Disciples Church Extension Fund

Superheroes: They are the flashy, caped crusaders who show up in the nick of time to save the day… Right?

Not in the real world.

Take Jim Michel for example. A soft-spoken professional with 35 years of experience in civil engineering and land surveying, Jim works for Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) as a Building and Capital Services Advisor, providing churches and related organizations with immediate facilities help, at no cost to them, through the Disaster Response Service. No cape involved.

But those who run Camp Christian of Northeast Oklahoma say he saved the day.

Two years ago, in the early hours of Good Friday, the main lodge of their Chouteau, OK camp and conference facility, Howard Lodge, burned down. Thankfully, no one was injured in the disaster, but the aftermath was devastating. Damages from the fire took a toll on the occupancy of the camp. It had served as an outdoor meeting place for various Christian groups and family gatherings, but half the clients found other locations when the camp could no longer accommodate their needs.

The extended length of time to settle insurance claims also took a toll on William “Bill” Hemm, board chair for Camp Christian. He had been wrestling for months with insurance companies and architects in the effort to rebuild the Howard Lodge. His patience was wearing thin.

Bill’s background in banking and construction seemed a good fit for him to deal with the insurance company, so he had stepped up. But Bill and the insurance company reached an impasse over how much the rebuild would cost.

He calculated their offer would cover only half the expense. Meanwhile, coverage for loss of income ran out as the project dragged on, unresolved. So, Bill hired an independent consultant to review the cost of the structure. Then he consulted an attorney in case the camp had to take the insurance company to court.

“I was so frustrated,” Bill remembers. “It was my favorite place in the whole world until this. The camp administrator, Dan Bubach, told me a couple different times, ‘Hey, I think the Disciples have someone that can help us.’”

But Bill was so far along in his own process he had no desire to reach out. So, Dan contacted DCEF himself. Jim gave Bill a call.

“I kind of just gave him the nuts and bolts,” Bill says. “And he goes, ‘Well, that should be easy. We should just talk to the insurance company.’ So, I told him, ‘I’m not stopping what I’m doing. You do whatever you want to do. That’s cool.’ I think I was kind of rude to him, I didn’t mean to be!”

Using his experience in construction and negotiating building contracts, Jim helped move the camp’s claim forward with representatives of the insurance company. Within a few weeks, they re-evaluated their previously issued payment and increased it — enough to cover the cost to rebuild the lodge.

Camp Christian’s new facility under construction

“It was awesome, really,” recalls Bill. “And I cannot shout loud enough: First, this (Disaster Response Service) program exists; and second, you got to turn it over to the professionals because they know what they’re doing.”

The newly christened Gibson Lodge finished construction in May. Rebuilding the clientele will take longer, but the people of Camp Christian are just happy that their main facility is back on its feet.

“I felt an enormous amount of guilt. I still do,” admits Bill. “Had I done this right when the fire happened, we would have a lodge, hosting groups for months and months.”

With bunks and furniture inside for campers, Gibson Lodge sports a new roof, porch and decking—oh, and a fire suppression system.

“There was no reason for Jim to come over and help us when we don’t have a loan with Church Extension,” says Bill. “It was really, really awesome to be helped without any strings attached, without having to prove our worth or anything like that.”

That’s the thing about real-life heroes. They show up when they are needed—and get the job done.

“If I need to be a cheerleader and stand up at General Assembly,” jokes Bill, “I don’t care. I would really like to because Jim was so impactful for us.”

DCEF was founded in 1883 to help Disciples churches and mission stations secure land and construct new buildings. Today, our ministry offers mission-driven capital planning and funding services to congregations across the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), including our Disaster Response Service. When a natural disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane, flood, earthquake or fire hits your house of worship, our Disaster Response team is there to assist you in dealing with the physical damage to your facilities. Together with Week of Compassion and Disciples Home Missions through Disciples Volunteering, DCEF works with church leaders to assess the immediate challenges of a building disaster. If a natural disaster has affected your church facilities, call us at 800.274.1883 to see how we can help.


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