FENTON, MI – “Bambi is not closing.” I have said these words over and over again in recent months. There is no plan to close the camp. None. We understand that many Michigan Baptists are concerned about the future of Bambi. For years, attendance at retreats has been down from days past, buildings need remodeling, equipment needs to be purchased, and we need a new camp leader. These are just some of the challenges. People hear about these challenges and are concerned that we might be considering closing the camp, but just the opposite is true.
The BSCM is committed to realistically addressing the issues facing Bambi as we challenge Michigan Baptists to pray, work, attend, and give to make Bambi a premier retreat and conference center in Michigan that will help meet the spiritual needs of our churches.
Yes, there are challenges, but there are also great things happening at Bambi. Michigan Baptists have been investing in the camp for decades. Together, we have built a camp that many Michigan Baptists love. In fact, several generations of families have experienced God through the ministry of Bambi. Some of our retreats this year actually set attendance records and others came close. The infrastructure of the camp is sound and the location is ideal to get away from life's distractions to intentionally focus on our relationship with God. A massive clean up project was conducted last spring by staff and volunteers. Mission teams continue to serve at Bambi from Michigan and beyond. One mission team is making plans to paint the Lodge next summer. Renovations on the retreat speakers' guest room are already in progress.
The reality is that the challenges facing Bambi can be overcome. Attendance can and will go up, retreat content is being strengthened, buildings can be renovated, equipment can be purchased, and new staff can be called. As we plan for Bambi's future, let me remind you of how Bambi came to exist.
Michigan Baptist churches from across the state made their way to the Roscommon area on June 21, 1958. The 240 acre Lauren Gun Club was for sale for $44,000. Fred Hubbs, Executive Director of the Baptist State Convention (BSCM) at the time, thought it would make an excellent state camp. He challenged Michigan Baptists to consider buying the club. He knew the price would be an incredible financial undertaking for the recently formed and struggling convention, so he called Michigan Baptists to a time of prayer. He also set a date for churches to meet and look at the property. Hubbs set a goal of 100 people being present as a sign from God that the Convention should purchase the property and make it a retreat center.
Michigan Baptists gathered at the appointed time. The group formed a circle near the lake and began to count. Excitement grew as they counted 60, then 70, then 80. It was going to be close. Many, no doubt, were counting ahead to see how many were there. Some say Fred Hubbs was the 100th person, some that he was the 101st, but all agree that there was a clear sense that God was leading Michigan Baptists to purchase the property we now call, “Bambi.”
Michigan Baptist Churches demonstrated the power of partnership, not only when we purchased the property, but also as we built and develop it. Bambi has been and continues to be a great part of our Convention's history. The future of Bambi depends (just like it always has) on our churches. It takes churches working together that make a camp like Bambi possible.
So what can a church like yours do?
1. Pray for God's direction as we call our next Bambi leader. Having the right person lead Bambi in the days to come is critical. Our desire is to build on Bambi's wonderful heritage as we develop retreats and add amenities that will impact lives and punch holes in the darkness for the Glory of God. Leadership matters, and we are committed to find the very best leader for the future. Let's join together in prayer and seek God's direction knowing He's got this! (1)
2. Lead your church to participate in Bambi retreats. The reality is that people are transformed, believers are encouraged, and churches are strengthened through Bambi retreats. Tears filled my eyes at Girls' Camp this summer as I watched them carry flags into the chapel from the places we have missionaries. I listened as they studied about and prayed for the advancement of God's Kingdom in our world. My mind was captivated by the thought there could be some in the service that day who would become the next generation of missionaries sent out by Michigan Baptists. I experienced the presence of God as I greeted people for the Harvest retreats, Men's retreats, WMU retreats, and Metamorphosis Youth retreat. Retreats impact people and churches for Christ! Take advantage of the many marvelous opportunities held there each year.
3. Send a mission team to Bambi. It's a great way for your church to make a difference in Michigan as people all over the state benefit from your ministry. There are a number of ways your church can get involved. We need teams to get the camp ready for next summer - everything from yard work to general maintenance and remodeling. Your church could send and sponsor summer missionaries to serve at Bambi. Your mission team could volunteer to help staff a retreat. Your church could send a financial gift to help with repairs, purchase of equipment, or provide scholarships for people to attend a retreat.
The future of Bambi is what we make it. We are not closing Bambi.
(1) Arthur L. Walker, jr. BY THEIR FRUITS, published by the Baptist State Convention of Michigan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.