Conference Grounds Overcome Loss for Ministry Gain

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

crcgThe Christian Reformed Conference Grounds (CRCG) in Grand Haven Township was broadsided by both fire and ice earlier this year.

     But the staff and supporters of the non-profit Christian campground/recreation area have rallied and this summer’s program is going full tilt – albeit with a somewhat different look.

     “Yes, everything is still happening,” beamed Dawn Bouman, musical director of the grounds just south of Grand Haven along Lake Michigan.

                                       A LOOK BACK
     It was on Feb. 6 that a fire did around $90,000 in damages to their beach-bathhouse facility. Director Mike Perton and the staff were dealing with that loss when something else unexpected occurred.
    “Sunday, Feb. 16 - that’s the day the auditorium came down,” said Bouman of the collapse of their huge, rustic auditorium. The multi-use facility was used throughout the busy summer season – Saturday night concerts, two Sunday worship services, and kids and other activities during the week.

     Record snowfall had piled high on the roughly 60-year old structure causing the roof to give way.
      “Some people had just walked by 10 minutes earlier. They heard a ‘woosh,’ and suddenly it was down,” Bouman reported.
       Inside the auditorium, stored for the winter season were 40 trailers, a boat, and a vintage Corvette sportscar. And on the front stage/platform was the baby grand piano used for music programs throughout the summer.
      “That piano is priceless to me, because I play it,” said Bouman. “And I begged for a valiant rescue effort.”
      Over the next number of days the collapsed building continued to settle. At least one of the walls had been completely leveled by the buckling roof. Slowly workers began salvage operations.
     All of the trailer-campers but one were total losses. More than half of the facility’s hundreds of folding chairs were damaged beyond repair. Remarkably, the Corvette came out unscathed.
     And the piano?    
   “It was slowly being pushed toward the edge of the stage,” Bouman noted of the settling of the collapsed structure’s contents. “But it was not smashed - a couple of picnic tables had kind of protected it. Just one beam had fallen right on the edge.”
    The baby grand was carefully moved to storage with just a bit of visible damage – it will be a reminder of God’s faithfulness when they move it into their new facility, according to Bouman.                                
     Yes, the CRCG has plans to replace the auditorium. But first there was the 2014 program to worry about.
    Initially some long-time campers were worried that most of the summer activities would have to be canceled, given the loss of prime programming space.
     But the ministry continued.
    With help from their insurance carriers, the conference grounds rented a large (60 x 150ft) pole tent to take them through the entire summer.
     “That’s almost the same size as the old auditorium,” noted Bouman, now in her tenth year as music director.
    After some initial issues with rainwater runoff, the tent has worked quite well for worship, concerts and other activities. An audience of more than 800 enjoyed the music of Soul’d Out Quartet on a recent Saturday evening “under the big top.”
   “Actually, the acoustics there have been phenomenal and it still has some of the feeling of the old place,” she said.
   Bouman was concerned about space for the three concerts for which she expected the largest audiences. She arranged to use Grand Haven High School’s performance center (17001 Ferris St.) barely a mile away.
    The first of those was June 28 featuring the gospel singing group The Crist Family. Some regulars were leery of the location change. And the rental fee for the performance center required an $8 or $10 admission price for concerts that normally would be on a free-will offering basis.
    “But they have air conditioning and cushy seats, which people are loving,” Bouman noted of the school facility. And an advance-purchase ticket price for a combination dinner on the grounds and concert at the high school is just $25 per couple.
    Other concerts scheduled for Grand Haven High School are Tim Zimmerman & The Kings Brass (July 26) and The Browns (Aug. 23). (All concerts start at 7 p.m).
                                        LOOKING AHEAD
     The Christian Reformed Conference Grounds (despite the name it is not denominationally-owned, operated or supported and has its own board of directors) recently completed a new family center building and staff cottage. Next on the schedule to renovate-replace was their kitchen/dining facility, which now is the oldest structure on the campus.
  But this winter’s crumbled walls and flattened roof changed that plan. Currently a fund-drive is underway to construct a year-round worship center on the same spot as the old auditorium (see details at Traditionally, financial supporters have been individuals, businesses and church congregations.
    “If we can raise enough funds by October, we can start building with a target completion date of Memorial Day next year,” said a hopeful Bouman. “If not, we will use a tent again next summer.”
    Either way, Bouman is quite sure the new worship center will have air conditioning. And maybe some cushy seats.    
The end of summer concert schedule:

Christian Reformed Conference Grounds, 12253 Lakeshore Dr. Grand Haven. Concerts are 7 p.m,, 616-842-4478

Aug. 9 – Burgess Brothers
Aug. 26 – The Allen Family
Aug. 23 – The Browns (at Grand Haven High School)
Sept. 6 – Faithful Journey Quartet and The Hope Heralds
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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