The Process of Obedience to God Includes… #85

Summer camp was tough. Everything about camp was new to us: the year around employees and summer staff, the program, the unfinished facility, the food, etc. Sally Jo began five mornings a week working with campers in the 5 acre garden – tomatoes, potatoes, okra, and much more. With summer camp having just begun, Larry and Barbara Brooks and their daughter, friends from our two years in Murfreesboro, arrived to run the craft program for two months. Larry taught art at Middle Tennessee State University. Bill and Vodie Schwantes arrived. Bill, but he was a highly recommended, recently retired business manager from another Christian ministry. While Sally Jo and our three children remained at camp, early each Monday morning I returned to Dallas for a Sky Ranch Board of Director’s meeting and to talk with parents, donors, potential rental group leaders, pay bills, etc. Early each Friday Morning I would head back for a busy weekend at camp, stopping at the Dallas farmers market to fill the station wagon with fresh produce.

The days were hot!! (One summer it never went below 100 degrees, day or night, for 30 days!) Every Sunday afternoon Sally Jo and I met the campers and their families at the entrance of the parking lot. Try standing for two hours on hot black top in the hot sun in cowboy boots, jeans, red and white checked shirts and cowboy hats. The sweat runs down your legs into your boots!

Summer camp was tough, yet rewarding. Most of the campers came from churches which taught the Bible, but many of these same campers did not understand God’s plan of salvation. Hearts were open to hear this good news, and without any pressure, it was often a simple process to lead these children to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and to encourage their continued walk as God’s children.

When September came, the heat subsided, but the work continued. As a family we stayed in Dallas from Saturday or Sunday evening through Friday after school – then back to the ranch to welcome a weekend retreat group, and to work in the garden, the store, the dining hall, or with the horses – whatever was required to support retreat groups from Young Life Clubs and many churches. Sally Jo and I also led two weekend “family retreats” during the school year.

In the midst of the daily operation of the ministry, Sally Jo’s diary reminded me that in the fall I left for 4 days to teach previously scheduled Christian Education work shops in West Virginia and North Carolina, and at another time, in Tennessee. We had a steady flow of family, and friends from our days in AL, CT, TN, and IL – over 30, some for several nights. This required keeping our home in Dallas and the trailer at the ranch ready for guests all of the time. Add to this the school functions of three children, caring for a occasional sick child, speaking on behalf of Sky Ranch, participating in church activities when possible, building relationships with immediate neighbors, and going to Sky Ranch board member’s homes for dinner – with many enjoying dinner in our home. It was a crazy pace to live week after week.

Our stability and sanity as a family were greatly enhanced by singing in the car going to and from the ranch, and when possible, making a stop along the way for something fun – a salt festival, the largest flea market in the country, a small town rodeo, a unique place to eat. On slow weekends we would swim, take canoe rides and ride horses together. We were able to take a two week family trip to Florida where both of our parents had condominiums and we spent two weekends alone at our pediatrician’s cabin.

When we live In Partnership With God, much of life is a daily discipline – nothing dramatic. Noah was considered a righteous man, yet there is no indication that Noah found life any different (Genesis 6). We read that Moses experienced several “God interventions”, but it was over a span of 40 years with the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 12 – 40). It is easy to forget that Paul was beaten five times with 39 lashes, 3 times with a rod, stoned and left for dead, three times ship wrecked, and he spent several years in prison (I Corinthians 11). Tradition says Paul was beheaded.

Let us all press on in obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – regardless.

Moses’ Rod – A Valued Gift #84

Randy came to serve as the camp cook for the summer. He was a reasonably good cook, an excellent cook considering the fact that his kitchen consisted of 4 home type refrigerators, 4 chest freezers, and the stove/griddle/oven unit and huge mixer from the old camp in an unfinished building without air conditioning. He had not worked with any of the food vendors and he had no experienced help.

Randy started the summer cooking for 30 staff members under a 12′ X 12′ tarp. By summer’s end he was cooking for 150 in one end of the future craft building. He never complained. I am sure his physical toughness from being a wrestler enabled him to survive – while preparing good food meal after meal, day after day.

None of the staff had ever worked together before. In fact every staff person was new to the situation, including me. I had never directed a camp before. Monty, who was 22, had been program director at the old camp and knew his position well. He was the only staff member who did.

It was a tough summer, as you can imagine. I was not focused on good management technique, but on being sure the campers had a wonderful, safe experience. This was a real challenge with a new staff, unproven horses, copper heads in the camp (we killed 28 during the summer), scorpions in the buildings, and snakes in the lake. We not only survived, but the campers had such a good time that they returned the next summer, bringing their friends.

When camp ended and we were shutting down for a couple months so more of the camp could be completed, Randy asked for a few minutes when we could talk together. Soon we had the one-on-one time he requested.

Randy gave me a carefully chosen stick with a knob on the end – fastened by two leader strips to a weathered board two feet long.

Randy explained that it was to represent Moses’ Rod, and was to remind me that there were times when it was not necessary for Moses to hit the rock to bring forth water. All that Moses had to do was speak to the rock. He went on to say, “Chuck, there are times when only a few words are necessary to make your point.”

I have kept his gift hanging on the wall of my office – a constant reminder from a gentle servant.

We Are Glad for This #83

Kaleo Lodge was a small, beautiful retreat, located two miles from Sky Ranch. The only time I was there, a 5′ tall white haired lady introduced herself: “I am Gladys Lankford. Everyone calls me Glad, and I would like to help at Sky Ranch. I am 81 years old, and as long as the Lord lets me live, I will serve Him.” I asked what she would like to do: “I can do most anything you want me to do. My husband, Bud, who has gone home to be with the Lord, and I owned the drug store in Mineola (15 miles away), and my husband was also the Post Master.” I promised to give her a call.

During staff training the T-shirts and other supplies arrived for the camp store – a building from the old ranch so small it came over on a truck. I called Glad and she arrived in a tired looking car a couple hours later. I showed her the boxes and the shelves, and soon this feisty lady was unpacking boxes, organizing their contents on the shelves. Glad returned the next day, and the next, until the task was finished. One day when I stopped by to see how she was doing, she asked about Sky Ranch: Its purpose, its history, and its plans for the future. She had heard rumors that Sky Ranch was somehow involved with problem kids – a rehabilitation place, or something like that. I explained that I was aware of this misconception, and we were asking people known in the surrounding communities to run advertisements telling that Sky Ranch, a Christian ministry, was re-locating in the area and they were pleased to welcome Sky Ranch. Glad offered to sponsor an advertisement in the Mineola paper – and assured me that everyone knew her! I asked if she was sure she should do this – each advertisement in a local paper cost about $100. She said she thought she could handle it.

Just before the campers were to arrive she noticed camp did not have a “refrigerated water fountain.” She asked me to buy one, and she would pay for it. When camp started, she could see she was no longer needed and quietly stepped out of the picture. I was curious about Glad so went by her home, a small two bedroom brick house.

In the fall she returned to ask if she could sell things in the store. I really hesitated, as Glad had strong opinions which she was very happy to share when she felt it appropriate. But…how could I say no? Young Life rented the facility for the first retreat weekend and, just as I feared, Glad soon lecturing a high school student who smoked!!!!! I cringed! However high school kids loved her, and soon were asking her questions about what life was like when she grew up. Glad told how the first time she drove a car, she drove it through a store window. And how nice girls rode side saddle, but she rode “astride” so she could ride faster. Glad laughed as she remembered, and those around her laughed with the fun, little lady.

After the first weekend retreat she told me to buy a piano. A piano? “Well, you don’t have one in that conference building. Buy a good one, and I will pay for it!” Glad…are you sure? “Buy a good piano!” And so we did. A year later she told me to build a maintenance building. “Build what you need. I’ll pay for it.” We had plans drawn for a building adequate for the future needs of the camp. Glad had no interest in seeing the plans, nor did she have any interest in being recognized for her giving.

Our daughter, Carla, was the first chair cellist with a high school orchestra that was going to Vienna, Austria for an orchestra competition. When Glad learned about the competition, she told our daughter, with Sally Jo and me present, to have her cello teacher pick out a good cello, one appropriate to her ability, and she would pay for it.

Glad, Sally Jo and I became very close, and after six years we took her to see Wheaton College, which she had supported, but never seen. During the hours we talked, she told us she was giving away $28,000 a month! Oil money she called her “unearned increment.” Glad enjoyed giving: giving herself and her resources.

Gladys Lankford lived In Partnership With God, and did not need the praise of men.

Glad lived by her favorite verse: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be Glad in it.” — Psalm 118:24

Personal Update

Dear IPWG people –

The following is a personal update – totally out of the series.
Recent camping convention – and Sally Jo’s unconventional birthday present for my 70th

Sally Jo and I have just returned from the Christian Camping and Conference Association annual Convention in Colorado Springs, Co. We went to my nieces wedding in Wheaton – then went on from there. I was given $ by Deerfoot Lodge and then was able to get a special convention rate …to decided Sally Jo should come along – a special treat.

I took my partially completed IPWG with me, thinking I would send along the trip. Joke! We were going just about 24/7 from the time we left Greenville until we returned home this morning.

At the convention were 6 DL former staff – I think all had been with us at DL for 10 or more years. 4 are now camp directors – NY, ME, TX, PA. One is retreat manager in PA, and the other is head of wilderness camping and maintenance at a camp in MT. Two wives (+ Sally Jo) were also present…. Incredible experience for Sally Jo and me, as you can imagine. Another Deerfooter, unable to come, is the business manager of a year around camp/conference ministry in MN. And Scott Barnett is in Kenya…did not come. There are other Deerfooters who are also in camping – but there before I came.

I also participated in a seminar with another retired camp director – he of a year around ministry with $7,000,000 budget! Our topic: what would we have done differently? And time was spent with others in camping/conference ministry – have known some of them for 34 years.

One fun contact – a man from Indiana University (Weselyan) interested in developing a camping/conference major.

For my 70th birthday Sally Jo gave me a membership to a glider pilot club which is located 10minutes from our home. The idea: that I will become a glider pilot. Should be lots of fun…

Our 4 acre property is pretty well put to bed – which takes time….lots of time. Last summer we picked and froze 35 packages of blue berries – also lots of rasberries, rhubarb, beans, swiss chard, etc – and picked about 20 acorn and 16 butternut squash. All told we have 1 1/2 freezers full of food.

I dug up, split, and replanted at least 500 daffodil bulbs – This past spring I cut over 1000 flowers, mostly to give away. Yes, sounds crazy. We started buying bulbs after the planting season for half price soon after we moved in 29 years ago. This year I did not buy any more – only tulips!

And…the flower garden was again expanded… While Sally Jo was on her 9 day bike trip in the Czech republic, I worked with friends to put in a 16X20 blue stone patio on the South side of the house. One long term friend is a profession nursery man. He gave very clear instructions of how to prepare….and incredible amount of work. We dug out (help from friends) 11 cubic yards of soil – down 14″-17″ to create good drainage and a solid base. We replaced with course gravel topped with 4″ of stone dust. Another friend who sand blasts signs into rock went to the quarry and picked 7 ton of blue stone – up to 3′ X 5′ – the nursery man saw them and simply said “wow” Helps to have friends who know what they are doing – We have started to plant large grasses so as to create the feeling of a room. I have put away the table and two chairs for the winder, but today December 3, I ate an apple there, standing comfortably in a shirt – no jacket.

Anyway…the garden club has asked if our home can be on their tour in 2010. Sally Jo was pleased, though surprised, as most of the garden is no visible from the road…somebody told! So…next spring…I would rather not think about it!

Tis time now to turn my attention to making Christmas presents on the lathe – at least 9. If all goes well, we have an additional tentative list of another 15…will see.

Yes, busy – and “living thankful”