Monday, June 6, 2016

Camping - Connecting - Community

“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” (Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities).  This is how I felt about our recent tent camping experience.  Ok, I admit, that quote is a bit of an overstatement but it does make my point.

I am married to the consummate woodsman. Charlie is a true outdoors kind of guy.  He loves to hunt, co-owns a deer camp in our part of the world (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), has led boy scouts on back packing overnights and could survive in the woods if necessary.  He gets invited on canoe trips (in Canada) every year because he knows so much!

It goes without saying that my husband had to readjust his vision when he married me….the vision of having a camping wife/partner.   I love the woods and have hiked some rugged trails with my hubby.  But I want indoor plumbing waiting for me at the end of the day. 

A few weeks ago, while we were in Montana on a church mission trip, I received a text message from one of our friends in our church family.  Bobbi invited us to join her family on a camping weekend; a weekend they spend with other families every Memorial Day weekend.

Yikes!  Since we don’t own a camper (like everyone else), it meant TENT TIME!  My normal reaction would be, “no way!”.  But there was a louder voice going on in my head, a stream of thoughts begging to be discussed with Charlie.

You see, Charlie and I know we have been enormously blessed by the community God has placed us in.  There is a "connected-ness" within our church family seldom found in other places, including many churches.  We treasure our brothers/sisters-in-Christ, no matter their chronological ages or where they are in their faith journeys.  And we LOVE that our young adult friends (most of them parents of younger children) actually seem to enjoy having us in their midst.  With those precious relationships in mind, the anticipation of connecting with community trumped the inconvenience of the tent. 

We arrived at the Indian Lake State Park campground, our car filled with all of the equipment necessary to conquer this camping event.  Being new to this whole concept, I found myself somewhat aghast at what I experienced as we drove through the campground gates.  It looked like a small city made up of campers, one after another, each having its own unique look.  There were very few tents, just lots of homes on wheels.
This isn’t my idea of camping!!!  This is moving your home into the woods with people all around!

Charlie got our tent set up in our designated space with nominal help from me.  We moved in, ready for our adventure.  There was something about sharing an evening meal with friends and later gathering around the campfire that made this whole experience “do-able”.  That night it poured rain but we stayed cozy and dry, at least until I had to head out to the community bathroom in the middle of the night.  (At least there was a real flush commode awaiting me!)

The next day was filled with many wonderful moments: more meals, games in which all ages participated, laughter around the campfire (what is it about campfires?) and conversations.  It was in those moments I began to discover what our friends already knew – I got a glimpse of the true value of crowded campgrounds.  It’s all about community.  Kids were in and out of our spaces, riding bikes, laughing and enjoying one another.  It was bean bag toss tournaments and kick ball games.  It was live streaming our church service at the camp site on Sunday morning….and so much more.

When the early church formed, the believers came together every day.  Acts 2:44 says, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”  I caught a vision of what that must have been like as I experienced the wholeness of community that weekend.  For a couple of days we stepped out of the demands of everyday life and nurtured relationships under a canopy of trees.

My soul was fed and I grew deeper in love with Jesus….through community.

Maybe….just maybe, I got a glimpse of what it will be like when Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom.  Looking forward….

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