Just past the main gate of Camp Marannook here in LaFayette, nestled in the trees on the pristine 200-acre property sits a sprawling structure that seems to blend in perfectly with the wooded surroundings. The structure is the brand new Manna Hall.
Camp Maranook is a nondenominational, nonprofit organization that was founded in 1975 by Charles and Barbara Kendrick-Holmes with its first summer of operation the same year. Marannook’s mission is the same today as it was in 1975: “Knowing Christ and making Him known through camping.”
Marannook directly serves four groups: the college training staff, the campers, the high school support staff and the camper families. Of these four, the training staff is the primary ministry focus. In total, Marannook has trained more than 500 college students and ministered over 9,000 campers in its history.
For 26 summers of the camp’s history the original Manna Hall served to support food preparation, dining, Bible times, activities, family nights and contained the camp’s nursing station.
That all changed in the early morning hours of July 5, 2010. The camp’s food service director awoke that morning to find a smoldering pile of ashes, twisted steel, scorched trees and an eight-foot high flame towering from a broken gas line in place of Manna Hall.
Sometime between 1 am and 6 am on that day, the building, which was built in 1984, had caught fire and burned to the ground in what was eventually determined to be an electrical accident. Luckily, no one was injured.
But for the rest of that summer and since that time, the camp’s state-of-the-art Training Center, along with a giant white tent nicknamed “mini-Manna” were used as a substitute for what Charles has called, “Marannook’s key facility.”
But now the tent is down and after nearly three years of fundraising and multiple construction delays, Manna Hall is back and it’s better than ever, just in time for the camp’s biggest wave of students of the year.
Phase one of construction of the new Manna Hall actually began on October 24, 2011 and it was officially completed on May 6 of this year.
The new Manna Hall has an additional 900 square feet on the covered deck, a large walk-in cooler/freezer, a modern kitchen and updated fan, lighting and multimedia systems for the dining area. The kitchen and nurse’s station have been improved and expanded; there is a storm shelter in the basement and a state-of-the-art fire protection system. The dining area can now accommodate as many as 500 people.
“We are so excited about Marannook’s new Manna Hall,” Charles says. “There’s more space and it’s a safer building. And it will serve as a wonderful vehicle for the Lord’s work at Marannook and enable us to more effectively carry out our mission of knowing Christ and making him known.”
This summer marks Marannook’s 39th year of hosting college training camps and youth summer camps, and Manna Hall’s return has allowed the camp to regain a sense of normalcy and comfort. The Training Center has returned to its original function, as a secluded and quiet building for teaching and training college Christians the Word of God. And Manna Hall is back as the centerpiece for the youth campers. One wave of campers has already had the opportunity to experience its return and many more will have that chance starting this week as Marannook’s busiest time of the summer begins.
Just days before the three-year anniversary of the destruction of Manna Hall, Charles and Barbara look over this new structure with great excitement and pride, but they note it’s just a tool that the camp uses to accomplish its purpose.
“Buildings are important, as with being without Manna Hall demonstrated,” Charles says. “But our focus is and always will be upon the Lord and those whom he brings to Marannook. Whether you’re a counselor, food service or maintenance staffer, camper, family member or friend, we truly want Marannook to be God’s resting place for you. In this way, the facilities are worth building and worth using because ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us.’”