I can’t help but write about the experience I just had over the last 5 days. Partly because I love writing things down and making sure they are stored safely so we don’t forget the memories we are making. Partly because I need to share what the Lord is teaching me, many times through my slow surrender to his work that can be painful at times.
When I first heard the announcement at church there was a need for volunteers to step up for our church’s kids’ camp, I didn’t even give it a second thought. In one ear and out the other. There is no way I would sign myself up to go and live in the outdoors that would make me give up the one luxury in the world that I rely on to make me feel like a human being. A hot shower for me is never long enough, there always seems to be an intruder who invades my 7 minutes of me time, yet I still know how it seems to reset me as I wash away the day. A hot shower would be something I had to forsake and find a way to still be nice to people.
After another announcement was made about needing volunteers, I found myself being approached by my husband on the drive home from church. He said there were 2 positions we could fill that were still in great need. I heard all the things high on my list screaming in my head, fighting their way from my head to my mouth, trying to be the first one in line to be heard. Before I could say anything, my husband said “and Ezzy could go and be a camper, actually we all can go AS A FAMILY”.
Thankfully after years of being my best friend, sounding board, husband and the person who knows me better then myself at times, was ready for the silence that would come from the bomb that was dropped on this control freak, introvert, rigid soul.
Yes, the fears and doubts haunted me after I started to work through whether or not we could pull this off. The realization that the list of needs Ezzy would have could be my out, were soon squashed as we were affirmed countless times that whatever she needed, it would be taken care of. The generator Cayden raised money for would be the solution to one of the hardest scenarios. Her treatments would continue, nothing would stop her from her hours of therapy that needed to be done each day in the great outdoors.
The tug and pull, the dance that I seem to do with the Lord more times then I should, resulted in the very heart position the Lord wanted me in.
I said “YES”. Surprisingly was met with peace and we began to plan for this big adventure we would be taking.
A few days before leaving, we were presented with information that wanted to rob us of our peace, we sat in our living room after putting the kids down and asked each other “are we being careless? What if Ezzy gets really sick? What if she has a freak breathing attack? What if the baby chokes on something and we can’t get to the hospital, what if…what if…what if?”. We sat in silence. We turned on the Office and tried to drown out the ploys of the enemy. I prayed, talked with the Lord and heard him speak so clearly. I shared with Richard what the Lord said and we agreed. He had given us peace when we said yes and it is the enemy’s desire to stop us from following the plans the Lord makes for us.
After successfully packing 7 people for 5 days off the grid, I relented to the final pieces of me that couldn’t handle the unknown.
At the leading of my husband I went for a quick run, well long run and ended with the most amazing experience. Those deer were fast yet so friendly!
We were tasked with leading 11 kids and 2 babies that had to be worn on a 2 mile hike to our destination after our 45 minute boat ride. The terrain was not little kid friendly, it was not for the occasional walker. It required determination and also the ability to distract and encourage 11 kids under the age of 10 to want to keep walking and stop asking “are we there yet?”. Even though we had a scary incident happen just minutes from the camp grounds, we pulled ourselves together and tried our hardest to not get discouraged. We were all alive, the injury turned out to not be serious and the momma bear and her cups that had just been seen at the trail head a few minutes earlier did not cross our path, thank God.
When we saw where we would call home for the next 5 days, Cayden said “oh mom, I think this is what the Garden of Eden looks like!” It was the greenest lawn, adorned with some cabins and a beautiful flowing river full of salmon and seals. I will admit, my breath stalled and I found myself wanting to run and join all the laughter that was heard from the trail. We were the last group to hike in and the others had all been able to explore the grounds. (If you ask me Ezzy’s drawing depicts the beauty of this place perfectly)
I set up myself and the girls in the cooks’ quarters and sighed as it began to sink in this would be home, away from Richard, away from a fan and black out curtains, away from my comforts.
Thankfully after dinner and a chance to tune my ukulele I found the gathering hall to myself and a few others getting ready for the first group session. I asked the Lord what to do and he told me what to sing. After welcoming the Holy Spirit in song, I knew why the Lord had asked me there. Then began my job of always resetting and getting the gathering hall ready for the gospel message to be presented to the kids. As soon as the meals ended I would grab my uke and have a mini worship service while people prepped for the next activity. I was blessed by other souls who needed the time of worship before going and serving young souls. We all felt lighter after we sang from our hearts.
Our mornings started early thanks to my little girls who didn’t know what to do with the daylight and silence. I found there was a benefit to having the early wake up call because it let me get them ready and myself before leading worship for our early morning staff meetings.
Richard and I, the two people who can’t seem to handle receiving help, soon found ourselves slowly release our pride and hand over Veil or Ya’el in moments we were needing to fulfill the roles we came out to do. Funny how the burden we saw in our pre conceived notions were squashed in the joy that was met as people got to receive the most tender genuine hugs from two little girls who were loving all the extra attention.
We managed to figure out the best times to fit in Ezzys therapy sessions. She may have had to skip nap time or get up earlier then her bunk mates, but she was able to keep up with her treatments. The first day we didn’t plan right and the Lord went ahead and planted empathy upon her friends, who gave up campfire/free time to be with her.
Richard was a able to have some powerful moments with his team of campers, he was challenged, he was inspired, and we was living out his calling with abandon as he helped lead children to the Lord or to a deep walk. He was given the nickname Mr. Steele from the campers and campers from other groups waited patiently for him to assign them their own nicknames. He was even blessed to have a friend be his co leader, which allowed him to relieve me from time to time so that my back could have a break from wearing a baby that just wanted to crawl on the nasty floor.
I was blessed with an evening kayak adventure with some amazing strong ladies and we met five seals that followed us around and poked their heads up to check us out. There was a moment when we were all silent and you could hear the birds calling, the water running through the forest, the seals breathing on the water and the wind moving through the trees. It was unreal. It spoke volumes over my soul that was overstimulated with 51 kids and it rebooted me to keep going and gave me extra energy to keep pursuing connection with these kids.
The 2nd to the last day, we watched our kids enter into the waters of baptism and I think Cayden’s words summed it up. I worried if he understood the magnitude of the decision to get baptized. I wasn’t sure if it was the right time to let him do this. Ezzy, in an intense conversation led me to believe she was ready. With tears streaming down her face she said “I am a sinner, I need to be baptized and for Jesus to wash them away”. I don’t know why I struggled with their choice, but as the tears fell from my face and a few others around me, I knew why God had called our family to Orton Ranch.
My feelings of inadequacy and an imagined view that I had to fill shoes bigger then mine, left me fearful and timid at times. Yet on the hike designed to help us hear the voice of the Lord, I heard the lord sing over my soul “called, you have been called here”. I won’t forget what I saw, but it was delivered straight to me in the moment I needed it the most.
Watching the kids worship during each service, singing their hearts out, asking me to sing certain songs and even letting me explain what the lyrics meant, which resulted in one little girl telling me “I want Jesus in my heart”, renewed my soul. It reminded me of those adults who took their time to pour into little souls, including me so long ago, that could handle the gospel message and not fight it with the adult mindset that struggles with matters that call for faith.
I got to hear stories of kids accepting the salvation message and asking the Lord in their hearts, I saw tears fall from counselors faces as they shared how hurt, tough, broken kids were showing signs of the impact they were making in their lives.
The mouse and bat incident might have sent me packing the first night, the stench that grew with each day as 75 people didn’t shower, the long days and short nights, the layers of bug dope, the bear warning bell, the weak coffee and damp air that left clothing I had never worn outside, wet. ALL of that can’t steal from my heart what happened at Orton Ranch.
It really was a glimpse of Eden.
I built relationships with people that I will never be able to say it wasn’t worth it.
If you could pray for Ezzy who has a cold, we would gladly accept it. We are trusting our father is in control, he doesn’t leave things unturned and he is holding her tightly in his hands. But it never hurts to pray.
If you could also pray for wisdom and discernment for Richard and I as we act on something we feel the Lord tugging on our hearts.
Love to you all who took time to read this