God. I know there will be ups and downs throughout the next 12 to 18 months. There always are when taking on a major construction project and all that comes with it; but I also know for certain that God has directed our paths and that He will be with us as we trust and follow Him. May God bless you all as He continues to bless LaMoine Christian Service Camp.

Serving Our Savior Together,

Doug Hamer/Director

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