Odosagih Update… Glorifying God Through Conferences And Retreats
By Kim Kern
Ron Uhlman, Executive Director of the Odosagih Bible Conference and Retreat Center, is someone I would consider to be a “jack of all trades.” But first and foremost, Ron became a born-again Christian at the age of 19 at the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg, later known as Watermark Wesleyan. Raised in Western New York, Ron attended the Eden Central Schools. Subsequently, he earned an associate degree in Media Production from Alfred State College, and from there, found himself back home. “The Lord pretty much directed me back home to live with my parents for two years,” Uhlman says.
He then became an Industrial Arts teacher at Eden Central Schools, teaching woodworking, electricity, transportation, photography, graphic arts, and television production to all grades. Retiring from Eden Central Schools in June 2013, Ron then became a Driver Education teacher. Additionally, he was also a Union Representative and eventually worked his way up to Vice President and Treasurer of the Union. Like I said; jack of all trades…
“My parents had a cottage at the Odosagih Bible Conference and Retreat Center in 1980, and I’ve been on the property ever since then,” Ron says. “I’ve been on the Board of Directors at Odosagih, off and on, for several years. I was elected President of the Board in 2010, then, all of a sudden, in 2015 when Roger White passed away, I was asked if I would come on board as Executive Director,” Uhlman adds. Roger White had been the Executive Director of the Odosagih Bible Conference and Retreat Center and Ron’s predecessor. His response was very telling about the man, he said, "Let me pray about it, let me talk to my family about it." A month after the offer, Uhlman agreed saying, "I will take it for a year or two." It appears as though Ron has found a home as the “year or two” has become Ron’s sixth season!
Summer is the busiest season of the year for Odosagih. Ron is in charge of the staffing at the camp and retreat center, which has about 39 staff. Come fall, the staff is reduced, but Ron notes, “I’m responsible for them.” He meets regularly with the cooks, maintenance personnel, and his Board of Directors to make sure everything is running smoothly. Uhlman has, “…one secretary, one maintenance caretaker, and I have many volunteers, and a financial officer in the office itself, who works part-time.”
While Ron’s is a year-round position, the pace is somewhat lighter during December, January, and February, then picking back up with retreats.
“Presently, Odosagih is referred to as a Bible conference grounds, which simply means we still have a summer conference of nine weeks,” explains Ulhman. “This year, Odosagih is going ten weeks.”
In describing the program, it is clear that Odosagih is all about the Lord. “First of all, to participate in the summertime, they are fed The Word, and they are fed The Word simply to let them grow spiritually, and then they can go out and tell other people about Jesus,” says Ron passionately.
“The schedule is Sunday-through-Friday, with a speaker in the mornings and in the evenings. That speaker is the same person, Monday-through-Friday. There is a prayer meeting at 9:30 a.m., a sing-a-long at 10:30 a.m., and a Bible study with the speaker at 7:00 p.m.”
He adds, “There is a Saturday evening banquet, a buffet dinner, which is usually two meats, vegetables and a full salad bar, full dessert bar and full beverage bar. The dinner is one price and very inclusive. Afterwards, there is a concert, with a different group each Saturday.”
Once the summer season is complete, the program varies somewhat. “In the off season, when we don't have the Summer Bible Conference, we simply allow the groups to come in and worship and praise the Lord, and they run their own retreats,” says Ulhman. “We provide the housing, meals and the facilities and they run their own retreats, we let them come in and do it from each of their denominations.”
Odosagih has a number of cottages they rent as well as rooms from their 16-room motel. Each building has portable air conditioners for the summer and a heating device for the colder months. Around November 1st, the Odosagih is shut down and winterized, though the buildings may still be used for winter retreats. They have enough housing to handle approximately 65 - 75 people. Ron emphasizes, “I want to simply say that we're not just a camp, though some people refer to us as that, but we are a retreat center, where we have bed linens, we have hot, running water, we've got showers in each of our buildings…” He continues, “We have carpeting, and the formal type beds — sleeping bags are not a requirement here.”
The Whitney Center is a large part of Odosagih and holds a special place in Ron Uhlman’s heart! The Whitney Center was a vision of the Board of Directors before Ron was on the Board as they continue their funding drive to bring it to completion. Many ideas for its use have come along, such as serving community youth groups and church youth groups, however, the retreats will take priority.
Once complete, five break out rooms/conference rooms will be put inside the facility, along with media equipment. The fellowship area will have a seating capacity of approximately 70-to-75 people. A snack shop will be on one end and the other end will hold a stage that includes a screen. “There will be full sound and again, the technology will be there,” says Ron.
Summertime on Thursday evenings at the Whitney Center, the goal is to show a Christian movie and have a fellowship night after the service at 8:45 p.m., as it has been done in the past. “We anticipate the Whitney Center to possibly be going as far as we can go with it. We are, as I said, in the process of looking at it, but the vision of the building is to tell people about the Lord, Jesus Christ,” Ron Uhlman says with great enthusiasm! “What an exciting time for Odosagih, with endless possibilities lying ahead in the very near future.”
From their website, The Odosagih Mission Statement declares they exist: "To see people saved, edified in the faith, and provide a place of rest and relaxation for families.” Odosagih is more of a family camp than a kid’s camp in the summertime. Their Purpose Statement is to: "Minister to our guests, as we provide a place of quiet, peaceful, relaxation and reverent worship through the preaching of God's word and the ministry of music.”
In the summertime especially, there will be full recreational facilities that include: A mini golf course with nine holes, a 30' x 60' swimming pool, lifeguarded four hours a day and open seven days a week from 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m, a pontoon boat with a 45 minute ride, kayaks and canoes. Ulhman adds, “We also rent paddle boats and all life jackets are provided for safety. The people that work down there are certified by New York State Marine Division of Parks and drive the boats.”
Presently, they are waiting for an answer from their local health department regarding the COVID-19 virus, in reference to allowing Odosagih to open the facilities back up. “We're kind of sitting at the edge right now,” says Ron.
To learn more about Odosagih, visit their website at www.odosagih.org or call them at (716) 353-8555.