For nearly 20 years, the South Dakota District Council rented Kamp Kinship to host its kids and youth camps. But in October 2018, that all changed. The district was given an opportunity to purchase the 60-acre campgrounds — and did so — renaming the facility the Black Hills Retreat Center and joined the Christian Retreat Network.
Since that time, the district office has named Joe and Mallorie Bailey as the managers of the center and has begun upgrading the facility to, as Mallorie says, “make it just as appealing to adults as it is to the kids.”
Mallorie, a Central Bible College graduate with a master’s degree in strategic leadership, believes that she and Joe, who is also the youth pastor for nearby Lead Assembly of God, were selected to serve the district in this manner because of the strong relationship they have with the district office as well as Joe’s strong background in construction and maintenance.
But even with an additional focus on adults, District Superintendent Steve Schaible says that one of the biggest factors that led the district to purchase the camp was the value the district places on its youth ministry and the experience students get at youth camp.
“We knew the campground was coming up for sale, and if somebody else bought it, we likely would not have the opportunity to rent it for five consecutive weeks in the summer,” Schaible explains. “That would mean our kids scattered at different campgrounds with no control over costs or dates.”
Also, as Kamp Kinship was owned by an AG minister who wanted to make sure that it remained with the district, he offered it to the district at a price that couldn’t be refused.
“We estimated replacement value of the campgrounds would be well over $3 million,” Schaible says. “We purchased it for $800,000 — a great value!”
Located in the far west central part of the state near historic Deadwood and about 40 miles north of Mount Rushmore, the center saw nearly 1,500 campers attend this past summer’s camps while playing host to several retreats and some events for other Christian denominations and non-profit organizations.
Schaible says the feedback has been all positive — he’s not heard one negative word. “The churches are excited about the opportunities the center provides,” Schaible says, “and our pastors are enjoying it as well — a new vacation benefit with being credentialed with South Dakota is getting to go use one of the cabins there for free every year.”
“We’ve done a ton of improvements and repairs,” Mallorie Bailey says. “We’ve remodeled two staff cabins, done several updates to the dining room area, done a lot painting and staining to the exterior of buildings, built a new shop building, added a new deck onto the dining hall, put in several new concrete porches, and did a lot of general maintenance things that had been defered through the years.”
Audio visual upgrades completed this past year in the chapel and meeting room also made the camp more appealing for retreats. However, next year buffet-style dining for retreats and enhanced meal options will also be offered as over the winter months the kitchen will be remodeled and flooring upgraded.
“In the future we hope to do some fundraising to add on to the dining room as well as add additional meeting space,” Bailey says. Currently the facility can house up to 300 guests.
“Our goal, stated from the very beginning, is not to own a campground, but to own the premier retreat center in the Black Hills of South Dakota,” Schaible says. “It’s not just a pipe dream, but something that’s becoming a reality, as every year we’ll continue improving and adding to the grounds.”
Some of the recreational events already available at the center include basketball, a climbing tower, a zip line, disc golf, kayaks and paddle boats, volleyball, gaga ball, swimming, and more in addition to indoor activities such as carpetball, air hockey, and foosball.
“It’s really an exciting season for the South Dakota Assemblies,” Bailey says. “The center really increases what the district can do. There already is a great cohesion and teamwork between our staff and district leadership — all of us working together — to invest in our youth, adults, and work with other Christian organizations as we seek to further the kingdom of God.”
Source: AG News