Four Methodist youth camps across Missouri that have hosted campers for decades now face an uncertain future following a decision to close them.

The camps will not be in operation next summer after officials with the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church dismissed the directors of the camp sites, the Columbia Daily Tribune ( ) reported. The conference released a statement earlier this month saying its camping and retreat board decided to go in a new direction with camp programming.

Church officials said the decision stemmed from two years of conversations and analysis. Although the conference receives a $435,000 annual subsidy to run the camp, the year ended with nearly a $48,500 deficit. About $2.6 million needs to be invested for improvements at the camps, according to officials.

Hundreds of people are rallying in an attempt to save them.

Brittanee Jacobs, 24, of Chillicothe set up a Facebook page, called “SaveMOUMCamps,” in hopes of reversing the closure of the camps. She began attending the Wilderness Retreat and Development Center near Lawson when she was 8 and continued to return as a camp leader as she got older.

“I don’t remember life without Wilderness,” she said. “My friends are from there. Becoming a counselor and a staff member were dreams that came true. I found Christ as my savior there. I had planned to be married there.”

Jacobs said there is still hope for the four camps, which also include Blue Mountain Camp at Fredericktown, Camp Galilee at El Dorado Springs and Camp Jo-Ota at Clarence, because they still haven’t been sold.

“Hopefully, the decisions will be reversed,” she said. “They haven’t decided to sell the camps yet. That’s the most optimistic view. I’m hoping for some sort of agreement where the camps can continue.”

The Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet in June to discuss the future of the camps, according to Sherry Habben, the conference’s director of connectional ministries and member of the camping and retreat board.

“We’re looking ahead at how best to reach a new generation of young folks and help our local churches,” Habben said.


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune,