Covid-19: Temporary suspension of Carmel operations

Sunday 22 March 2020

Dear Carmel guests

Friends, there is no need to introduce the issue that is the focus of this letter. We are all acutely aware of the immense challenge that our world is facing in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Our world is changing on an hourly basis. Indeed, what we are seeing is unprecedented in our lifetimes. And yet, we know, that God doesn’t change. He is an ever-present help in trouble and we can find peace in Him in the middle of the storm.

Impact of Covid-19 on Carmel

The reality of daily life is hitting all of us hard. Some are directly impacted, suffering with the symptoms of the virus, many more of us are dealing with the personal and professional disruption that the Covid response requires.

The tourism industry is already one of the most hard-hit sectors, with travel bans, restrictions on the size of meetings and social distancing all having a big impact on travel and tourism activity.

At Carmel we have felt the impact of social distancing decisions and international travel bans massively over the past week. In a matter of days, our upcoming groups and conferencing bookings have all been cancelled. Virtually all leisure guests have postponed their holidays to later in the year or cancelled altogether. We rely heavily on group bookings out of season, but have seen almost R1 million of bookings cancelled for March – May. This effectively takes out our revenue altogether, creating a massive challenge for an operation which has a high fixed cost base, the bulk of which are salaries.

Impact on our staff

As such, we have made the painful decision to suspend guesthouse operations at Carmel for a period of approximately 3 months, during this nationally-declared state of disaster. Our biggest concern is for our 27 staff, as we will have no means to pay salaries, with revenue having dried up. After careful consultation with our Labour advisors and in consultation with our staff, we have decided on temporary retrenchment measures. Under this arrangement, staff continue to be employed by their employer, while not receiving a salary. They are however, allowed to claim UIF (unemployment insurance), which amounts to between 36-60% of salary. Staff do not lose their jobs in this dispensation and will start back at Carmel once the temporary retrenchment is over. This is a heart-breaking decision for us, but one we have had to make quickly to ensure that UIF payments can be accessed as soon as possible.

Please note, that we have not closed Carmel. We will contract a very small number of individuals (administrative and maintenance) to manage finances, critical maintenance and importantly, future bookings. Many of our postponed bookings have been rebooked from August onwards, which is when we hope to be back to full strength. For that to be possible, we will need to actively seek bookings during this three month suspension period to ensure that Carmel is viable from then on again.

Appeal to support our staff

So, this letter serves 2 purposes.

The first purpose is to notify you, our guests, of this temporary suspension of operations but appeal to you please to support us from August onwards when we are going to be more reliant on bookings than ever.

The second purpose is to appeal to you to support our staff financially if you have the means. We would dearly like to supplement their UIF payments so that they can manage through this difficult time. We need your donations, friends. Any level donation will be hugely appreciated. We will also need your support to pay the few individuals who will operate through the suspension period as I have outlined above.

Donations can be made to the following account:

Standard Bank
George Branch, code 000214
Savings Account number: 35537736
Ref: Carmel staff donation
It is very difficult to ask for help like this. We know that our guests and friends yourselves are under difficult financial constraints. We are all stretched. As a Trust we wish that we had a financial buffer for times like this. But then again, these times are unprecedented. Over the past few months, we have been putting plans in place to create long term sustainability at Carmel and are moving forward with these – plans like selling plots as the second phase of the Carmel Heights residential development you may know at the entrance to Carmel. I look forward to sharing more about these plans with you in a later letter.

A hopeful future for Carmel

Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic, this letter would be a very different one, as there have actually been many positive developments at Carmel over the past few months. So let me end with a few high points. If you are on social media you would be seeing the exciting changes in our regular posts. Under the leadership of our new Director, Bev Brodrick, we are rolling out several upgrades and new initiatives. Carmel is going green, starting with the installation of solar panels. We are also doing our best to go off-grid, and along with the solar panels, also have a repaired generator and newly installed gas, so that power and hot water are no longer interrupted. Carmel is building our appeal as a destination venue, with new features such as a bicycle park which was immensely popular over the Christmas holidays. Annatjie Oliver, our head of Groups and now Operations Manager, has introduced many efficiencies in our operations. We have a renewed sense of God using Carmel to minister deeply into the lives of our guests.

Thank you for your support, in some cases over many decades. We hope that you will continue to walk this journey with us and enable us to see Carmel as a place of restoration and refreshing for many decades to come. Please keep communicating with us via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter over this next period. We will actively communicate updates to you over the next months. And in this challenging time our prayer for all of us is that we will draw near to God, knowing that he will draw near to us and will carry us through.

With thanks,

Paula Buchel

Chairman: Carmel Evangelical Trust

Prayer Letter • July 2017

JULY 2017

Dear Friends of Carmel

A lot has happened since the last Prayer Letter went out, but we have a lot to be thankful for! The recent fires caused widespread devastation along the Garden Route, but they seemed to mysteriously skirt around George, in spite of the fact that we experienced the same dry conditions and raging wind storms as the places that were most seriously impacted.

At the time of the crisis, the people of George came together and mobilised in their thousands to donate food and essential items, and volunteer help to those who had lost their homes. This initiative was largely spearheaded by local Churches who moved quickly to offer assistance. We praise God for that. It is an enormous blessing to live in a city where the Church has a strong voice and Christian communities come together to meet urgent needs at they arise.

At Carmel, we are passionate about doing all that we can to build unity in the Body of Christ and we are thankful for the part we have been able to play as a neutral Christian venue where Churches of different denominations can meet together to celebrate Jesus and share His love.

Not long after the fires, about twenty Knysna Pastors came to Carmel to attend a conference focused on building relationships, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to offer them some encouragement during our Breakfast Devotions. The scripture reading for the morning was Isaiah 61:3-7 and there was a strong sense that what the enemy had intended for harm, the Lord would turn into an opportunity to display His goodness.

We would also like to give thanks for the Israel Foundation Course that was recently presented at Carmel by Chris and Cecelia Eden from Bridges for Peace. The course was fully booked and all of the delegates commented that they enjoyed it immensely.

We are also thankful for the fact that many people responded to our Winter School Holiday Special and we will be looking forward to welcoming all of them to Carmel this month. We even have a missionary group that has taken advantage of the very low prices to come and stay at Carmel so that they can serve in the George area. Please continue to pray for even more people to come during this low season period.

We are very excited about the upcoming Prime Plus Programme that will be presented by Harry and Margie Munnings from the 13th to the 18th of August this year. We believe that it is going to be a fun time of inspiration and blessing and we are trusting that it will be filled to capacity. As Prime Plus takes place during winter this year, we have offered special discount rates for sharing, in an effort to make it more assessable to senior people. Please pray that those people whom the Lord intends to bless at Prime Plus will be there, and that they will encounter His goodness in every area of their lives as they focus on the enjoyment of a balanced lifestyle.

As far as security is concerned, we would like to thank you all for your concerted prayers that have produced the most wonderful results! The old Scripture Union Camp Site has been purchased by a committed Christian gentleman who is eager to work together with us to keep the area safe and secure. We now have guards with dogs patrolling the premises day and night, and the crime threat has dissipated to a large extent. Our new approach to security is still in its early stages and we ask you to continue to pray for its development and long term sustainability.

Sadly, after two years, we said goodbye at the end of June, to Colleen Booysen, our Financial Manager, and Anthone Van Litsenborgh who managed the Carmel Kitchen. Although we will all miss Colleen very much, we are thankful for the season that we had working together with her, and we are excited about the new doors of opportunity that God has opened for her. Anthone was also a great blessing to us, and we ask you to join us in praying that the Lord will pave her way with favour for the future.

We are very pleased to welcome Rina-Marie Snygans as our new Kitchen Manager. Please pray for her as she takes on this challenge and settles into her role. Please pray also, for the right person to take up the position of Financial Manager in Colleen’s place.

We would also appreciate your prayers for the Trustees as they seek the Lord for His guidance in decision making for Carmel’s future.

Thank you once again for your continued support of our ministry. It is really our desire to be a place were people can come from all over the world to fellowship with other believers and encounter God’s overflowing love and grace.
May you be greatly blessed this month!

Lisa La Grange
Marketing, Ministry & Youth Coordination Manager