Thirteen months of discussion were concluded with a 30-minute auction on October 21, as three Missouri Conference owned camps were sold for $1.75 million.
The auction was conducted at the Courtyard by Marriott Conference Center in Columbia. There were four groups of potential buyers present, and one online bidder. The event had a more spiritual nature than the typical auction. At the beginning, the main auctioneer acknowledged that the camps had been significant places for his family, and for David Babel’s family, the real estate agent working with the sale.
“My son was a product of Wilderness, and his experience there was certainly beneficial. Dave (Babel) met his wife at church camp,” auctioneer Wally Iman said. “I bet everyone in this room has benefited from a church camp experience, and we appreciate everything they’ve put into it.”
Iman acknowledged that seeing the property go would be hard for some people.
“I understand this is a bittersweet moment for people. These camps were conceived, constructed and maintained by thousands of faithful people through years,” he said. “But now this ministry has gone a different direction, and the current ministry will benefit from sale today.”
Each camp had a confirmed opening bid prior to the sale. The first to sell was Blue Mountain (near Fredericktown), with an opening bid of $665,000. It is 542 acres.
After several bids, it sold for $750,000. It was purchased by an individual from the St. Louis area who said he was not yet ready to publically disclose his plans for the property.
The second camp to sell was Wilderness Retreat and Development Center near Lawson. It is 315 acres. Opening bid was $650,000. It received one additional bid and sold for $675,000 to the Wilderness Camping and Retreat Association.
“We’re super excited to keep this going as a camp,” said Mike Bingler. He is a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. “We had previously brought kids from the hospital to camp here that couldn’t travel to other places, and we missed having that opportunity this past year. It’s an experience like no other.”
Bingler said the association was working on plans to host both medical camps and church youth camps at Wilderness.
Camp Galilee, near El Dorado Springs, is 191 acres. It had an opening bid of $315,000, and received one additional bid. It was purchased for $325,000 by Steve Housh.
“This happened really fast for me. I’ve been leaning on God for direction in this,” Housh said.
Housh is a dentist from Eldorado Springs and had previously worked with some horse riding camps at Galilee. He said he found it important to keep the camp open for the community. He plans to work with WINGS Refuge, a local faith-based domestic violence shelter.
The equipment and furnishings from all three camps were sold via an online auction that was open from October 7 – October 28. The online auction was intentionally planned to last a week after the sale of the real estate in case a purchaser of the real estate would also want to purchase some camp equipment. The sales from the three online auctions totaled $181,568.