New Ridgley-based Bible camp gains momentum
Directors offer fall children's teens, men's and women's retreats
Ridge Top Bible Camp in Ridgley has experienced an explosion of growth in a year's time.
Starting from humble beginnings, new to town, walking by faith and facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, directors Bill and Brenda Bennett, and local landowners Mike and Jeanie England, along with the help of several local churches and many volunteers, managed to establish a Bible-based summer camp and year-round retreat and ministry outlet for Barry County residents.
"I believe we have a bright future," Bill Bennett said. "I see great potential for the camp. Our biggest hurdle was getting the septic system in with the Department of Natural Resources and that's all taken care of. The kitchen is all outfitted, and we had great support from five or six churches in the area that helped us with getting all of the equipment.
"I believe it was a God-ordained event for us to meet the people who own the property," Bennett said of Mike and Jeanie England.
According to Bennett, the Englands agreed to rent their land, about 160-acres (the camp utilizes about 60-70 acres) for a $1-per-year lease, and have been instrumental in helping with fundraising activities to get the camp on its feet.
"They're not getting anything out of this other than the blessing of the Lord and being willing to let it be used," he said. "It's not a money-making proposition for anyone. It's a ministry to the community."
And, according to Bennett, the camp has a lot to offer to the community beyond a summer camp.
"I don't think we ever intended it just for summer activities," he said. "We want it to be used year-round. It's an opportunity for us to minister to the community with events they wouldn't otherwise have. We always try to minister to the whole family. Summer camps are mostly for the young people, but one of the things we've found is adults come to events like men's and women's retreats. We also are planning to do outdoor activities to draw people who wouldn't normally come to church, but might to one of these activities."
The Bennetts helped reopen and direct a camp in Tennessee for many years and offered community activities such as quilting, scrapbooking and family outdoor adventure days.
"It's an opportunity for us to minister to adults, not just young people," Bennett said. "There aren't a lot of camps in the area, and the adult retreats aren't something that's offered locally. It's a getaway from the cell phones and the TV."
After their first successful summer camp of the season, with more than 40 children attended and enjoying activities like crafts, music, and Bible-based teachings in a natural setting, the Bennetts are moving forward with their original vision for the camp by offering retreats for men, women, teens and a children's event in September and October.
On Sept. 17, The camp will host Super Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children ages four years through fifth grade, featuring crafts, games, a bounce house, singing and snacks, as an outreach to local families. The event is free and open to the public.
On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, an overnight teens' retreat for youth in sixth through 12th grades will be available. Cost is $25.
On Oct. 7-8, there will be an overnight men's retreat, and on Oct. 21-22, an overnight ladies' retreat. Cost is $25 for each.
Bennett's goal for the teens' retreat is to use a local pastor or missionary colleague to speak to teens, accompanied by a chapel service, Bible teachings and a recreation activity. For the men's retreat, his goal is to utilize local pastors as a resource to provide Biblical teaching. The ladies' retreat will include a video-based curriculum taught by a Christian speaker and author Beth Moore, facilitated by Brenda Bennett.
The Bennetts' plan to become settled into the community over time, including partnering with local churches to facilitate renting camp facilities for Christian-related events, and they are looking at participating in Cassville's annual Chili Cook-off.
"I think the cost [to rent the facilities] is relatively inexpensive," Bennett said. "We just ask that the organization to sign a doctrinal statement about what we believe, which is pretty basic."
As for receiving a paycheck of their own for all of their efforts, the Bennetts report that as faith-based missionaries, they have no concerns, and, as they are accustomed, walk by faith, not sight.
"My wife and I are faith-based missionaries, so any money that comes in goes to support the facilities and putting on these events," Bennett said. "The kids that came to camp, a large portion came without being able to afford to pay, and we had over $1,000 of scholarships given for kids to attend and [the entire venture has] just been a great process. We are with an organization called InFaith Ministries and we have supporting individuals who help us meet our obligations. We have supporters from this area all the way to the East Coast who are involved with InFaith, which has been in force for about 200 years."
At a yard sale and carnival held in the Tractor Supply parking lot last weekend, they raised over $900 for the camp.
"I think the Lord's in it, and we see tremendous potential for expanded ministries and a place for Christian groups in the area to be able to reach out to people in the community," Bennett said. "We're in awe of what God's done in the process."
The Bennetts are laying down roots, buying a house near Wheaton.
"We're planted," Bennett said.
The camp is in the process of making registration forms for events available on its website, but until then, anyone who would like a form or more information can call 417-342-7659 or 417-652-7846. The form and payments can be mailed to P.O. Box 431, Wheaton, MO 64874. Event information is also available on their website: www.ridgetopbiblecamp.com.