By Holly McCray
Donations have exceeded the goal to fund two new cabins at Canyon Camp.
The additional money is significant; it gives officials hope that the buildings can be ready when summer's youth camps open.
Supporters across the state truly embraced a $175,000 matching-grant challenge, with a firm deadline of Dec. 31, made by Paul Milburn of Shawnee.
Cash and pledges swelled to $216,476 as the year dwindled down, reported Oklahoma Conference Camps Director Randy McGuire. That number is not final, as more money gifts have been promised.
Rev. McGuire credited Milburn with realizing the extent of the need at Canyon. Its cabins are the oldest among three camping ministry sites. "He picked up on that and said, 'We need to do something there.'
"And our churches have come through in a big way in a fairly short time," McGuire said. "They have shown their love for Canyon Camp. They said, 'We're going to make sure we match this grant.'
"The campers will feel that love."
During the campaign, people wrote Canyon Camp Manager David Combs about the personal impact of that camp's ministry.
Cydni Tillery, pastor at Locust Grove UMC, first went to Canyon as a sixth-grader
"I have been back countless times. I received my call to ministry at Canyon Camp in 1991, and I brought my children to camp in 2000 and 2005 as infants to 'help' me work district camps," she stated.
"My faith has blossomed through my time spent at Canyon Camp."
"I attended camp there through junior high and high school," recalled Julie Jarnigan, "and every year I grew in my relationship with Christ and had a blast. My mother and sister attended camps before me, and someday I hope my children will also get to experience time at the camp."
McGuire said the $350,000 cost established for the project was attainable by securing volunteer labor and by building two cabins concurrently.
However, because total funds contributed have surpassed that amount, he now hopes the work can be contracted and advance faster with a full-time construction crew on the job.
Among the donors to the cabin project was OKC-Church of the Servant. Pastor Robert Gorrell described the "miracle at Christmas" he experienced one Sunday in December.
Rev. Gorrell challenged the congregation to support the matching-grant effort through a special offering one Sunday. When he asked for a show of hands by those who had attended United Methodist camps, about 75 percent of the audience responded, he said.
And the special offering raised $30,004.
Near Hinton in central Oklahoma, Canyon is the largest of the three camping ministry sites. One new cabin will be built at each end of the row of existing cabins, McGuire said.