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California Southern Baptist Convention signs purchase agreement for Jenness Park

FRESNO, Calif. (BP) — The California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) signed a purchase agreement June 16 to sell Jenness Park Christian Camp to Gracepoint Fellowship Church of Berkeley for $1.5 million. The agreement is scheduled to close June 30.

The sale was predicated on a CSBC Executive Board action in mid-May to sell the camp because of deficit spending, some $2 million in the past seven years, and a 2020 camping season devoid of revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board’s recommendation called for Southern Baptist churches/entities to have priority in purchasing the camp by June 30. The Executive Board action called for the camp to be closed immediately and permanently shut down by the end of June. The recommendation also gave CSBC corporate officers authorization to “take necessary actions” to sell the camp and its assets.

Bill Agee, CSBC executive director, announced the Berkeley congregation satisfies the Southern Baptist affiliation requirement since Gracepoint Fellowship Church has been a cooperating CSBC congregation since 2006.

Agee added that the Board entrusted Convention corporate officers with the responsibility of vetting offers.

“The Gracepoint proposal was the most viable in meeting the criteria of keeping JP in the Baptist family, keeping JP accessible to CSBC churches, liquidating the debt and allowing CSBC to be about its primary ministry of empowering the vision of churches to reach their communities for Christ,” Agee said.

Victor Chayasirisobhon, chairman of the CSBC Executive Board and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, said, “God truly is amazing. When we initially faced this challenge, it was the prayer of our hearts that any Southern Baptist entity would come and buy the camp so it could continue its ministry and add to its already rich legacy. Dr. Agee and other corporate officers were able to do that and accomplished what the Board set forth in the recommendation — finding a practical offer from a Southern Baptist entity by June 30. They are to be commended.”

Announcement of the pending sale was made at the camp in joint statements by CSBC and Gracepoint via a Facebook Live event June 17.

At the event, Agee explained the process and how the agreement between CSBC and Gracepoint came about. He was joined by Steve Suh, a college minister at the Gracepoint Berkeley campus, who said Jenness Park is an answer to prayer for the congregation.

“We’ve been praying for a retreat site for so many years to enhance our ministries to thousands of college students and youth,” Suh said.

Suh recounted an encounter he had with God at Jenness Park during a college retreat when “I was ready to leave God and leave the church. This [Jenness Park] is one of the places where God found me.”

Rick Yi, another Gracepoint staff member at the event, had a similar experience at Jenness Park.

“I was not a Christian when I came to a college retreat here,” Yi sad. “However, this is where I allowed God to speak to me.”

Also speaking was Barry Lloyd, Jenness Park camp director, who will continue in his ministry with Gracepoint.

Lloyd said his primary goals for Jenness Park were for it to remain “a Christian camp for God’s Kingdom” and for it to remain a Southern Baptist property.

“Both of those [prayers] have been answered” he said.

He explained that summer camps such as CentriKid, Centrifuge and district camp will still have opportunity to operate in the summers.

Gracepoint operates a mini-retreat site near Truckee, Calif., that is always overbooked, which is why there was a need for an additional conference facility.

“It’s difficult to get an open weekend at our Sierra site for our groups,” said Gracepoint senior pastor Ed Kang. “A big part of our ministry is getting students away from their [device] screens and out to nature.”

Additionally, the church wants to expand its summer camps to “more than weekends for our college students by bringing inner-city children for intensive academic and Christian programming,” Kang said.

Even with Gracepoint’s vision for how it will use Jenness Park, Kang stressed there would be plenty of availability for churches and other groups to use the facility.

“We would not want JP to disappear from the radar and only be available for our church,” he said. “That would be poor stewardship over such an amazing place that others have so lovingly developed. So, we are looking forward to having JP continue to be a blessing to our fellow SBC churches.”

Kang said the church plans to retain the name Jenness Park, adding: “We know that this place has been built by the love and labors of many of our SBC brothers and sisters over the decades, and we want to honor that in any way we can.”

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  • Terry Barone