We Went To Camp: Edition 16.0

Finally getting around to writing about camp today, though we’ve been home almost a week now. It was our 16th year to go to Gordon College for Crosswalk – our regional weeklong summer camp for teens. Robert’s first year on camp staff was the summer I was pregnant with Kayla, and we’ve only missed two years since then.  My kids grew up going to camp long before they were old enough to be campers, as you can see.

On our way to the beach! Gordon is only three miles from the closest beach, and this is how we used to spend a couple of afternoons during the week while dad was working on sermons. (circa 2005?)

Cooper has even made Gordon College his home away from home by going to school there.  He’ll start his second year as a student there this fall, but he’s had 16 years of prior dorm, dining hall, and campus  experience. 😉

We love our week at camp for many reasons, but it feels a little weird to tell you all the highlights without letting you know that the weeks leading up to camp and the week back home have been hard.  The days have been consumed with resolving conflicts, receiving emergency texts and phone calls, making hospital visits, facilitating counseling sessions, encouraging dear friends in crisis, and more. In many ways, the intensity of these situations seems greater than ever before. Daily, we are reminded of and burdened by the effects of sin and darkness, but at the same time we are sustained in Christ’s strength.  Still, we would appreciate your prayers.

So, camp was as wonderful and as exhausting as usual.

The staff arrives 3-4 days prior to the teens in order to prepare for the week. Trying out new games is often a weekend activity, and here you can see Itamar and Jared playing Chinny Penny – or keep a penny flat on your chin without letting anyone knock it off. Last one with a penny on their chin wins.

Reconnecting with returning staff, eating, laughing, catching up, praying, and worshiping together are things we look forward to every year. In texting with our director prior to camp about various questions, I said “Won’t it be nice to enjoy sweet fellowship next week?” We both agreed that it would.

Our Western Massachusetts gang – just after arrival.

After campers arrive and get settled, their days start with Morning Celebration:

LeBron James made an appearance on Celebrity Home Improvement last week, as did Justin Timberlake and Selena Gomez.

 

Afterward the camp pastor sends everyone off to group Bible studies.

While the teens are in Bible study groups, Robert and I spend the time in Bible study with all of the adult chaperones. My group played musical rooms this year, and studied both the book of I John and did an overview of the Seamless study and workbook. (Have I convinced you to do the study yet?)

The dining hall ended up being a terrible place to have Bible study. Food and supplies being wheeled in behind me every five minutes. So loud, too!

After Bible study, it’s “Rec” time, and Gordon has such a beautiful spot for this – “the Quad” – right in the middle of campus.

Anthony and Finn playing dodge ball.

 

Kayla and her fellow “Questies” from our group. Each of these guys will be seniors next year and just completed the Quest Leadership Development program during their junior year.
Kayla loved reconnecting with a few from her Scotland team – Trevor and Nathaniel, here.
Even the chaperones can get in on the fun!
Practicing for Mega Relay – which takes the place of Recreation on the last full day of camp.
Lunch follows Recreation – always kind of a love/hate relationship with dining hall food.

After lunch, the teens head to Activity Tracks.  They can choose anything from Arts and Crafts to Missions to Competitive Sports. (This mission track learned about a really great ministry called Sole Hope during one of their sessions.) Free time follows and many of them just stay on the quad playing frisbee, soccer, and football. They can also swim at the Rec center on campus, play basketball in the gym, or go back to their room and read, play games, or paint each other’s nails.

The evening worship service happens after dinner and a short activity at 6:35pm – called 635. 😉 Robert spends his afternoons polishing off sermons he’s tried his best to prepare before arriving, creating PowerPoint presentations, printing notes, and practicing.

This year’s most memorable image may have been the Jenga Tower of Babel. (All sermons were on things built either by God or humans, since the camp theme was Blueprint.) And if you know Robert at all, then you know that about halfway through the sermon, he knocked that tower right over to illustrate what God did to the plans of humans intent on making a name for themselves rather than for their Creator.
Want to see it in action? Click here for the camp highlight video.

I still don’t know how he pulls this off each year. Well. that’s not really true. It’s God’s grace and His provision of ideas and direction and efficient work. Still, I marvel. Six sermons in six days!

(I would like to take credit for some of his wardrobe choices throughout the week, though. It was a crowd of teenagers after all, and I am able to provide at least a tiny bit of fashion counsel so as not to distract from the message.)

Mercyhouse was well represented at Crosswalk this year.  Just look at these four…

Tommy and Kaitlyn served on staff leading Bible studies, Activity Tracks, and playing in the band.  Sarah served as a chaperone for our girls for the third time, and Chloe served as one of our many adorable camp mascots. She even made appearances in two sermons.

And here is Sarah again with Meghan and Anthony. Pretty sure these three would have won World’s Best Camp Chaperones this year if there was such a thing. They were amazing, and I thank God for their eager investment in our teens’ lives last week. They truly went above and beyond.

Anthony shared about his experience seeing God change hearts and lives at Amherst College.
Kayla shared (with 500 people!)highlights from her experience in Scotland.

Shoutout to Ellen, Patrick, and Nick as well!  So fun to be with Mercyhouse people while away at camp!

One final picture of our group on the last day. They all seemed to have such a fun and meaningful time. Lots of heart transformations and life direction received. Many renewed in their desire to “offer their bodies as living sacrifices” which was the other very tangible image of the week – Robert placing his whole body on a small table to illustrate what a whole burnt offering is all about.

 

Saturday morning it’s all over. One last time with Bible study groups, one last song and short sermons, and all the teens are back on the road with their individual churches.

Staff stays around another hour or so for clean up, which may be the toughest job of all.

Because deflating beach balls, giant pizzas, and ring toss cones is hard work, y’all!

New England Summer Lovin’

We didn’t plan specifically for this, but a classic New England summer has been in full swing lately. Kinda hard not to call it classic when it kicks off with a trip to Fenway Park on a PERFECT June evening.

We were offered two Red Sox tickets by an unnamed source (whose name begins with an A and might just be one of their biggest fans) the morning of the game, and somehow were able to make quick arrangements for a trip to Boston that afternoon. The commuter rail from the Worcester area was suggested for parking and traveling to Fenway and back. I took full advantage of someone else driving by sleeping most of the way back to our car that evening.

Our ticket giver was not too happy about having to forgo the game that night due to being under the weather and exhausted from travel, so we tried to fully enjoy her great seats and even indulged in some Cracker Jacks for the occasion. (I’m just glad it wasn’t a 16 inning game like they had against the Yankees on Saturday night.)

It was on the way to the Red Sox game that we realized that in just five short days, we’d be at Tanglewood in the Berkshires for the John Mellencamp and EmmyLou Harris concert. The only thing that would have made this event more “classic” would have been seeing James Taylor instead, but we’ve done that several times already. (It never gets old, though!)

There were big black trash bags under our blankets and holding our cooler, shoes, jackets, and more. Miraculously, everything stayed dry and we enjoyed our Whole Foods snack dinner before the concert started.

 John Cougar and EmmyLou were fantastic!  We enjoyed every minute – even the minutes we had to snuggle under the umbrella due to a couple of passing rain showers. We did not expect to see the sun at all, but it finally pierced through the clouds and made for a gorgeous evening.

A few days later it was time to celebrate the Fourth of July. With barely a hint from me, Kayla (and then Mary!) agreed to plan, shop for, and prepare ALL of the food for our annual picnic for the Amherst fireworks. I was so relieved! As much as I enjoy hospitality and putting meals together, it can certainly wear on me, and I was just not wanting to go to the effort.

Kayla and Mary to the rescue!

These girls took everything on the to-do list and executed it with zero help from me. (Well, a few cooking consultations, but that was it.) Not only was it a huge relief to me, it was a big blessing to those who joined our picnic that night. They were truly amazed by what we pulled out of our picnic bags and cooler – everything put together beautifully by these two young ladies.

And my kitchen after their afternoon of cooking and baking?

Spotless.

Ahhh…..

Kayla even created her own beautiful shopping list. They WALKED to the store and back (because I wasn’t up for chauffeuring either, and Kayla can’t drive friends yet) and spent several hours in the kitchen. A fruit pizza was not on the list, but it was a part of their vision and such a fun treat! (P.S. The grocery store is only a stone’s throw away. 🙂 )
Vi is every child’s second mama at our church!

Little Joseph was happier than any of us had ever seen him – and he’s definitely already a good natured and happy boy. Dancing and laughing and eating, he was mesmerized by the fireworks, and it was a gift to us all to experience the holiday through his eyes. A gift to be with his mom, too, who had never experienced fireworks in person, and who could not get over the feast that Kayla and Mary had prepared.

Not one bit afraid. Just mesmerized.

The very next day was our last time to meet as a small group. Bittersweet for sure. I loved being with these ladies so much and working our way through the whole Bible and redemption narrative using the Seamless workbook.

Vi made us a set of flash cards for the icons used in the workbook, and so we had a bit of hands-on practice with the order of events. I think I mentioned that we accidentally ordered the wrong book and ended up doing the “teen girls” version. Everyone just rolled with it (still a great, substantive study!), and on our final night together, SouYoung said that she thought it was no accident.

Yes, these grown women eagerly indulged me in my photo taking and flash card games.

“No mistake at all,” is how she worded it. New to faith, to church, and certainly to the Bible, she added a richness and freshness to our study. She enabled us to see Jesus through the eyes of a new believer (her retelling of the story of the woman caught in adultery brought tears), and challenged us with her ability to perfectly recall all thirty events in the redemption narrative. She was truly a gift to us.

The very next day, Robert and I were off to the North Shore of Boston – maybe one of THE most quintessential New England locations – to prepare for a week of youth camp at Gordon College. Dinner at Woodman’s in Essex  (because everyone was hot and sweaty and not up for fine dining) with a few members of the camp staff got us started off right.

EVERYTHING (except onion rings, clam strips, and bread, of course) gluten free. We were shocked…and giddy!

Yes, we had a side fries with our fries.

Not a paleo meal by a long shot, but gluten free fried fish is such a rare treat. It felt like a little taste of heaven, and we ate way too much of it.

(Legal Sea Foods uses all gluten free batter now, too. Woohoo!)

We got settled into our dorm/apartment at Gordon College later that evening, and started preparing for a week of teaching and preaching, of late nights and early mornings, and of ministry to over 500 teenagers and their chaperones from all over New England.
Blueprint was the theme this year. God’s plans for building and rebuilding.

It was an incredible week, and I’ll have to tell you about it next time. We’ve only been home three days now, and are still somewhat in recovery mode. We’re also in planning mode for our next and annual New England adventure – a trip to Ogunquit, Maine.  Planning for our 25th anniversary trip on August 1st as well. I haven’t told many of you about that one either, but it’s a big one and I’ll fill you in soon.

For now, I’ll leave you with a fun pic of our camp staff this year.

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Williams, The Dijitl Group

Feeling really thankful for the privilege of doing ministry (and living life) in New England today.

As If…

Got this email reminder yesterday.  
As if we needed one.  
As if the countdown didn’t start way back in November or some crazy-early time like that ~ when the tickets were purchased, and after I spent a couple of hours of my life researching strategies for acquiring tickets to shows that sell out in the first 10 minutes.
As if we haven’t been Enchanted by the 1989 album ever since its release.
As if the outfit/costume planning didn’t begin about two months ago.
As if there was a Blank Space on the calendar this Friday night.
Friday night!  Just 4 more days! (Still don’t know what I’m wearing!)
We have a group of seven going, and one of my friends in the group, Missy, is a Special Education teacher near Boston.  Her students made a video spoof of Taylor’s “Shake It Off” and it is just so fun.  Take a few moments to watch it and share if you could.  They are really hoping to get Taylor to stop by for a visit when she’s in town this week. She’s well known for this type of kindness and generosity, so I think it’s a definite possibility! 
Isn’t that GREAT???
We just returned from a week of youth camp which is always wonderful and exhausting but mostly wonderful.  Laughing, worshiping, playing, and enjoying such sweet fellowship with those who return year after year.  Robert and I got away for a quick lunch with Lars (Elisabeth’s husband) who’s only five minutes from the Gordon College campus, and I’ll tell you about it as soon as I can.
First….about 200 pages of Ethics reading, two quizzes, a 12 page research paper on biblical patriarchy vs. modern day fatherhood (focusing on Dominionist theology, Rushdoony, Doug Phillips, the Quiverfull homeschool movement, etc.), feeding my family (no food here after 10 days away at camp!), and…………shopping for my concert outfit, of course. 

The Saints on Strawberry Cove: Part 3

It happened while I was sitting in a Sunday morning worship service about 6 weeks ago. I don’t really know if it was the Holy Spirit, but it certainly seemed like it. The thought, or rather, the strong compelling notion just kept coming to me:

Go and see Elisabeth.  You need to go and see Elisabeth and Lars.

I didn’t do anything about it at first, and wondered whether the Lord might only be compelling me to pray for them, so I did.  But the thought, the notion, the urge would not leave.  I would forget about it for a couple of days and then it would return. Since youth camp (at Gordon College, near their home) was just around the corner, I decided to wait and not do anything until it was a little closer.  The closer youth camp got, the more emotional the urge became.  I would tear up every time I thought of a visit.

 This made me wonder if something had happened to them, so I visited the Elisabeth Elliot website, where Lars tries to maintain a monthly update on her, on them.  I knew that Elisabeth had struggled with a few physical issues especially after weathering a bad fall a few years ago.  I also knew that it was becoming more and more difficult for her mentally after our lunch with them in 2006. I reached out to Lars after that lunch and let him know that I was not prepared for Elisabeth’s “distance” and inability to really answer any questions or carry on conversation by herself.  He wrote back to share that she seemed to be struggling with a similar issue to her own mother in her later years, but said he did not really have a name for it.  When I checked in a month ago, I learned that Elisabeth had recently experienced a TIA (transient ischemic attack or “mini-stroke”), and a CT scan at the hospital revealed that she also had a touch of pneumonia.

 I also learned that she and Lars have two live-in caretakers now named Kea and Carrie, and that Elisabeth eats two eggs and half of an avocado for breakfast every morning.

Eggs and avocado.  We MUST be kindred spirits.

I waited until Robert and I arrived at Gordon College for the staff weekend before all of the campers arrived on Monday, and gave Lars a call on Saturday morning. He didn’t answer, so I left a message.  Then he called back and left me a message. We finally talked on Sunday afternoon and set the time for a visit for Tuesday afternoon at 3:30.  This time, thankfully, I had a several skirts to choose from!
 Tuesday midday, Sarah, our girls’ chaperone at camp, and I made a quick trip to Target to get the last piece of a gift basket I wanted to make and take with me. (She and Robert are the only ones I told about my upcoming afternoon visit. Oh, and my friend Abby, too, who saw me walking with my basket through campus and offered me a ride to my car.) I had already acquired a pineapple, a bag of Godiva chocolates, some bananas, and…..four avocados, of course, so now I needed a basket of some sort in which to put all the goodies I planned to take. Back in my dorm room, I worked on the basket arrangement, changed into my skirt, grabbed my camera, and headed to Strawberry Cove. I prayed that there would be a farm stand selling fresh eggs along the drive to their house, but none appeared.

 A call to Lars had to be made eventually, because I got lost.  The GPS was a bit confused about the actual location of Strawberry Cove.  Lars was not surprised at all by this and talked me through how to turn around, get my bearings, and make it to their house.

“Go back to town, and when the Dunkin Donuts is on your right, drive down and then up a hill.  Just after the crest, you will see Strawberry Cove.  Turn right, and we’ll be the second drive on the left.  I’ll stand on the front step and wait,” he instructed.

When I arrived, there he was standing on the doorstep as promised.  A hug and then exclamations about the gift basket greeted me.  The chocolate was the immediate joke.

“60%?” he said. “That’s ‘Private Reserve.'”

This joke continued into the house in order to make the two young Christian caretakers worry that I had brought in some high-quality liquor.

“He’s talking about the chocolate I put in the basket,” I finally had to explain.

They are used to his antics, so we all had a good laugh.

Lars served me hot tea, which was wonderful, and cookies, which I really hated to refuse, but he understood.  We sat in the living room catching up while the girls helped Elisabeth to the bathroom and then back to the living room in her wheelchair.

One reason for the 3:30pm visit time was due to this being Elisabeth’s most alert time of the day, and alert she was. Though I took my camera, I wondered if taking pictures might be an intrusion, so I simply left it in my purse.  But after a few moments of talking, Lars urged me to take some pictures, since she was wide awake and even a bit chatty.  (The first two photos in this post are the ones I took just then.) What she says can’t always be understood, but still she chattered away, off and on throughout my visit.  In fact, Lars said she had not been that alert since her TIA.

There is no question that though she seems “distant” she has a level of awareness ~ probably more than anyone of us would conceive. She knows who her husband is, that’s for sure. She hardly ever let go of his hand, rubbing it, caressing it, and turning it over and over in her own.  If he ever pulled his hand away in order to use it for storytelling emphasis, she reached out for it again and again.

She seemed to be taking so much comfort and refuge in this man who has loved her and cared for her and stewarded her life so, so well. She appeared to be expressing a restricted, yet abounding gratitude for his presence, probably especially because of this semi-stranger in the house.

And she was very clear about expressing her desires when Carrie, her full time RN, tried to get her to look at the camera for our pictures together.  After some prodding from Carrie, Elisabeth voiced a slow but decisive “No,” while continuing to look only at Lars. Ha!  I tried not to have my feelings hurt, but couldn’t help but worry that my visit, and certainly this photo session, was not as enjoyable for her as it seemed for the rest of us. Elisabeth has never been known for her gushing affections, convivial personality, or sense of humor, but neither have I, so it’s okay. She’s serious, discerning, devout, faithful, no nonsense, and earnest.  I totally understand.

If you’ve read much of Elisabeth’s writings, you know that this is her daily view of the Atlantic from Cape Ann
 in the home that she designed herself.
I’ve imagined it many times in my mind, and was blessed to see it in person.

My plan was to get back to Gordon College and spend some time writing down every detail of my afternoon in their home, but it just wasn’t possible. (Camp life is non-stop, and camp drama ensued shortly thereafter.) I can tell you that Lars and I share some similar political opinions, so there were jokes about global warming and Al Gore’s own carbon footprint, concern for traditional marriage and gender roles including a story about Elisabeth speaking in his hometown in Norway once.  Seems she caused quite a stir with her teaching on biblical gender roles for some there. (I feel her pain) So much that the bishop or pastor asked her to change topics for her next speaking engagement. She even made the front page of the local newspaper which gave them a hearty laugh.

I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Carrie and Kea just a bit.  Both young, single, Christian woman personally and recently recruited by Lars to come and help care for Elisabeth full time.  Both shared their story of being contacted by Lars through his various contacts in the broader national Christian community, of praying before giving him an answer, though it seemed like a no-brainer, and finally deciding to come.  They were both really delightful.  When I first asked them how they had managed to be given this great honor, Lars laughed and said, “Careful with that word ‘honor.’  I’m not sure that’s exactly what this is.”

I think all of the women in the room agreed that it was indeed an honor to care for this well-known saint in what may be her last days, though Lars would caution that no one really knows when those are or will be.

I like that.

Driving back to campus, I fully expected an immediate onslaught of uncontrollable tears of joy and emotion, but that didn’t happen right away. I just kept being overcome with awe at the faithfulness of Lars Gren.  Much of his life has been only about Elisabeth. He moved into her house as a seminary boarder and to be part-time caretaker for Elisabeth’s second husband, Addison, who was dying of cancer. Addison passed away before Lars moved in, so she took in a second male boarder and seminary student.  If you know the entertaining story then you know that Lars ended up marrying Elisabeth, and the younger boarder married Valerie, Elisabeth and Jim Elliot’s only daughter.

I asked Lars what he went to seminary for.  He had pursued an Mdiv in order to become a chaplain, and did spend some time working in that capacity in the nearby Beverly hospital. Elisabeth continued her writing and speaking, often accompanied by Lars.  Prior to one of those speaking engagements, Lars felt prompted to take along a few of Elisabeth’s books, set them out on a small table, and offer them for sale after she spoke. He took no cash box, and obviously had no idea how eagerly her audience would respond to the opportunity to purchase books on the spot. He ended up using small paper cups to hold his different increments of coins and change and sold every book he brought.

So, a ministry was born, and Lars has been handling Elisabeth’s book and CD sales ever since.  For many years, he has also handled every bit of correspondence brought about by their ministry. It may take him a couple of weeks or months, but he will get back to you, guaranteed, and with a personal note, you can be certain.

I couldn’t help but think of how specifically he has fulfilled Christ’s commands to husbands in Ephesians 5:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought to also love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes is, just as Christ also does the church. v. 25-29

Lars has loved, served, and cherished Elisabeth in her health and at the height of her career, and he has only continued that selfless service in her sickness and weakness. In countless ways, he has given himself up for her and the powerful missionary story of tragedy and forgiveness she embodies.

His story is every bit as heroic as hers.

Before leaving, I asked him how I could pray, and he said, “We need prayer for the daily tasks, strength for each day.”  The girls echoed this and shared that they truly appreciate prayers on their behalf, as some days are good and others are very difficult.

I was serious when I offered myself as a help in any way, though I live a couple of hours from them.  It would truly be an honor. (And Lars, if you’re reading, I really do mean honor.)

In the meantime, I pray.

(P.S. The very next morning while I was leading a Bible study for the adult female chaperones at camp, my phone started buzzing, and I could see that Lars was calling. Panic struck, as I feared he had tragic news.  I listened to his message and was relieved and then quite tickled to hear that he only wanted to thank me for the visit.  He also said he wished I had taken my basket with me, but that since I had insisted that they keep it, they had decided to use it to hold all of their World Magazines and display on the coffee table in the living room.  He went on and on with thanks and gratitude, and I don’t plan on ever erasing that kind voice message from my phone!)

The Saint on Strawberry Cove: Part 2

Summer 2006 ~ Introducing my kids to heroes of the faith

This picture.  I have been searching high and low for it so that I could include it in this part of the story.  I’ve had my kids searching high and low, too. I spent time in my 100 degree, newly insulated attic yesterday going through boxes of homeschool books and old toys looking for the scrapbook in which it is located to no avail.  I even prayed several times that God would reveal its location ~ and He did. We pulled into our garage late last night after driving through severe thunderstorms in order to pick Cooper up from where he had been camping with family friends and I saw the Rubbermaid container. I opened the lid with much hopefulness and there it was.

It’s a scrapbook dedicated to a long summer road trip our family took in the summer of 2006.  We visited Gettysburg, Washington D.C., Charleston, SC, and Lancaster, PA’s Amish Country, and Philadelphia. It was sort of a Civil War/American History tour.  Our trip began at Gordon College, though, where we’ve spent a week at CrossWalk youth camp nearly every summer we’ve been in Massachusetts.

It had been about 5 years since that lunch with Elisabeth and Lars in Hamilton, MA, but we’d been keeping in touch all of that time through the exchange of Christmas letters. I’m sure hundreds of people receive these letters summing up the year of ministry and travels for Lars and Elisabeth, but what astounds me is the personal note at the bottom of each one ~ in earlier years from Elisabeth herself, but in recent years from Lars.  As I’ve looked back over these letters in the last couple of days, I’ve been in tears due to the personal nature of each one.  Lars mentions Cooper and his diagnosis of Celiac Disease in 2003, our Golden Retriever, Buddy, our ministry at church here in Amherst, my reading of Ann Voskamp’s book and counting 1000 gifts, Kory heading off to Baylor, etc. Almost every letter includes an invitation to visit them at #10 Strawberry Cove and a hope of also visiting us in Amherst sometime.

This intimate nature of their correspondence is explained by only one thing in my opinion: the sweetness of fellowship in Christ. During that first meeting in Hamilton, I asked them if they were constantly being bombarded with requests for meetings.  I was surprised by their answer.  They said no, not at all.  They explained that not many people in this part of the country know their story, know Elisabeth and Jim’s story, and so whenever they get a chance to be with folks who know their history, they take it, because it is such an encouragement to them.  They blessed us greatly by saying that they never tire of meeting with other believers, that it is as much a privilege for them as it is for us.

Reminds me of something Paul says in Romans 1:

For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. v. 11-12

With all of this in mind, I reached out to them again for a lunch date in 2006.  We would be at Gordon College for camp again, and their home is only about 15 minutes from the campus.  I told them I would really love for my children to meet them, as we had recently read a children’s biography of Jim Elliot and watched the documentary “Beyond the Gates of Splendor.”

Lars called and said they would love to meet us, and would come to us at Gordon College.  I was not comfortable with this, because there would be 400 teenagers cycling through the cafeteria for lunch that day, and it just didn’t feel like the best accommodations for them.  He insisted it would be fine, but I talked him into meeting at Gordon-Conwell Seminary just down the road instead.  Turned out he needed to return some books to their library anyway. We ate lunch in the cafeteria, which caused a bit of a stir among the handful of students also eating there. Nothing bad, just a few poses for photos with admiring seminarians before we had them all to ourselves.

We had our questions all planned out ~ the biggest of which was from six year old Kayla who was thinking about being baptized.  She asked Elisabeth how old she was when she got baptized. Lars answered for her and said she had been baptized as an infant, but then again at age 12 or 13, much to her parent’s concern.  Seems they didn’t feel it was necessary, but Elisabeth did, since she had, at that age, truly understood her need for forgiveness and tasted of God’s grace for the first time.

We also asked them if they had seen the movie End of the Spear, a feature length drama re-telling the events that led to the murder of Elisabeth’s first husband, missionary Jim Elliot.  They had not seen it, and did not have plans to.  This way they could avoid media attention and efforts to get a quote from them about the actor, a gay man, who played Nate Saint. The movie also dramatized the revelation to Steve Saint, the son of the missionary pilot also killed, regarding the identity of the Auca man responsible for his father’s death.  It was a very powerful portrayal of the forgiveness that was extended to the tribe, but not true to life.  Lars and Elisabeth cleared this up for us, telling us that Steve had known his whole life who had killed his father, which makes his ministry among the same people group so powerful.

(The documentary version, Beyond the Gates of Splendor, is a MUST SEE above the feature film in my opinion! Watch it yourself!  Show your kids! Really!)

It was a wonderful visit over lunch, and they were gracious enough to pose for a picture with the kids in the rain.  Here is the note I received from Lars after our meeting and upon returning home from our long summer journey.

Again, I was overwhelmed not only by the hand-written thank you note, but the compliments and the efforts made at getting back in touch with us that week with an invitation to their home.

And the “limited edition” card Lars refers to was of an original drawing by Cooper.  I had made notecards out of it and had given a stack to Lars and Elisabeth as a little gift during our lunch.  That he used those cards in his ministry correspondence was such a sweet gesture and an encouragement to Cooper at the time.

So, as I hope you can see, there are really two saints living on Strawberry Cove, one a saint AND a humble steward. My visit there just last week confirmed this beautiful truth.

Isn’t she lovely in blue? I could hardly take my eyes off of her, of them. What a joy.

To be continued…

Postcards From Camp

Hi Mom and Dad ~ we’re having a great time at camp this week, and it would be even better if the camp pastor would stop photo-bombing us. He’s kind of weird.

But even when he’s not photo-bombing, we sort photo-bomb ourselves with as many silly shots as possible.  In fact, we may have forgotten how to simply smile and pose normally for the camera.

See what I mean?
Morning Celebrations are really fun.  Today we played “Suitcase Jenga”…
…and a huge blow-up bowling game.  There were also crazy skits and funny videos.

 Our chaperones are totally awesome even if they do take away our electronics, tell us to stop pranking each other, and make us go to bed at curfew every night.  They love to play games with us, eat meals with us, and get us talking about the things God is teaching us.

 We are having tons of fun on the Rec field every morning after Bible study, playing old games and new ones, too. And even though it’s called “recreation” we take these games very seriously and do whatever it takes to win. Hopefully our intensity as well as our humility and kindness toward other teams will win us the day’s Spirit Stick ~ which happens to be a huge airplane propeller that goes well with our theme for the week “Flight Plan.” Both competition AND Christ-likeness are valued here at camp.

Don’t mess with the fierceness of Noah on the Rec field!

The cafeteria food is okay. Some of us are especially thankful for the soda dispenser that allows us to drink an endless supply of colored, carbonated sugar-water, not to mention the perpetual array of desserts ~ though not as many in years past! The grown-ups seem to think this is a good thing.

 In the evenings we go to a worship service with great music and teaching from the book of Ephesians.  We’re learning about the “flight plan” that involves traveling from “outside of Christ” and the “domain of darkness” to “inside of Christ” and the “kingdom of light.”  Turns out it’s a free ticket to get there and it’s called grace. That is so cool!

The camp pastor is doing a pretty good job, I guess.  I think he’s the dad of some of the kids in our group which is a little weird (along with that whole photo-bombing thing), but you’ll probably be glad to know I’m learning some new things about God, the Bible, the apostle Paul, and even myself.

We end every evening with a “Church Group Debrief.” It’s so cool, because the Snack Fairy gets to our room before us and leaves food out, which is great, because we are tweens and teens and we are constantly hungry.  Plus, we eat dinner at around 5:30pm, and four hours without food is almost unbearable.  After we eat and joke around a bit, we talk with our chaperones about what we learned during Bible study and that evening’s sermon. Last night we split the boys and the girls into two groups, which the chaperones seemed to think worked out much better.  Something about some of the boys showing off in front of the girls and goofing around too much for serious discussion?

Camp is halfway over now and we can’t wait for the things that happen during the next few days. Theme night is tonight, pizza night happens tomorrow, and Mega Relay and Midnight Madness are on Friday. Oh!  And some of us are going to the beach tomorrow during free time, which will be really awesome, since it’s been raining off and on for the last few days. Seems like there will be only sunshine from here on out!

As far as I know, everyone is happy and healthy here ~ even those of us who were skeptical about this whole camp thing.

See you on Saturday!