It’s a beautiful day on Catalina Island and during this break from program planning for family camps, I’ve reached the entry on my “to do list” which says “blog.” As I start writing, I am struck with the seeming impossibility of it being only 3 weeks since spending Memorial Day weekend in Tennessee, speaking at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat’s second annual family camp. It seems like a short lifetime ago, as these weeks have been filled with a lot of activity and emotion.
It was only hours after returning from Uganda on Monday late afternoon, May 23, that I caught an early morning flight to Washington, D.C., to surprise my baby sister Laura with a birthday visit. It was one of the best surprises ever, aided by my brother-in-law David’s willingness to get me at the airport and take me to her office. It was a sweet, sweet day in so many ways, but perhaps the sweetest was having some time with Laura and David’s beloved 10-year-old mini-dachshund, Maggie, who lost the battle to inflammatory bowel disease just days later. :( I’ll always consider that day as a gift from heaven.
|Hand-carried, freshly cut lilacs from New England “fragranced” the surprise visit to honor my sister Laura for her birthday.|
This little fighter, Maggie, attacked this plastic tube with a vengeance, which betrayed her very weakened, sickly condition.
Home from D.C. that night, we counseled the next day. On Friday morning, May 27 (our daughter Kari’s 36th birthday!), we flew to Atlanta, and then drove to Cumberland, Tennessee, to speak at the Cumberland Wilderness Retreat’s second annual family camp. We launched this camp last Memorial Day and were so delighted to return. The “baby” of Keith and Marsha Thompson and Nate and Jeannie King, it was SO gratifying to hear the second-year families say that they’ve been counting the days since last year! They “got” it! They loved the community experience of families coming alongside each other, doing life, learning about Jesus, praying, playing, and staying together. One sweet family, whose father is an orthopedic surgeon, related that their 5-year-old has not stopped talking about family camp since last Memorial Day Weekend. The surgeon’s office partners told him before this Memorial Day, “Ok, we get it. We won’t schedule you to work Memorial Day Weekend for the next 15 years!” There’s just something about family camp that is so unique, so shaping, so transforming. It thrills us when families “get it.”
The Kings and the Thompsons once again did a great job of planning and preparing for family camp. Perfect weather contributed to the success of the weekend, and the addition of the ever-popular “finger rocket blasters” was loved by all. Great worship, great children’s ministry staff, great food. It was an off-the-charts weekend.
|Sunrise over one of the lakes at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat.|
|Under the tent—the “meeting hall” at this not-yet-developed but full-of-potential camp.|
Battle of the sexes . . . men against women in finger-rocket-blasters.
Fish fry—starring freshly caught fish by the campers—absolutely to die for (well, the fish did).
Cumberland Wilderness Retreat’s future—site of the first construction which will happen in the next few months. We prayed over the land together.
The family campers at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat: 75 campers, 17 families.
The family camp staff—all great folks who served endlessly through the weekend.
After a lovely day with the King family in Rome, GA, we flew home with T- 10 days til departing for our summer at Campus by the Sea. Counseling, catching up, preparing for the summer, cleaning, sorting, packing, HIM Board Meeting…the days passed quickly. The highlight came in the form of Derek and Julie, Nathan and Rachel, who arrived for a short visit on Sat. the 4th. What little joy bringers they are! We had so much fun together doing not much more than taking walks, playing with toys, being entertained by the antics of these two adorable littles, and packing every bit of loving we could into three short days. It was especially fun to share with Derek and Julie stories from our time in Uganda and Ethiopia. We had so much love to give them from their many friends/colleagues/admirers.
|Papa and his well-loved grands, Nathan and Rachel.|
|Rachel lights up a room!|
On Saturday, June 11, we flew to San Francisco and left behind all that never quite got done. Out of sight . . . out of mind. We spent Sunday teaching at Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City. Lead pastor Gary Gaddini, one of our dearest friends and ministry partners, is on sabbatical, so we were invited to fill the pulpit. Having spoken at PCC numerous times over the years, it feels a bit like “coming home” to be there as we are always so warmly welcomed. We love the ethos of PCC—a very Christ-centered, grace-giving, outreach committed church—which God is using to make an impact.
Highlights for us included meetings up with Bob and Clara Sharpless, who were on the original Campus by the Sea (CBS) committee with Paul’s parents and others back in 1968. That committee “saved” camp literally, as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) was ready to give up the lease due to the difficulty of staffing it. The CBS committee offered to take full financial and operational responsibility of the camp if IVCF would continue to carry the lease and the deal was made. Though the committee was disbanded in 1994, they served an incredibly important role in the history of CBS.
Bob and Clara’s love for CBS has never abated and until very recently, they attended a week of family camp each summer. Their family torch is carried by their daughter, Mary Giani, and her husband, Paul, and their three kids, who continue to make family camp their tradition.
We also reconnected with Jim and Marge Perry, long time CBS friends, as well as several families who are current CBS family campers. It was a day filled with wonderful reunions.
|Bob and Clara Sharpless are such an encouragement as they continue to be involved in Kingdom building in their golden years.|
|Jim and Marge Perry have also been a part of CBS history for decades. When we got married, they were family campers, and eventually their sons served on staff.|
We walked on the beach at Half Moon Bay for the balance of the day, after having a lovely lunch with some dear friends, and called it a day. On to Catalina the next day . . .
On the boat heading over to CBS for the summer. This is a great group!
We’re singing the “same song” for the 41st time, in a sense. There is so much that is consistent, known, traditional about being at CBS. The deeply embedded ethos, the commitment to the Lordship of Christ and servanthood. The set-apartness, the distraction-free zone, the protection. The peace, the solitude, the love. The community, the connections, the support. The freedom from technology, from cars, from craziness.
There’s no place like it in our world. We are so very thankful for the privilege of serving here for over 4 decades.
So, orientation week is underway and we couldn’t be more thankful for the staff that God has brought together. All but four of our program staff are veterans so we have a huge head start as most of them know the ropes already. Cream of the crop, this group of 26 college students or beyond is serious about their relationship with the Lord and is committed to serving. It’s an honor to serve with them.
We’re spending all our time this week developing the curriculum for all the age levels and solidifying the extra-curricular all family activities. It’s a week of getting to know each other, sharing creative ideas, brainstorming, building anticipation for a great summer of serving together. There’s a lot of talent, passion, and heart for Jesus in this group. God is so faithful!
|Staff optional hike up “Scar” with “Lone Tree” in the background.|
|Dick and Nancy Beggs, retired from Christian camping (they are connected with Camp Maranatha in Idyllwild), stopped by for a visit. Our friendship spans our marriage; we met them at the CCI conference at Mt Hermon in 1977. They are treasured friends.|
|The program team for the 2016 family camp season. Such a great, great group!!|
So, here we are. Singing the same song . . . for the 41st time. Singing with joy, with anticipation, with passion. Pray for us!!
Sunset at Cumberland Wilderness Retreat. Unfiltered beauty.