Camping! We love it–especially when it involves great fellowship, delicious campfire meals, and plenty of educational activities for the family. This past weekend we packed up the essential camping gear…camp chairs, tent, sleeping bags, clothes, flashlights, cookies & poppy seed bread & trail mix, dutch ovens, and the really important stuff–our Bibles (!) and smiles, and headed to meet with our church fellowship for the much anticipated camp-out!
Our pastor picked a great location, as usual. We spent the weekend creek-side, in a fantastic woodsy clearing complete with a gi-normous Zaccheus tree and tree house, and a forest maze adjacent to a pasture for night-time hayrack rides. All our meals were fireside ones…and we had the convenience of a portable outhouse on the premises. What a grand time we had escaping to the woods for this three day getaway!
Upon our arrival Friday night, we were greeted by an impressive firepit that the men put together, including even a stone oven (far left) that required, if I remember right, two hours of preheating to bake the bread we ate with our hobo meals on Saturday night. When this shot was captured, the guys hadn’t yet covered the stone oven with the huge stone “lid”.
After admiring the set-up, we quickly got our bacon-wrapped, cheesy sausage stuffed peppers on the grill cooking, for it was almost time to roast brats and hot dogs. Two kinds of baked beans were simmering away, and all our friends were milling around greeting one another. It was past time to set up our tent!
Friday night’s after supper activity was perhaps my favorite of the weekend. We went on a night hike. In the dark. With no flashlights. I know…we walk by faith not by sight, but this was a little stretch for yours truly. Pastor did have a high beamed flashlight–for emergencies–but the point was to stay close enough to the person in front of you that we all made it across the creek and through the forest maze to the pasture in one piece. Yes. Through the creek. Imagine walking this skinny semi-squishy path through the creek, IN THE DARK, totally holding your breath and hoping that the personnel in front of you are all faithfully following the man-in-the-know! Then imagine the relief *I* felt to make it through with dry tennies. Whew. :O)
Our night hike was replete with hilarity as we stumbled along, waiting for our night vision to kick in. Did you realize that after about fifteen minutes, you really can see fairly well in the dark? I’m here to tell you it’s true. (Can you tell I’m a big time flashlight wimp?)
So we arrived on the other side of the Big. Scary.Woods. to find a tractor and hay trailer just waiting to give us a long, winding ride out to pasture. When we arrived, our Pastor gave us a tour of the stars, taught us how to navigate by the North Star, showed us the difference between satellites and airplanes, and pointed out a planet rising in the distance. What I learned: that the North Star is not the brightest star in the sky! And that the constellations move around the North Star in such a way that you can tell time by their positions. Sooo…if you are following the “brightest star” thinking it is the North Star, you will be going in circles all night. It’s so important to make sure you are building on the right premise, the right foundation, before you take off!
Back at camp, we settled in our sleeping bags for a chilly night. Soon we heard coondogs tearing up the countryside. That went on for….. hours. Morning arrived, and we all gathered around the campfire to cook breakfast. Scrambled eggs and blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. And hot chocolate too, made with raw milk and cocoa. Mmm. Mm.
Saturday was full of fun, but I especially wanted to share our morning activity devotion. Pastor led our troop back through the woods, to the pasture, and told the kiddos that he’d be hiding something in plain sight, that they’d be able to see, but not find. We watched him trek out about fifty feet, and stick an orange flag in the ground. So far so good. Till he pulled the blindfolds out. Boys against girls. Each competitor got spun around a few times, and pointed in the right direction. Aiming straight for the flag , how could they miss? We soon learned that even when we thought we were walking a straight line, it’s impossible to walk a straight line in a blindfold. Even yours truly almost walked a complete circle back to where I’d started, and I was *sure* I’d walked straight! Needless to say, it made for an excellent lesson on the importance of having a reference point to keep us on track in this life. For Christians, that reference point is the Bible. Without the Bible as our compass, we are doomed to walk in circles, as the Israelites did for forty years in the wilderness after disobeying God. Also key, is that each of the participants just *knew* they were walking as straight as they could. We were all floored to take off our blindfold and see how far off course we’d gone. Proverbs 16:25 sums it up well,
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
It begs the question, are you following your own ways, or God’s ways? Are you sure?
That wasn’t the end of the navigation lessons. Our group built a compass with the help of a shepherd’s staff, some sticks and the noon-day sun. We learned how to determine “South” with the sun and a wristwatch.
Saturday’s lunch was organic lamb-burger sloppy joes in the dutch oven, potato salad, fresh fruit and chips, with cookies for dessert. Saturday evening we all enjoyed custom made “Hobo meals”–foil wrapped patties made with grass-fed beef, and topped with sliced carrots, potatoes, celery and onion and then dolloped with a splash of cream of celery soup. Alongside these, which baked directly on the campfire coals, were foil wrapped baked apples, stuffed with a cinnamon-butter-brown sugar-raisin mixture, and wow, were they a hit! We also had the stone oven bread, which baked in record time…and we must confess, we had to sliver off the top layer because it was slightly……blackened. HOT oven. Otherwise, the rolls were P.E.R.F.E.C.T!
Saturday evening we had another lesson in keeping our eyes on the Lord and His word to stay on the straight and narrow, plus an excellent talk on consciences and what the Bible says about them. To illustrate, Pastor had a type of gyroscope he’d made from a bicycle tire, with handles in the center of the spokes on each side. A gyroscope is a scientific instrument, that when spinning, stays upright and on course. You can balance a spinning gyroscope on a ballpoint pen, and even when you tilt the pen sideways, the gyroscope will not fall over or change directions. It’s another kind of compass. A few of the men were called up to test the theory. The tire was spun, then the men walked a straight line and as per instruction, tried to suddenly turn and go back the way they’d come. But the gyroscope bucked the change of direction and the guys had their hands full trying to change course. Yet another great reminder that God gave us tools–our consciences and our Bibles–to stay on course. And the cool thing is, that even when blindfolded, the person toting the spinning gyroscope will be able to effortlessly walk a straight line!
After this Saturday evening devotional, we sang hymns and visited around the campfire. And all was quiet in our tents Saturday night. Well, in most of our tents. *Smile*
Sunday morning we did scrambled duck eggs and homemade lamb-burger sausage with campfire toast smothered in homemade blueberry jam. See all the happy campers?
Sunday morning we all enjoyed finding a solitary spot of beauty for a 45 minute personal time with God…then we met and shared what we’d been reading…for church, Pastor taught on the “Wilderness Church”, referencing Acts 7:38, 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, and Hebrews 11:32-40. Pretty appropriate, as we’d been having “church” all weekend in our own beautiful wilderness. As we do every Sunday during summer, as the weather permits. The church is not a building, it is not *where* you meet, it is the body of believers themselves. And having “church” outdoors, is about as New Testament as it gets!
One last meal together, and it was almost time to wrap things up. But first, we had some more fire building techniques to learn. One of our pastor’s burdens and practical ministries is his training of missionaries, and folks like us, on how to survive primitive conditions. Water purification tips, wild edible identifications, fire building, etc. So he showed off some handy portable camp stoves that operate on twigs and leaves, and taught us how to build a Dakota fire hole. I want one! A Dakota firehole (pictured left) is a bell shaped hole in the ground, about 12 inches deep, with an angled “tunnel” to another smaller hole, dug on whichever side it will catch the prevailing wind. Into the bigger hole go sticks and leaves, and thus your fire is well insulated, the flames barely visible, and wow, aren’t you impressed? I know I was! Of course, our prevailing wind was David there in the pic…he did a good job, we got flames!
Lastly, a pic of the giant treehouse, taken from the ground…
We already can’t wait till next year! One of our little campers said it well: “I think we should do this every month!”
Big thank you’s to all of you that worked so hard to make this such a memorable weekend! Our family has been so blessed by your faithful witness, example and adherence to the straight teaching of God’s word. Thanks to you, 2011 has been a “closer walk with Thee” for this family!