Another year heads for the record books, but what a great year it was! I wanted to drop one last note before we hit the holiday shut-down to update you on some quick things as we close out our 87th season.
The Tabernacle survey got a MASSIVE response (no surprise there!). The quick headlines are that there was overwhelming support to improve the Tabernacle experience across all the areas we questioned such as, sightlines, seating comfort, and climate control. Of those who voted on how far to take the rehab (1 was essentially do nothing to a 10, taking it to the limit of what is possible), more than 75 percent voted seven or higher. HOWEVER, there was an equally strong response to keeping the spirit and feel of the Tabernacle while ensuring key historically important visual elements remained. The direction we are heading is fully in-line with these desires. None of the explored options will eliminate or remove the original core building. All the considerations will respect our history while adding restrooms, HVAC, improved sightlines, and a much-needed reinforced structure. There is much more to do on the plans, but we will keep you posted on how the task force progresses!
Several other projects are off and running while we have a lull in the retreat schedule. The Lodge lower lobby remodel (the Labor Day love offering) is almost completed with new flooring, paint, furniture, lighting, and carpets, giving this most important space a much more comfortable experience with much-improved looks. We also finally broke ground on the new Teen and Office building (South Africa) after a long permitting delay. Pray that we can keep this on track and make up for lost time to have this building ready for the summer season! The Founders Home remodel is going very well as we return this important building to its former glory. New electrical, HVAC, flooring, kitchen, and bathrooms will make this one of our premier locations for guests.
On the staffing front, our new Grounds and Facilities Director, Jon Eldersveld, started this month. Ron Peterson will work through the first week of February to help Jon transition into this new role. Be sure to drop Ron a note of thanks for his service to Maranatha! Also!! We are thrilled that Gary Feenstra has returned to the staff in a part-time role as our Ambassador of Ministry and Development. Gary will help act as an ambassador at various events and within our guest community, as well as help lead on the development efforts for the five-year board campaign to build all the infrastructure that will help us expand over the next several years. Of course, Gary will stay on point leading Friday nights during the summer with the Hymn Sings and lead our Senior Retreats in the fall and spring. THANK YOU to all our amazing staff who give so selflessly to keep Maranatha running 24/7!! We love you all!!!
Maranatha Day of Prayer will be Monday, January 15, at 10 am. We will meet in the Lebanon Teen building for those on campus who can join us! Please remember to pray for God’s provision and protection in the upcoming new year if you cannot attend.
We are rejoicing in what God is doing within this great ministry as we provide spiritual renewal in this beautiful recreational setting, emphasizing Bible teaching and worldwide missions. Next year – our 88th season!!! – is themed “Contending for the Faith,” echoing Jude 1:3. We have an exceptional lineup of speakers for next year, including a big Youth Apologetics one-day event planned for August 17th. In the meantime, we have our Valentine’s Getaway Weekend event (it’s almost full…act soon to get your tickets!!) and the Women’s Writers’ Retreat (also filling up!). Stay up on all our events at Maranathamichigan.org! And please, as we draw the year to a close, we still have major needs to make our budget in the year-end giving. If God moves your heart, anything post-marked by December 31st will count for your taxes this year!
Stacey and I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year as we journey together in this wonderful ministry. We share the dear Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3-6 as we thank you for all your love and support this past year!! We look forward to seeing you in 2024!
Another year is behind us with wonderful memories, reunions, family outings, joyous vacations, and spirited retreats. Now entering its 88th season, Maranatha continues to expand its reach and influence as a precious place of spiritual renewal, Bible teaching, and support of worldwide missions.
With Colossians 4:2 reminding us to be steadfast in prayer, this past year saw God do exceedingly and abundantly through inspired teachings, strong attendance, and heartfelt engagement with missions. We raised a remarkable $840K for missions and ministry groups, affirming our members’ and guests’ depth of commitment to seeing the Gospel advance. We also had 35 baptisms, countless professions of faith, and many recommitments as God’s word, working through the Holy Spirit, pierced hearts. It reminds us that we must remain laser-focused on our mission as we enjoy all the recreation and blessings of Maranatha.
There were also sorrows and challenges along the way as the realities of life followed many into this blessed place. The tragic and untimely loss of a husband and father during Week 2, a prayer wall loaded with laments and requests for every heartbreaking situation you can imagine–guests who lost jobs, afflicted parents praying for wayward children, terminal illnesses–and the list goes on. The true beauty and spirit of what this community represents radiated through the summer as these people found fellowship, prayer, respite, love, joy, and peace amid the trials from within our community.
A profound thankfulness for God’s provisions fills us as we look back on this year. We are grateful for all the champions of Maranatha – the dedicated members, cherished guests, supporting businesses, and our local community – who support us with their time, talent, and treasure. We all remain steadfast in making Maranatha accessible to our vacation and retreat guests, compensating our ministry workers in a manner that honors God, and expanding the reach of our ministry. This is no small task.
The need for financial support to meet our budget goals is significant, and your year-end contributions play a crucial role. Our theme for 2024 is firmly anchored in Jude 1:3, where the Apostle exhorts us to “…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Will you consider joining us in this noble endeavor by providing the support we need to fulfill our mission within Christ’s church? You can contribute online at maranathamichigan.org/donate/, send us a check by mail, or even donate securities. We deeply value your support and, most importantly, your prayers.
Our ministry has never been more relevant, needed, and valued in these dynamic and tumultuous times. As we celebrate the birth of King Jesus and the dawn of a New Year, we extend our heartfelt prayers for God’s blessings to you and your families.
By now you have heard the news that our dear brother, Gene Kuntz, has passed into glory after a battle with cancer. His vivacious personality, seeing him flying around on that scooter, and his love for Maranatha will all be missed, leaving a huge void in our community. Gene loved Maranatha with all his heart, and he served here in various capacities for most of his life.
Personally, even though I’m a newbie around here, I had several wonderful encounters with Gene. The first that comes to mind is when I could hear his voice from behind a huge stack of photo albums as he came teetering into my office right after I started in the Executive Director role in June of 2022. He joyfully set down the stack and explained he has kept a photo history of life at Maranatha since he was a teenager. “I’ll let you hold onto these and look through them and you can return them when you’re done…” He then decided it was best to show them himself and we spent the better part of a couple hours that afternoon as he joyfully narrated all the history he had accumulated. Then there is the time he insisted that I hire him for at least one miscellaneous job so that he could keep his streak of having worked for every Executive Director since Dr. Savage. He kept his streak alive. And he was always at the ready with a piece of advice or a big idea to make things better at M. Little did he likely figure that his presence and kindness to our community was one of the best things we had going.
Gene also was a wonderful giver of his time and his treasure to Maranatha. Most recently he provided the spotlights for the stage area where the kids sing, “those kids on the ends disappear into the dark up there…you have to fix that!” And the flagpole in front of the Tabernacle was his gift, tying together his love of country and of Maranatha. Gene was also always around to volunteer and has been a fixture at the Joni and Friends camps since they started here. He also attended almost every teaching session we had and was quick with a joke or an encouragement to those who were speaking.
We will miss you, Gene, but we rejoice in knowing that you are home in the presence of the King, completed, healed, and rejoicing with the saints who have gone before us. This gives us great comfort as we look forward to that glorious day when we are all reunited in the great resurrection!
By now, you’ve probably noticed the updated focus on our new website: “Retreat, Renew & Rejoice.” We believe this new branding perfectly encapsulates our mission. Our goal is to glorify God by loving and serving others, offering a haven away from the world’s chaos and into the sanctity of a peaceful recreational setting where individuals can immerse themselves in God’s word and witness the impact of missions around the globe. Throughout the summer, we’ve seen countless people join us, most for joyful vacations and reunions, but many also bringing struggles and hurts. In all situations, we are here to minister to God’s people.
We based our theme this past summer on Colossians 4:2, encouraging steadfast prayer. While many come to Maranatha for joyous occasions like reunions, anniversaries, birthdays, and vacations, throughout the season, many posted prayers that exposed the many struggles and sufferings they bring – deaths, cancer, divorce, wayward children, addictions, broken family relationships, apostasy, and more. All of it deeply burdened our hearts, but it also fuels our desire to serve and glorify God by ministering to the faithful. Importantly, we continue to be astonished and humbled by the ongoing support for the mission groups God brings us. In the past three seasons, we have exceeded $2.3 million in giving. Truly remarkable. As we serve our ministry purposes, we are passionate about serving those who come to us on every occasion with love and excellence given the broad impact Maranatha continues to bring.
Yes, it is hard out there; but this is why we believe God is calling us to expand our ministry. As the world grows colder and darker, we want Maranatha to shine brighter by encouraging and renewing the faithful. To meet this growing need, our Board has strengthened our five-year plan, and we are embarking on a significant $20 million expansion. This is our “Time to Rise.” We’ll begin by breaking ground on a new teen and office center this fall, updating and enhancing the Tabernacle for year-round use, and adding more cottages and storage for increased capacity. To complete this transformative journey, we’ll also introduce a new bookstore/coffee café and a 24-room lodge by the channel. It’s an ambitious endeavor we firmly believe God will provide for. The campaign to raise this significant amount of money is gaining momentum. We are now reaching out to key Maranatha supporters and donors to ensure the initial seed funds are secured. This will allow us to broaden the campaign to gather the resources needed in the coming seasons. The timing? That’s in the Lord’s hands. As mentioned, the Teen/Office center is underway, and we hope to start the Tabernacle updates next fall. We’ll proceed step by step as resources become available. The most substantial challenge lies in funding the Channel Lodge, which requires approximately $8 million and serves as our plan’s final step. To fully utilize all this new space, we need a year-round Tabernacle, expanded dining and kitchen facilities, and additional storage space.
We are confident that God will provide the resources required because we believe this is the path He has chosen for us to grow. However, this must be a collective effort from the entire community. As we consistently state, our mission is to provide spiritual renewal in a recreational setting, emphasizing Bible teaching and worldwide missions. We aim to serve with love and excellence, providing an expanded resource to the church throughout the year. Throughout this journey, we are committed to keeping Maranatha affordable and accessible to all who would benefit from our ministry. The last thing we want is for our capital plan and campaign to distract or compromise the core deliverables of our ministry. Our budget to remain attainable relies heavily on the generosity of our members, guests, and supporters, especially when we continue to grapple with rising costs that show no sign of abating, further escalating our financial needs.
As we stand on the threshold of an exciting and transformative journey, we are confident in God’s providence and the unwavering support of our community. Maranatha has been a place of renewal and transformation for 88 years. Our commitment to excellence and faithfulness to God’s call remains steadfast as we expand. We aim to ensure that Maranatha remains a Christ-exalting haven, accessible and affordable to all who seek its refuge. We invite you to join us on this remarkable path, united in our purpose to glorify God, love one another, and make a lasting impact. Together, we will Retreat, Renew, and Rejoice, embracing the call to rise to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Much more to come on all of this in months ahead. Know that we cannot do this without all the prayer, love, and tangible support that the Maranatha family continues to provide. Until next time…Maranatha!!