TURNING THE PAGE
Sometimes when you read a good book, you just can’t put it down. You typically start the book thinking, “I’ll just check it out, and we’ll see if we want to keep going.” But when it’s a good one, you just keep turning the page! That’s the kind of story Thousand Pines’ is to me. In 1938 Arthur Gregory, a successful citrus farmer and local developer, envisioned a camp near a lake, high in the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest. Thousand Pines Baptist Camp was initially just a 10-acre property, with a handful of antiquated bungalow-cabins with a kitchen, a lodge, and few other amenities. The lake was yet to be developed. But nearby, in the community of Crestline, Mr. Gregory began development of a dam and a 100-acre lake area known today as Lake Gregory Regional Park. Today, Thousand Pines Christian Camp is over 250 acres, has over 550 beds, and has helped over 1,000,000 people “see, know, and experienced God!” This is our everlasting mission, and currently we’re turning the page on a new chapter of Thousand Pines’ history.
The last year has really been a doozy for all of us, hasn’t it? Though each person has a unique and specific set of circumstances and resulting situation, we all have shared some common experiences this year. First, COVID-19 started to show up in the media in late 2019. By early 2020 the virus was being confirmed to have arrived in the USA. Shortly thereafter, local, state and federal authorities began to respond with stay-at-home orders, border closures, and new health regulations. After a period of extended quarantines, everyone became fatigued with it all and restlessness was felt by all. As various stages of re-opening began, at various times in different locations, it was soon apparent that civil unrest was on the horizon. Since then, it seems our whole world has been on a rollercoaster of sorts. We’ve had highs and lows on all kinds of different levels. But one thing is certain for all… we’re not to maintain just a status quo any longer. We’re all in a new era.
Since March of 2020, Thousand Pines has largely been mandated to be closed. We have had the opportunity to host single-household families in weekend Family Retreats and open a greatly needed Adventure Day Camp for our local community of distance-learning mountain resident students. We’ve also had a couple of local churches gather weekly on the camp for regular worship services outdoors. But our main operation, overnight youth camps, have been completely shut down, due to the mandated closures by our authoritative agencies, as a preventative measure to reduce the impact of COVID-19. The results are significant. A year ago, we had 140 employees. Today, we have less than 30. We typically see over 30,000 campers annually. We saw less than 3,000 in 2020. We usually gross nearly $9M annually. Last year we brought in almost $2M in revenues, almost all prior to March. We are a significantly different looking ministry today than we were just one year ago.
But through it all, God has provided richly. We’ve received over $1M in PPP moneys to help keep key staff gainfully employed. Giving was up quite a bit too. We received over $1.5M in gifts from donors and estates, that has also propped the ministry up during this time. And to the surprise of us all, we are financially healthier today than we were even a year ago, when we just closed out the biggest year of ministry Thousand Pines had ever seen in our rich 80+ year history. Though we’ve largely been closed for the past 12 months straight, God has faithfully provided for, and even expanded, the ministry here in Crestline. He’s been so good to us that we’re now looking at a whole new future of possibilities that even Arthur Gregory probably didn’t ever imagine.
As of March 1st of 2021, Thousand Pines has now taken over management and operation of Lake Gregory Regional Park for the County of San Bernardino. This exciting new opportunity includes activities and venues at the park such as, basketball and tennis courts, a public skate park, 100 acres of lakeside trails, water slides, an inflatable waterpark, lakeside beach access, a small watercraft marina outfitted with 60+ canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards, a beachside grill restaurant, a 40,000+ square foot multipurpose lodge and special event space, and so much more. This new venture, called the Lake Gregory Community Recreation Company, is a whole new outreach to our local community, and there’s so much to share about this exciting new chapter of Thousand Pines’ ministry. Though I don’t have the space in this newsletter to get into all the details of this project, you can check out some more information at www.lakegregory.com. For now, I’ll summarize by simply saying this: Though the last year has been a bit of a “Mandatory Sabbatical” for Thousand Pines and most of our staff, the Lord is turning the pages of the book on this ministry and leading us into a whole new chapter…perhaps one that He had planned for this little mountain community, well over 80 years ago!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”