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Our Heritage

For almost 90 years, Maranatha has been providing renewal, respite, and recreation to Christ’s church through the bold teaching of God’s word and a passion for supporting worldwide missions. From its humble beginnings as a camp for boys started by Henry Savage in 1936, to the sprawling 88-acre community and conference grounds that hosts families and retreat groups from all over the world today, Maranatha is a mission to the church. Over the years, Maranatha has hosted some of the most prominent teachers and speakers in the Evangelical world and has raised several millions of dollars for the support of the mission groups we feature each week during the summer. Here is a timeline of our rich history.



Dr. Henry Savage, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan arranged to use the conference grounds for a four-week camp of 500 boys. Karl Steele, chalk artist, joined him.


Dr. Savage signed a five-year lease on the property and later raised funds from other ministries to purchase the property.


An entire summer of programming was scheduled by Dr. Savage and the property was named Maranatha Bible Conference. Howard Skinner was named Summer Manager. He and his wife Ada were both soloists and keyboard artists and managed the property until 1974. Karl Steele was part of the ministry for over forty years. His chalk art presentations were a highlight several nights per week during the evening services.


Amy Lee Stockton joined the ministry as an evangelist, Bible teacher, and counselor. Rita Gould served as the conference hostess and director of children’s ministry.


Stratton Shufelt, better known as “Strat,” built his cottage. He served in many areas, including guest musician, on a volunteer basis. In the 1960s, Strat became Howard Skinner’s assistant and served as director of activities and as a musician for several years.


Billy Graham was a featured speaker from mid 1940’s to 1951. He returned as a nationally known evangelist and spoke to a crowd of 8,000 seated in the Tabernacle and surrounding lawn.


Several rental cottages and the first privately owned cottages on leased land were built. The original Lebanon Lodge known as the “Rec Hall” (Recreation Hall) was also built.


The number of board members went from six to over twenty. Opportunity to become a shareholder was offered which led Maranatha into a membership organization. An additional trailer park was established.


Special programming weeks were started. Partnering with ministries such as: Gospel Films Ministries, Youth for Christ, World Vision, and United World Mission. Saturday concerts became a highlight and features many guest musicians and then concluded with chalk art from Karl Steele accompanied by the music of the Skinners.


Dr. Savage retired.


The Savage Memorial Prayer Tower was dedicated.


Howard Skinner retired.


Tedd Bryson became Executive Director until 1987. Strat Shufelt joined the summer staff to work with music, adult programming, and was the conference host. He also started the Maranatha Penny Fair – a highlight at the end of the week, and it continues to this day.


The Lodge was built.


The Duneside Apartments were built and “The Skinner Room” was established for morning meetings.


Don Aldrich Memorial Golf Outing was initiated. The proceeds are used to help fund projects of Maranatha family missionaries.


The first Lakeside Condominium was built. New accommodations made it possible to establish a tri-season retreat ministry.


Ron Busch became Executive Director until 2000. The Maranatha Musicians were established and had annual concerts. Fall and Spring Senior Retreats, homeschool week, and baseball camp were all introduced under Ron’s leadership.


Robert Adams became the Director of Music and he and his wife Pam along with their music team served for many years. Thursday afternoon music recitals were introduced and became a favorite weekly event.


The Family Life Center was built and offered additional meeting space, a gymnasium, the sweet shoppe, and the craft room. This added functional space for our summer ministry and made it possible to extend our year-round ministry. Israel and Jordan apartments were built.


Scott Barger was Executive Director until 2005. Sports camp ministry expanded and a partnership was established with Fellowship of Christian Athletes


A climbing tower and zip line were installed. The Lodge lobby was remodeled to enlarge the space, redecorate and add an elevator.


Terry Agal became Conference Manager.


The new Lebanon Teen Center was built.


Tim Ostrander became President and Terry Agal became Chief Operating Officer. Under their leadership, they brought efficiency and stability to the ministry. Additional improvements were made to the Lodge, Duneside, and the Tabernacle.


The Plaza was built in the area between Lodge and Duneside.


The old ball field was transformed into a lovely grass area to be used as an all-sports field and overflow parking when needed.


Five additional rental cottages were acquired and remodeled.


Tim and Terry both retired. Mark Sumney became Executive Director until 2015.


Ecuador was reconstructed into a duplex.


Gary Feenstra became Executive Director.


The Lodge was completely remodeled.