From New England to Catalina

On this longest day of the year, it’s a joy and privilege to be in a place where our hearts beat longest and most deeply, Campus by the Sea on Catalina Island. We’re completing our week-long summer staff orientation week and will welcome our first group of 2008 Family Campers tomorrow. It’s been a whirlwind getting here, admittedly, and we’re still running a bit to catch up, but past experience tells us it will all come together “in time.”

The past three weeks since we last posted have had many unexpected twists and turns, which may be more reflective of real life than we’d sometimes like to think. I spent a few days in Alexandria, Virginia, with my folks during the last days of May. They were hosting our family friend, Gertrud Buck, from Stuttgart, Germany.
Gertrud and Virginia

We first met Gertrud twenty years ago when she bravely ventured to Campus by the Sea to volunteer for part of a summer. We’ve been fast friends ever since. Her three-week holiday in the states started with a very big twist when she discovered, as she tried to get her reserved rental car, that she had not transferred her driver’s license to her travel wallet. It took a full week for her license to arrive, so she saw much more of the greater Washington, D.C., area than she had planned. She lived out the truth that "life is 10% circumstances, 90% attitude" as she took the delay in stride and made the best of it. Thankfully her "best laid plans" turned-upside-down were minimally negative due to the kind hospitality of my parents.

The next twist came on Saturday, May 31, as thunderstorms forced the postponement of the fifth annual H.I.M. Pool Party in Weston. Providentially, the following Saturday was perfect for its rescheduled date with hot temperatures and high humidity. About 100 people joined the cool fun in the pool and yummy bbq from the grill, under the masterful hand of Jim and Sue Martis. Not surprisingly, people didn’t want to leave at day’s end.

Backing up to June 1, Paul was the commencement speaker at Cassie Becker’s graduation from “Forest Hill Academy.” It was an honor to join the Becker family in celebrating the accomplishment of successfully homeschooling Cassie and affirming a job well done as she goes off to Wheaton College in Illinois this fall. The ceremony was embued with meaning and symbols of the value-driven choices the Beckers have made. From the graduation, we zipped to Weston for the closing night of our Church Partnership class. We’ve really grown to love those in the course and will miss meeting with them. They’re committed to making a difference for families and marriage in their churches.

June 4–6 were spent with the pastoral and staff team from Valley Community Baptist Church. We were asked to speak on “Balancing Marriage and Ministry” and that subject falls within our passions, so we welcomed the opportunity. It was our second year with this sincere, godly, and fun group of ministry colleagues and we loved the added benefit of the increased relational connectedness repeat opportunities afford. We have great respect and growing affection for Jay and Liz Abramson, who have provided senior pastor leadership at the church for years. It’s also always a treat to be with Tim and Sharon Ponzani, long time friends and ministry partners, who serve VCBC as Executive Pastor. We were truly energized by the conference.

The unexpected twist in those days came with a phone call, informing us that our dear friend, Patty Benes (the one in the previous blog whose June 10th 50th birthday we had celebrated in late May in NYC) was in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and on a ventilator. We went directly to the hospital when the VCBC conference ended, and managed to get there almost every day until we left for California. For a week, her life was tenuous; intubated and in a medically-induced coma, she fought acute pancreatitis (triggered by the removal of a polyp near her pancreatic duct), a blood infection, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. We quietly acknowledged her birthday as June 10 came and went during her unconsciousness.Virginia, Patty, and Pam

Thankfully, she began to pull out of it the 12th, when they extubated her and replaced the vent with a tracheotomy. We felt we were given a gift when on June 14, the day before we left for the summer, she was awake and aware and on her way to recovery.

We spent a lot of time those days with Patty’s husband, Michael (who designed the cover for Letters to My Daughters), talking, praying, comforting, and supporting. Though there were many things to be thankful for, we were all very aware that the real possibility existed that Patty would not leave the hospital alive. We are so thankful she did (she came to their home to rehab on June 18, sixteen days after the ordeal started) but we are very aware that many people don’t have their prayers answered in the way they want. How important it is to live every day like we are children of God (since we are!), reflecting His glory. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Lots of counseling and other appointments filled the remaining days in Bedford. We also went to a number of graduation parties and also to one actual graduation, which warrants mentioning. Two years ago, Ryan and Kelly Plosker (H.I.M. board members) birthed New England Academy in Beverly, Massachusetts, a high school for students who need special support due to emotional issues in order to thrive academically. On June 12, they graduated their first class of nine students, all of whom will be going on to college in the fall. It was a celebration exponentially more potent than an average graduation because of the seemingly insurmountable odds these kids have faced. Student after student testified that they had been personally invested in by Ryan and Kelly as well as by the qualified staff of teachers, and that had made the difference.

As technology threatens to overtake every area of life, and more and more live in virtual realities, it was a refreshing reminder at New England Academy’s graduation that nothing will ever trump the power of relationships: of human-to-human heart and soul connections. Well done, Ryan and Kelly! May the Lord continue to bring the right kids to your academy who need what you uniquely have to offer.

In the midst of it all, we stole away to Freeport, Maine, to record twenty-eight 90-second radio spots for Positive FM Radio (89.3) Soon the spots will be airing as “Marriage Minutes.” What a great opportunity!

Farewell Party for Nate and Jeannie King (lower right)

Our last two nights in New England were committed to honoring friends. A farewell party was held for Nate and Jeannie King, who are relocating to Georgia and who have been dear friends and valuable partners in our Engagement Matters weekends. We’ll really miss them. The last night, we drove to Osterville to witness the marriage vows of Adam Rowe and his bride, Liz. Adam’s parents, Mike and Maggie Rowe, have been long time friends and partners in ministry, and Adam served with us at Campus by the Sea several summers ago. It was refreshing and encouraging to know of the God-honoring way Adam and Liz related to one another as they prepared for marriage. We were privileged to be there, supporting and affirming them as two committed to honoring God in their union.

Several hours later, we were on the plane to California. A shortened visit (due to delayed flights) with our dear friends John and Wendy Turney preceded our voyage across the sea to this beloved cove. The staff training has gone very well and we are very impressed with our young, rookie team. They seem to be here for the right reasons and with the right hearts, and that’s a great start.

So before the longest day of the year comes to a close, I need to spend some quality time with our staff, who are currently enjoying the break between camps and lounging on the (rocky) beach. Pray for us!