How Beautiful is Church Camp

Our church camp almost didn’t happen this year … because it’s getting difficult to reserve entire campgrounds in our state.

Thankfully, camp still occurred in all its glory, even if we were prevented from certain traditions. First, there were no water sports due to some kind of weird algae bloom that could make you sick and allegedly made a dog die from drinking it. So we had to miss the usual staples of camp life like boating, swimming, tubing. Second, the state issued a fire ban so no open campfires allowed. Third, we set up camp in a new-to-us place. We had finally outgrown our beloved Huckleberry Campground where I personally have enjoyed each of my church camps for the last 10 years in a row.

However, the core of everything I love about this annual camping trip stayed true despite missing iconic water sports, campfire, and Huckleberry. It’s like that one time when someone stole the church trailer with the piano, cushions, chairs, pulpit, and sound equipment. We were still a church. Or when we had to watch the sermon virtually since our building was closed up because of covid. Still the Bride of Christ. So of course, a simple location change wouldn’t stop us from packing up our cars and coolers with bright attitudes to be together!

And it was a wonderful weekend.

I grow more impressed with the immeasurable means of grace in that God gifted us each other. Without a church family, a person could literally have no one to trust, no one to turn to. But I have layers and layers of saints who have proved they would drop everything if I needed anything. There are local churches all over the world who would pick up where one left off in ministering to a sheep like me. It’s overwhelming and humbling.

My top three highlights of camp this year were 1) sharing the tangible joys with my little family, 2) the baptisms, and 3) the spiritual gifts in action.

It was such an honor to introduce a small flannel-clad boy to a weekend of outdoor fellowship. Judah approved of it, and heartily participated in everything he could, which was mostly just making people’s days with his bear hugs.

Pine trees infused the air with the fresh woodsiness. Corn hole brought out our competition. The claps of dramatic thunder begged the question, “How did YOU sleep last night?” Without our Sunday best, but a sunburn instead, observing each other’s realness and coffee habits is easy. We talked about goldfish, about weddings, about the gospel and about this new corner of the lake. We were relaxed and had nowhere to be except dinner and worship.

Now, the baptisms. How good is God to give us a tangible picture of a new spiritual life? To see an outward representation of Christ’s rescue from sin?

It’s inevitable that I’ll cry. As someone in my family coined it, “Life and death will make me cry.” About ten testimonies ranged from someone saved by grace out of a generationally godly family to first generation Christians, to trusting at a young age to tasting what the world has to offer first — all a clear picture of sinful hearts washed with the blood of Christ. We all rejoiced deeply in each public announcement of faith in the Savior. What struck me listening to the testimonies was the inclusion of fervent prayers for these ones gone astray, and the evidence of plenty of seed planting by an older brother here, a sister there, a pastor, a friend, an acquaintance. God chooses to use us in Gospel work, as seen in the many familiar names brought up in the testimonies, but He brings the increase.

Finally, I enjoyed the extra goodness of the Lord to grant us spiritual gifts and hearts that long to serve one another. Not only did He save us from hell, make us His cherished bride, but He also equipped us uniquely so we could bless each other and thus bring glory to Him.

At camp I noticed we were served by someone sharing their special green avocado creamy sauce for taco night. A young man with a ton of energy willing to bring up the tube from the bottom of the slip n’ slide hill over and over. Hands that played guitar chords, emptied trash, held babies, acted as the hospitable camp hosts, provided a listening ear and mercy. On Sunday we were taught from the Word.

Those gifts in action are all for His glory wafting up like the campfire smoke we didn’t have because, remember–fire ban.

God didn’t have to give us each other to help in suffering or to laugh about slip n’ slide wipeouts. To serve each other hamburgers with caramelized onions, to share truth with, to worship Him on a wooded mountainside or in the suburbs back at home base. Isn’t His Body beautiful?

I can hear it. “But there isn’t a perfect church! She’s clearly wearing rose-colored glasses.”

It’s true. There is no perfect church. Of course, I have a little loyal partiality toward my family, but I still work to give grace for the failures I see and even for the ones I can’t see. Because there is masterpiece work going on. A bride is getting prepared for the marriage of the Lamb.

And gratefully, there aren’t any rose-colored glasses needed to appreciate God’s beautiful goodness in giving us the broken and beautiful Body of Christ. His plan is good. Even in hard, ugly times we can acknowledge His design is lovely, and He’s building His church, even though that won’t make the headlines. Whatever imperfections are now, we look toward the day of endless, perfect, better-than-church-camp worship. Even the righteous acts of the saints at camp are helping clothe us for that day.

“Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, because the marriage of the Lamb has come,

and His bride has prepared herself.

 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean;

for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’”

And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

View from Below

I enjoy heights. Even though I’m no hardcore hiker, I love a good vantage point. I first learned this when I helped my dad tear off old shingles on our three-story house.

There is something indescribable about an elevated view which lets you collect a tiny swath of a larger perspective.

Continue reading “View from Below”

Vacation In Kansas?

Plunging into a gold mine and scaling Pikes Peak — were just two of the adventures at our family reunion in Colorado two years ago. My uncle booked the same camp for our 2020 reunion because we loved the area so much.

But I only had to read a handful of missionary prayer letters to know 2020 plans were seismically shifting to the ends of the earth. So it wasn’t a huge shock when our camp location had to change last minute.

The reunion was moved to … “no place like home” … Kansas.

Continue reading “Vacation In Kansas?”

We Need Rainy Times

Here in the high desert where I live, it only rains about 12 inches a year. The days heat up fast and the nights cool down quickly. Since a real downpour is rare, they always remind me of my adventures with rain.

Rainclouds can make a gloomy Eeyore or the perfect background for art and lattes, depending on the circumstances. We could fill books with our rain stories…how they’ve spoiled picnics or made a rainbow at just the right moment.

I thought I’d share mine since it’s been raining all week. Wouldn’t trade these stories. I love sunny days, but I think we need the rainy days, too. There is an Arab proverb, “All sunshine makes a desert.”

Here are my first, worst, next and best times it rained.

Continue reading “We Need Rainy Times”

What to Bring to Prince Edward Island

A few years ago my college friend called me and said, “Hey! My sisters and I are planning a trip to Prince Edward Island this summer. You know, Anne of Green Gables? Want to come?”

This was an invitation I couldn’t resist.

 
Looking back I have a few pointers on what to bring to Prince Edward Island (PEI)!
 

1. Bring Bosom Friends

This is the only international trip to date that I’ve ever navigated alone. I landed on the island late at night to meet the three sisters. The airport was tiny. And to my concern, the only familiar face in the crowd was a cardboard cutout of Anne Shirley. My flesh-and-blood bosom friends were nowhere to be seen.
 
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The only familiar face at the airport
I begged a phone call from a car rental booth because my phone was equipped only for the US. My friend’s voice over the phone brought some relief. “Abi? Oh, we’ve been so worried because we couldn’t get ahold of you. We’re stranded on the mainland of Canada, and we can’t fly in until tomorrow. You’ll have to take a taxi to Georgetown an hour away. I can give you the instructions to get into the rental house, but they’re kind of tricky.” 
 
I opted to stay in Charlottetown at a nearby motel. I asked a perfect stranger to take me there (a mom)  and booked the very last room available. The kind Chinese family who ran the motel drove me to the airport the next day to meet the girls. I was so happy to see my adventure buddies!
 
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

2. Bring a Credit Card

I know — not very romantic, right? But none of us had a credit card at that time and so, when our Taxi dropped us off, we were stuck in Georgetown until we found another solution. Our rental car had been paid for with a debit card online but they refused to give it to us in person.
 
The main issue was Green Gables was 58 miles away.
 
The islanders from Georgetown felt sorry for us and were confused why we were staying on the eastern side of the island — trapped in their town of 640 people.
 
I was confused why they felt sorry for us. The historic boardwalks of Georgetown had plenty to offer us:
 
  • sea glass jewelry shops
  • docks with seagulls and washed up starfish
  • seafood restaurants
  • a little Baptist church and old theater
  • the Maroon Pig Bakery (which we frequented daily)
Day one – it rained. So we kicked back in our beach cottage and watched the Anne movies. Day two? We memorized the town, and I prayed about still seeing Green Gables. To come all this way and not see the legendary house that Lucy Montgomery grew up in would be a “perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”
 

3. Bring a Hopeless Amount of Optimism

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
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Museum: Open by chance or by appointment

 

On day three of our trip, we were were still stranded. The four of us meandered into an old house with a sign on the door that said, “Museum: open by chance or by appointment.” It belonged to one of the only two teachers in the town. She owned a massive amount of heirlooms and a huge heart of compassion.

I think that day the museum was open by appointment not chance. God answers prayers of all kinds.
 
The teacher gave us a tour and then when she heard our predicament, she vowed to help us explore PEI! I really think she would have scoured the town until she found solutions, but she ended up letting one of us ride along with her to Charlottetown the next day and let us put the car on her credit card. By lunchtime we had a set of wheels, and we  lost no time packing up and heading to the East Point of the island, home of a beautiful lighthouse, the spot where you can see the oceans meet but not mix, seals, a pirate cafe, and Singing Sands beach (where they say the sand sings).
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“For Islanders the shoreline is the story line.” (Singing Sands Beach)

4. Don’t Bring Expectations to See Gilbert

“…far up under the maples of Lover’s Lane Anne stood under the willows, tasting the poignant sweetness of life…”
–Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables 
FINALLY. Day four. We had a car and a whole day planned to visit the very house that inspired Lucy to write the Anne series!
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A piece of reality — the movie was not filmed on PEI. Don’t expect to see the movie set, the dress with puffed sleeves, or Gilbert walking around. Also, just be prepared, the Anne actor that strolls around the barn doesn’t look like Megan Follows. 
PEI is full of tourism stops, like Avonlea Village, the home of all things Anne.
It’s where you can see the church where Lucy Montgomery attended and buy Raspberry Cordial by the bottle. 
 
I wonder what Lucy would think of all the Anne products. There is literally Anne potato chips and an Anne chocolate shop. 
 
Feeling a little tourist-ed out, we brought our Raspberry Cordial to the the sand-dune dotted beach (which DOES look like the movie).
“Look at that sea, girls..we couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.” –L. M. Montgomery

5. Bring a Big Imagination

“You may tire of reality but you never tire of dreams.”
Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Road to Yesterday
The last day we drove to Charlottetown (the town we flew into) to enjoy the shops and a second round of Cow’s Ice Cream. The countryside driving is what really made the trip. Almost every house looks like a version of Green Gables, and I expected to see Matthew walking through the pastures of black and white cows at any moment. But, again, he didn’t, and neither did Gilbert, because this wasn’t the movie. 
 
You’ll do better to be more like Anne and less like Marilla Cuthbert as you explore this whimsical place.
 
If you travel to PEI, bring bosom friends, a credit card, (oh and a copy of the book Anne of the Island), and a hopeless amount of optimism (and prayer) in case the depths of despair encompass you.
 
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View from Charlottetown, PEI