In the Manzano Mountains of the Cibola National Forest, just south of the Village of Tijeras, along NM Highway 337 (South 14), lies Camp Patten, named after the late Reverend J. S. Patten (Founder of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Albuquerque, NM). The land was donated to the Mt. Olive Baptist State Convention on behalf of Reverend Patten by Mr. C. B. and Mrs. Dolores Sanchez on January 17, 1952. A serene tract of 12 acres of land nestled in the pines between Pine Flats and Oak Flats campgrounds on the east side of the highway, one can easily miss this new edition as you drive along the winding mountain road.
For over fifty (50) years, Camp Patten has provided brief periods of respite from the bustle of urban living for the members of the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention currently comprised of twenty-one churches throughout the state of New Mexico. Young people, squeezed and driven by the pressures of city life, get to relax for a short time, lower their guard, and realize a possible alternative way of life. People from across the state of New Mexico have also regularly come together to campout, fellowship, play games, and enjoy the blessings of our natural environment.
In the early 1950s, Stella Jones, Gladys and Robert Richards from Tucumcari, NM, Reverend J.S. Patten, Essie English, Reverend J. A. Hopkins, Glen Chelf and other young people from Shiloh began going to a site in the Manzano Mountains that they believed to be the Camp Patten property. It was later discovered that the actual property was in a different location. However, this was the beginning of an annual journey on the 4th of July for other convention members like the Potters and Nances from Clovis and with other members from Albuquerque. Sister English also held rallies, and other funds raisers for the camp. In 1962 after becoming the pastor of Mt. Calvary in Tucumcari, Reverend Wilson Holly and Sister Willie L. Holly continued the support of the 4th of July outing to Camp Patten.
Our convention members (many deceased) have always envisioned a facility on our land. In 1969 Brother and Sister Eddie English donated their home in Albuquerque to the convention for the camp. It was loaded on house moving dollies and towed to the camp. It was placed on the north side of the property were the storage trailers now sit. Before the convention could do anything with the house some homeless people were spending night and days there and ended up setting the building on fire. It was burned so bad that it had to be torn down.
After many struggles, President L. E. Hightower in 1979 was able to get the convention to agree to the construction of the recreation camp and picnic area. With the help of the laymen under the leader of Glen E. Chelf along with the help of Brothers William Brown, Eddie Smith, Jr., Robert McBeth, Zollie Williams and Eugene Baker trees were cut down. The laymen sold cords of wood to benefit the camp and to make way for the present area. A fence was also added around the property line as well as picnic tables within the camp area by Reverend Hightower and the Laymen. The fence was stolen and had to be replaced, that time it was set in concrete to prevent a similar incident.
When Reverend J. R. Shiner became president of the convention, the annual day was changed to meeting on the first weekend in August for overnight stays, picnics and ball games. Numerous churches have used the camp area for various outings, church services when their buildings were in repair over the years. Almost 2 acres were acquired from us by the state highway department for enlarging the highway right of way. Brother Williams became the operations and maintenance manager and superbly handled all of the Camp business on behalf of the Convention until 2005 due to health reasons and the beginning of the construction project. He served the Camp and Convention admirably during his tenure.
In 2004, the canopy over the picnic tables was added by Brother Lewis Foster from Texico, NM, Zollie Williams, Robert McBeth and other Laymen. This work was halted when the planning for the project to begin construction on an actual building started.
The camp endured 50 years unnoticed, unopposed, as just another piece of the mountain landscape. When the announcement was made that in 2005 the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention under the leadership of Reverend James E. Forney intended to develop the property, opposition came from many directions. A hearing was held before the Bernalillo County Commissioners to stop the project, however through the Grace of God, the opposition failed and the convention was allowed to continue the project with specific requirements for the usage of the facility.
The intention was and still is to build a facility designed to train people in general and youth in particular in the traditional moral, ethical, and religious principles that are the foundation of our society. The announced development identified one multi-purpose building designed to house several classrooms, a kitchen and dining area, and a chapel.
The present work at the camp began with the leadership of Reverend James E. Forney and the assistance of Reverend Dr. Charles E. Becknell, Sr., and the present overseeing of the building project by Glen E. Chelf, Shirley Ragin, Robert McBeth and Zollie Williams. Upon receiving a matching grant of $50,000 from the Daniels Fund, Reverend Dr. Charles E. Becknell, Sr., worked with Donald Dudley Architect, LLC on behalf of the convention to design a building to be constructed on the site. Raymond Dennis volunteered his services as our General Contractor. The construction started on July 5, 2006. Due to time constraints and the additional cost of removing trees, it was decided to place the building in the clearing where softball and other games were normally played. The Volunteer Christian Builders led by Cal Blackwell, General Contractor, mainly from Oklahoma and Missouri poured concrete piers for the foundation and completed the floor structure. Each workday began and ended with prayer, scripture and song. The northwest corner concrete pier contains The Holy Bible as a reminder that “On Christ the Solid Rock we stand, all else is sinking sand.” This first volunteer group worked from July 5-14, 2006.
God opened up his heavens and poured down rain that saturated the grounds causing the project to come to a complete stop. Seeing our desire to build, the Volunteer Christian Builders contacted a second volunteer group. The Texas Baptist Men’s Retiree Builders – Building for the Glory of God, led by Chuck Cosper, General Contractor worked from July 30 – August 24, 2006 to complete the framing of the building. Each workday began and ended with prayer, scripture and song.
In the early days, our minutes reflected efforts to collect and sell cans and cash collections of $1.52 to $30 for Camp Patten. More recently, the churches of the convention, its state and district auxiliaries and individuals made financial pledges and contributions however this wasn’t enough to complete the building. In September, it became clear that we needed additional financing to finish the building, so we began the application process with Church Finance Corporation, an Affiliate of The New Mexico Baptist Foundation working with Martha Speakman. During the title search, it was discovered that Camp Patten was owned by Mount Olive Baptist State Convention of NM and not Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention of NM although they were one in the same. The loan process was halted until the issue was resolved in December 2006. Understanding our desire and believing in our purpose, Mrs. Speakman arranged a telephone conversation with Shirley Ragin, Financial Secretary and Mr. Stanley Jones owner of S & V Dairy, Inc. in Portales, NM. One way Mr. Stanley gave back to the community was to provide temporary financing to non-profits until they were able to secure permanent financing. Following a lengthy conversation and feeling the passion for the camp, Mr. Jones agreed to provide temporary financing to the convention to proceed with our construction project. The convention secured permanent financing in December 2007 and repaid Mr. Stanley.
Many dedicated and committed individuals and groups have contributed to our progress. Every contribution from whatever source is absolutely appreciated. We especially thank the volunteer builders who helped maximize our limited financial resources. The First Baptist Church of Tijeras under the leadership of Pastor Terry Wendt housed the youth group of the Volunteer Christian Builders. The church also opened up their fellowship hall to allow us to serve lunch that was catered by Weck’s Catering of Albuquerque. Turquoise Trails Campground and RV park of Cedar Crest was the home of the two volunteer groups while they worked on the building. Reverend Doctor Charles Becknell of Rio Rancho spearheaded our fundraising effort, secured the service of the volunteer groups, worked with the architect and successfully completed the filing to obtain our building permit. Reverend James E. Forney, president of the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention, is the visionary leader of the entire project. The National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.’s Home Mission Board also provided funding to our project.
Brother Glen Chelf is to be commended for becoming the “general contractor” and leading the effort to complete the construction once the volunteer groups were gone. Sister Ragin was instrumental in securing financing and maintaining the financial records. Our convention auxiliaries, churches and individual members from across the state have volunteered time and services, finances, coordinated the lodging, meals and volunteer support. This too is much appreciated with sincere gratitude. Without this concerted effort, and most importantly God’s Grace, we would not have our building at Camp Patten.
The first building actually constructed at Camp Patten is complete after five years of hard work from volunteers and paid contractors with God’s speed. The ongoing expenses of Camp Patten have been and will continue to be dependent on
contributions from the pledges made by the member churches, auxiliaries and individuals committed to achieving the Dream through the Grace of God.
On Friday, July 22, 2011 Camp Patten was dedicated for the Glory of God and use by His people during the 100th anniversary of the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist State Convention.
The main building is approximately 5,000 square feet with a wrap around covered porch, equipped with inside facilities, a full-service kitchen, chapel, seven classrooms, and a dining/multi-purpose room. The camp is usually open between March and October each year and usually closed from November through February due to inclement weather. If you are interested in using the camp, visiting while in Albuquerque or passing through New Mexico, or making a donation, please contact Bro. Glen E. Chelf at 505-249-0394 or Rev. James E. Forney, convention president at 575-430-8998.