I received the following email today, it saddens my heart to receive an email like this. Please pray for Sumatanga. I really hate that there is a chance that this wonderful ministry could disappear. As a camper, counselor, director, and team member...I have seen the power, mercy, and love that God has for us through the summer camping ministry. I dream of one day sending my own children to this small patch of Holy Ground.
This past weekend, the United Methodists of North Alabama met for their annual conference. Rev. Bob Murray, executive director of Sumatanga Camp and Retreat Center, gave his report on Friday afternoon. While improvements in hospitality, food, cleanliness and safety have been made in his 18 month tenure, Rev. Murray stated "I don't have good news for you today."
Sumatanga will run out of operating funds some time between August and September of this year. That means camp will not be able to pay staff, pay utilities bills or make payments to creditors.
For over 60 years, the camp has served guests of all denominations as a Christian camp and retreat center. It is best known for it's summer camping program and the Walk to Emmaus. But it is also used year round by diverse goups like cancer survivors, addicts in recovery, the Kairos prison ministry, campus ministries and local church family retreats. In recent years, more guest are choosing to get married at the open air chapel that overlooks camp from Chandler Mountain.
Unfortunately, overall usage of the camp outside of the summer months have been steadily declining for several years. While a business plan that aggressively markets the camp has been implemented, the steady decline combined with the recent recession have dramatically impacted group reservations.
If business continues on its current pace the camp will cease to exist as year-round camp and retreat center. The camp is currently $900,000 in debt and is running about $300,000 a year behind in revenue for its usage.
Rev. Murray shared that while he believes that Sumatanga is relevant to the ministry of the Methodist Church and of North Alabama, he told the conference delegates that ultimately they would have to decide if camp would continue as a vital ministry. He noted that the biggest help to Sumatange would be for churches to make more use of the camp and have more overnight events there.
Following this report a passionate discussion from the floor began. A motion was made and approved for each church in the conference to take a special offering for the camp by the end of July. As well, a clergy person pledged $1,000 and challenged 100 other delegates to join him that day in making the same gift. A goal has been set to raise at least $300,000 in donations that can be used for operations by the end of the summer. As of Monday, June 8, over $85,000 had been received or pledged.
As Bob shared with a guest booking an event this week without a guarantee that the camp will be open at that time, "I don't know yet what is God's ultimate plan for Camp Sumatanga. But I rest in the knowledge that His plan is perfect."
Camp Sumatanga is on the web at www.sumatanga.org and their phone number is 256-538-9860. The 1,700-acre site is open year round for families, churches, schools, and corporate groups. Accommodations range from RV hookups and cabins to dormitory style halls and motel style rooms. They offer summer camping and year-round accommodations.
If you want to help keep camp alive, mail a check to:
3616 Sumatanga Road
Gallant, AL 35972
Make it out to Sumatanga
memo line: general donation
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