Monday, May 23, 2016

On Mission, Part One

Charlie and I just returned from “Big Sky Country” where we were on mission with a team from our local church.  Trail’s End Ranch, a wonderful Christian camp and retreat center is located in Ekalaka, Montana and our team drove out from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (a 20+ hour trip) to help construct a new chapel.  We also helped in other ways to prepare the property for this summer’s camping sessions.

A bit of background information is in order to give you a good picture of this wonderful place. Trail’s End Ranch (TER) is situated on 720 acres with access to much of Custer National Forest.  The camp offers multiple activities including, but not limited to: biking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, paint balling, geocaching, and on it goes. 

The most important focus, within all of this wonderful activity, is leading the campers to establishing a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus.  Last summer they had over 120 first time decisions for Christ! Throughout the week the campers are introduced to Jesus, learn how to grow in their relationship with Him and then learn how to share it with others.

What a privilege it was to work side by side with my brothers and sisters (in Christ).  I came away believing I had truly been on “holy ground”.  Every board we stained, every nail that was hammered, every space that was cleaned was done to further the kingdom!

The first two days, those of us not experienced in building construction, tackled some areas of camp that needed cleaning and sprucing up - areas where the winter dirt accumulated because they had been targeted to be torn down and rebuilt.  As it often goes, other priorities rose to the top of the camp budget and those areas were needed for one more summer.

So we got out the plastic gloves, the Pine Sol, brooms and rags and went to work!  We scrubbed….and scrubbed…and, you guessed it, scrubbed some more.  Joanne broke down boxes; Jo cleared and cleaned shelves. Brenda made sense of the office space, removing dust and bug carcasses.  I dug deep into the ice cream cases making them sparkle once again.

We enjoyed wonderful devotionals by Jim Pardee (camp director) after breakfast each day.  Jim took God’s Word and translated it into practical life applications.  We took those messages and convictions into our daily activities; God’s Word encouraged our motivation to be cooperative kingdom builders.  That daily time centered our hearts on Him, rather than on ourselves.

TER is well maintained; campers stay in clean, safe accommodations.  The staff works very hard but they welcome support that comes from many sources.  It was such a joy to participate in the heart of God’s ministry through real life hands-on work.

Over the winter, during a time of dormancy, dirt and dead bugs accumulated.  With every dead bug I wiped up and every bucket of dirty water I dumped, a powerful reminder overwhelmed me.

If it were not for the cleansing power of Jesus through His life, death and resurrection, my life would be full of accumulated dirt, “buggy” areas and layers of dust.  Apart from Christ, there would not be enough “Pine Sol” available to make me clean/acceptable before a holy God.  Romans 3:23 tells us that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means me! And you!  Praise God for providing Jesus to clean me up!

My cleaning efforts at TER were nothing compared to all Jesus went through on my (and your) behalf.  The desire of my heart is for all people everywhere to know and love the One Who carries our sins and burdens, our guilt and our “dirt”.  Jesus doesn’t just clean us up – He gives us a brand new heart.  Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

The simple words of a song I learned as a child ring true eternally: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  His love gives us a fresh, clean start…every day.  Will you allow Him to bring freshness and new life to you…today?

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