Although we felt physically spent, our hearts were at flood stage with thanksgiving for the immense ways God met us and the campers. It was a week worth waiting an entire year for.
But in all candor, it really didn’t look like it would be. The bright skies which backdropped registration as campers arrived on Saturday were overtaken by thunderstorms and rain twelve hours later, and hung around for fifty hours. That’s a lot of wetness and dreariness to start camp with, and though everyone “rolled” with it all, it definitely put a “damper” on all outdoor and lakefront activities. Add to that several accidental injuries, and I'll admit that as I went to bed Tuesday night, I wondered if we should be doing family camps in New England!
The week culminated with the banquet Thursday night. Person after person testified of how God had met them. Several couples shared their journey from despair and near divorce to hope and a growing marriage. It was an amazing night of celebration and thanksgiving. We were SO aware of God’s mercy and grace and His movement among us.
One camper wrote: “Family Camp recharges our family for a year and helps us realign to God’s purposes for our family. We have been so blessed! The staff have served us faithfully and with hearts that show God's love, especially to our children.”
Another wrote: “This is part of what we do as a family in the summer. We strengthen our family by attending and implementing what we hear. Family Camp changes us!”
Paul did leave Family Camp for a day to pay respects to Eliot Eames, who passed away in late July. Ninety-two-year-old Eliot and his wife Thora, along with their best friends, Claude and Forestine Cole, were two of the couples who founded Grace Chapel. Forestine passed away in early July and Paul flew from California to New England to conduct her services. We were quite shocked to receive word of Eliot's death just over two weeks later. Paul was able to give tribute to Eliot's life, which had been well spent in service to the Lord. He and Thora would have celebrated their 68th anniversary this October 12. The loss is huge for Thora, obviously. We feel so privileged to have had both the Eames and the Coles in our lives these past fourteen years. Both couples have taught us so much about faithfulness, commitment, and finishing well. Pray for both Claude Cole and Thora Eames as they grieve and adjust to life without their lifelong partners of 64 and 67 years respectively.
Our second week of Family Camp at Camp Berea is now 24 hours old, and we’re off to a great start with lots of sunshine and moonshine. :) The camp is full of expectant families, who seemed to delight in every aspect of this first day. This is the beginning of our tenth straight week of family camping, and though we are a wee bit tired at this point, our passion for this ministry and the faithfulness of God keeps us going. It’s also immensely encouraging for us to have our daughter Julie serving with us here. She brings a ton of depth, experience, and vitality to the junior high and high school students.