MONARK SPRINGS — Starting Friday, the annual National Campmeeting for the Church of God will be held at Monark Springs, located just east of Neosho.

MONARK SPRINGS — Starting Friday, the annual National Campmeeting for the Church of God will be held at Monark Springs, located just east of Neosho.
Recently, the Neosho Daily News caught up with Ron Cole, who is a member of the local Church of God in Neosho and has been attending the campmeeting for about 40 years. The Daily News asked him some questions about the event which will last for 10 days.

NDN: What is the main purpose of the National Campmeeting of the Church of God?
Cole: There are two main purposes for the Campmeeting: For spiritual help and edification of all God's children across the nation, and for outreach to souls in need of God's salvation.

NDN: What will transpire during the meeting?
Cole: The campmeeting lasts for 10 days, starting on Friday (July, 2) and ending on Sunday (July 30). With three main services each day, there will be lots of singing, preaching, praying, teaching, and baptizing. In between all of that, there will be dinner-on-the-grounds and lots of fellowship.

NDN: Anything new this year to the campmeeting?
Cole: There will be a major change for the campmeeting this year as it will be held under a newly built open-air tabernacle. The bad storms from April 4 of this year damaged the original wooden tabernacle beyond practical repair. Thankfully plans were already in the works to replace the aging structure. After the storm damage, the decision was made to proceed full-speed ahead to get the new one built in time for the summer meeting.
 The new tabernacle structure itself was just completed this past week. God has really blessed that things have gone as smoothly as they have with the building project. It was completed much faster than it would typically take for a building like this. Many people donated time, money, and talents to make it all happen. The new tabernacle is located just to the northeast of the original structure on some newly acquired land. It is roughly twice the size of the old one, and it is still an "open-air" design to keep with the tradition and atmosphere that folks are used to.
Future plans for the campground include a new dining hall and restrooms and some dormitories in close proximity to the new tabernacle. This year, however, people will face a little more inconvenience as those new facilities are not yet built. But I expect most people will take it all in stride and just be thankful that we are able to even have the campmeeting at Monark Springs this year.

NDN: How many people usually attend?
Cole: The first weekend is usually the largest with 500-700 people attending on a single day. This annual National Campmeeting (the 79th) is the largest of its kind among the Church of God in the United States. People come from all over the country each year to attend - many of them using much of their vacation time to come. People come from Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Louisiana, and many places in between. We also usually have some attending from other countries (Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Germany, Russia, and etc.) Everyone is welcome to come who has a desire to worship God and learn more about serving him. People in need of God's salvation are specifically welcome. Genuine salvation of the heart makes you a member of God's worldwide Church. But you don't have to be a "member" to attend, and there is no charge to come. The general services are attended by all, but there are also some special services and activities for children and young people.

NDN: Anything new this year?
Cole:  Most all people that have attended the National Campmeeting were sad that the old tabernacle had to be replaced. There were so many good memories associated with it, and through the years people grew fond of its rustic character. But time has a way of changing things... Yet the one thing that we are determined not to change is God's presence coming down to bless us as we meet together to worship and seek Him - regardless of where it is. Without His presence there, the new building(s) are meaningless, and the efforts are wasted. We are praying that the Lord will once again richly bless us in this National Campmeeting of 2017.