Saturday, January 29, 2011

Summer at Epworth-by-the-Sea,1979

Many years ago, when I was but a teenager, I had the privilege to attend a bible camp for teenagers at Epworth-by-the-Sea. (I had forgotten and was thinking it was called Epsom-by-the-sea, after the bath salts. The water there certainly tasted nasty!) I remember it took a week out of football practice during the summer. After a 5 hour bus ride we arrived at the campgrounds. $90 bought a week of lodging in the cabins and cafeteria food, which would be considered a bargain now, but back then was a small investment.

Pastor Bob Becknell organized the trip. [pictured] He was a man filled with peace, joy and grace; one could see it each time he preached. The love of Christ was so beautifully evident in him! The week’s schedule was filled with all kinds of various activities: scripture memorization; study groups; trips to the beach; softball, volleyball and football; evening preaching; and scheduled special events of silliness.

As an example of silliness, the teenagers would compete, boys verses girls, in an effort to raise money so that folks could go to camp who could not afford it. As a caveat, the victor would enjoy the spoils of "slave day," where the losing side would act as butlers or maids during one dinner service. Now, the girls would knock themselves out doing everything they could to raise more money than the boys. Little known to them, we had a secret plan.

You see, the boys would schedule a Saturday where we would wash cars all day for free at a local bank, and get pledges from the neighborhood for each car washed, usually 5 to 10 cents per car. We would accept donations as well. Then, we would stage a mock "auction night" at Youth Ranch. Crudely painted tin gallon cans with the words "Skylab" painted on them would fetch $700, a remarkable sum at the time. The girls would sit and fume as teenagers without a penny to their name would bid 400, 500, 600 dollars! To top it off, the guy with the winning bid (which was always pre-planned) would whip out the cash and walk up to buy it in front of everyone, beaming over his new hunk of junk.

In the mornings we would have quiet time, where we would read and memorize scripture. I still remember some scripture to this day, 31 years later. Let’s see…. “Whoever lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed.” Not quite perfect, but close.

Teenagers need wisdom, because although they feel grown up, in most cases they lack the life experiences to make good decisions. Spiritual wisdom is to be especially desired, for to be led by the Holy Spirit is a precious gift indeed. More valuable than money, more prized than any earthly gains, the Holy Spirit lights the path which we must walk, in order to avoid losing our way amidst the jungle of cares that concern us.

We had “kangaroo court,” a stylized, self-mocking send up of third world justice if there ever was one. Lee, the king of the court, would don a towel over his back in the manner of a royal cape and read the list of offenses. We would be called up (we being, the most annoying of us- I was usually first,) one at a time, to hear what we had done. Such crimes as “throwing shaving cream-filled water balloons,” “sedition,” “treason,” “throwing food in the lunchroom,” and the ever popular “peeking in the window of the girls cabin” were all among the charges. The Smith brothers, Wesley and Weldon, two fast, hulking completely insane twins served as bailiffs.

What made it amusing was not only the fact that some of the charges were completely false, but to hear the excuses being made by the victim/accused. “It’s… it’s… it’s VERNON’s fault! Yeah! He tempted me!!!! I DIDN’T DO IT! NOOOOooooooo!!!” Even better was when the accused tried to make a break for it. They would be dragged back, kicking and screaming by the terrible twosome. The punishment was always something equally silly, like peanut butter facials, motor oil shampoos, public admittances of said acts, etc.

These and many more beautiful unwritten memories remain with me. I am thankful for those times, and for those who were with me. Thank you, Lord.


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