The Missouri Baptist Convention has purchased from a third party approximately 970 acres of land formerly part of the MBC’s Windermere Baptist Conference Center (WBCC).
The Executive Board’s redemption of 75 percent of the camp’s original 1,300 acres follows a recommendation by a Board-appointed study group.
The land features about 8,000 feet of shoreline on the Niangua Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks, surrounding approximately 350 acres upon which Windermere’s conference facilities sit.
In 2001 Windermere’s self-perpetuating board voted to break away from the MBC. Since then, the convention has sought the return of the full 1,300 acres at Windermere, which Missouri Baptists acquired in 1957.
In 2013, a Camden County judge denied the convention’s bid for a jury trial, and last month the Missouri Supreme Court refused to reconsider that ruling.
The Executive Board bought back the 970 acres from a mortgage holder at a deeply discounted price of $1.6 million. The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma is financing the purchase price, with reserve funds used for earnest money.
The purchase price is significantly less than the $4.45 million mortgage held by the lien holder, Desert Capital REIT, which acquired the acreage at a foreclosure sale following the bankruptcy of a company held by the now-deceased Springfield developer William Jester.
Jester, working with WBCC management, had borrowed money using the land as collateral and later defaulted on the loan. Windermere returned this acreage to the lender in 2005 as part of an effort to restructure its debt.Court filings in 2010 listed the land’s value at $11.7 million.
A divine opportunity
The purchase of this acreage is called the Windermere Wilderness Redemption Project, according to MBC Executive Director John Yeats, “because we are redeeming – or buying back – land that once belonged to Missouri Baptists, following a biblical model exemplified in the story of the prophet Hosea and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ.
“These biblical models provide an example for us as we seek to be faithful to the Lord and to Missouri Baptists by redeeming what once belonged to us – and ultimately to the Lord. It is an act that we believe illustrates the faithfulness, and sacrificial work, of our great God.”
Yeats said the MBC Executive Board is working to fully evaluate the land’s potential and will recommend to all Missouri Baptists a plan for future use of the acreage.
“For decades, Missouri Baptists invested in this land together,” Yeats noted. “Once again, Missouri Baptists will determine, together, how to use it to advance the Kingdom.”
Desert Capital REIT approached the Executive Board several months ago, proposing to sell the land at a discounted price. In response, the Board appointed a study group, which recommended the acquisition.
“We believe this is a God-appointed opportunity to recover 75 percent of the land unfairly removed from Missouri Baptists more than a decade ago,” says Wesley Hammond, chairman of the Executive Board.
“Missouri Baptists have asked the Executive Board to take all steps necessary to recover the Windermere land. With legal options exhausted, the repurchase of 75 percent of former Windermere property is the best opportunity at this point to fulfill the mandate of Missouri Baptists.”
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