Monday, August 16, 2010

Thankful for Pesky Brothers and Sisters!

They just wouldn’t stop bugging me. I received mysterious e-mails and grinning faces would appear at my door repeating the same two-word message: “Family Camp!” John and Randy were the worst! It was almost a mantra with them. It got to the point that I would look for cover whenever I saw them, but there was no escape. The message came through loud and clear – “FAMILY CAMP!” After months of persistent yet friendly pressure, I gave in. “Okay, I’ll go! Let’s see what this Family Camp is all about!” I feigned enthusiasm, but was anything but eager to attend.

Luz couldn’t believe I’d committed us to go. “We’re not a camping family!” She reminded me. “What are we going to do there? It’s in Iowa – there’s nothing there but corn!” I agreed, but it was too late, we were Iowa-bound with our two youngest daughters Joana and Victoria and Joana’s best friend Feven. What had I gotten us into?

When we arrived, we were shown our quarters. Everyone was in the same bedroom and the accommodations were tight. It was Family Camp and families were housed in a bunk-house style to promote interaction, which meant a lot of shared space. Luz’s world-class resourcefulness went into high gear and she fashioned a “Wall of Jericho” from extra sheets we had brought with us to divide the room between us and the girls, providing a sense of privacy in our shared environs. We were pleasantly surprised to find we had air-conditioning which made our room very comfortable. There was a full-service bathroom with hot and cold running water! This wasn’t the way I was used to camping back in the day! I could get used to this!

Nevertheless, the first day was still a bit of a struggle. We had missed an introductory session and didn’t know how things functioned, what activities were planned and how we were supposed to make sure the girls were plugged into all their activities. Besides that, I was speaking and had responsibilities related to our chapel sessions and worship times. We felt a bit out of our element, like we had landed in another country, but my dear friend and Lead Teaching Pastor Paul, who was in charge, slapped me on the back, grinned and said, “You’ll get used to it!”

Luz and I awoke after a surprisingly good night’s sleep. We prayed together, got everyone else going and were greeted by our family counselor, Andrea, who was assigned to us to assist us with Victoria and to make our stay less stressful. When we realized that we could go through the day with the kids all fully engaged in activities while having the freedom to do things we wanted to do, the week was looking a lot better! The food only sweetened the deal. Breakfasts were fit for royalty, lunch was varied, tasty and filling and dinner always delicious with nothing less than the word “heaping” best describing all the portions. By mid-week I was wondering if we really needed to eat anything else before Saturday!

The fellowship times were warm and uniting. We had great worship times and I certainly enjoyed doing the teaching for the week. The messages came from my heart and the feedback I received was encouraging. There was also plenty of time to get to know folks over meals, in casual conversations, and special activities. There was also opportunity to get to know ourselves a little better as well. My best time for becoming reacquainted with myself came on the challenge course named the Leap of Faith (It could have been called the "road to perdition", but it probably wouldn't sucker in guys like me!) On this course, I joined my daughter Joana and her best friend Feven for a rugged half-mile hike up a steep, rocky hillside, climbed 35-40 ft up a tree, had an extended battle with a mini-zip line (which I won but not without getting a MAJOR wedgie and using my reserve of strength for the next 3 years) and finally took the "Leap of Faith" where I didn't land where I wanted to, but learned I still had the courage to leap out into the uncertain without fear.

Parents night out was like a crown jewel to our week! We feasted on a sumptuous buffet, sang karaoke with such vigor and joy that for the first time in human history, sober people cleared the in restaurant bar with only the sonic weapons of our voices! They just couldn’t believe we were having that much fun without drinking! There were more opportunities to interact and share, building deeper friendships and lasting memories.

We had two camp-related injuries as one member of our group sprained an ankle and another had a severe leg break. The love, help, courage and compassion that manifested in these tough situations were a testament to the commitment to each other than sprang from our common faith and shared experience on church and at camp.

When Saturday arrived and the time to leave had come, I couldn’t believe how much my family and I had enjoyed our camp experience. I’m so thankful for the pesky Brothers and sisters who pestered us for months to come and held our feet to the fire when we tried to flake out. This is what community is all about – caring enough to force our friends to do something that is good for them, even as they sometimes kick and scream along the way. I’m thrilled to say I’ve joined the ranks of the Family Camp Fan Club and look forward to the privilege of doing a bit of pestering myself to get someone like me to leave another one of their comfort zones to experience some sweet and transforming community and fun! So look out, here I come wanting to see YOU at the next Family Camp!

Until next time…