DAVIS — Hobby Lobby Inc. has donated $2 million to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for the purchase of Newburn Conference Center, a youth camp near Davis, from the Assemblies of God.
Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist organization, announced the gift on Tuesday.
“We'll be closing on the property very soon, within the next few weeks, I think,” Jordan said in a phone interview. “We'll begin the process of retrofitting the camp for our purposes. But it's in very good condition already.”
The Baptist convention operates Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, home of the largest youth camp in the nation. The new campsite is “just over the hill” from Falls Creek, Jordan said.
“It helps us because we get a camp that's close by,” he said. “It also helps the Assemblies of God because they get $2 million for a camp they were trying to sell.”
Newburn is off U.S. 77 west of Interstate 35 near Turner Falls. Honey Creek runs through the wooded property.
Jordan said the convention's board of directors has authorized plans to relocate the CrossTimbers Children's Missions Camp from McAlester to the new location. The McAlester camp will be put up for sale, he said.
“With this (new) camp, we'll be able to eliminate a lot of redundancy of resources and personnel,” he said. “This gives us a chance to double capacity from what we were able to do in McAlester. The camp there is far larger acreage-wise, but the housing is half the size” of Newburn.
Falls Creek camps are mainly for teenagers, he said. The Newburn site will teach children in grades 3 through 6 about Baptist missions work worldwide.
“We'll have missionaries come and speak to the children,” he said. “We'll have hands-on experiences that will help them to understand what it's like in a different part of the world. In the past, for example, we built a small African hut and gave them the opportunity to go and feel what it would be like to live in a hut and do everything outdoors.”
The donation, Jordan said, is an answer to prayer.
“Throughout the years, we have been privileged to invest in the work of the BGCO (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma) through Falls Creek,” Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green, a Southern Baptist, said in a news release. “The opportunity to help the Falls Creek ministry through this gift brings us great joy.”
The convention had been in talks with Hobby Lobby and the Green family for months leading up to the gift, Jordan said.
The donation makes Hobby Lobby the largest single donor to the convention. Previously, the company donated more than $3 million to the capital campaign for construction of the Falls Creek conference center.
“Over the 100-plus years of our convention, our churches in Oklahoma have given millions of dollars,” said convention Board Chairman Douglas Melton. “Outside of our churches, the Green family has given the largest amount.”
Melton said Oklahoma Baptists “are just going to be so thrilled to have a camp like this. … We may never know this side of heaven how many lives are going to be impacted by the Gospel through this gift.”