Picture and listen to 16 chain saws at full throttle in an area 30’ X 40’, cutting on maple logs 12’ X 24’ long. The walls go up 9’ above the floor, which is 2’ above the ground. Picture an old crane that leaks a lot of hydraulic fluid onto black plastic below, lifting and placing 150 to 500 pounds logs to within a couple inches of where they will stay….and then gently guided into place. Noise. Danger. Sixteen volunteers worked eight days in October, when it gets dark early in the Adirondacks. We worked well into dusk, and frost was waiting for us the next morning.
We were a tired crew as we walked to the dining hall, but we knew that my wife, Sally Jo, and Judy Reitz would have a hearty, delicious hot meal ready, including fresh vegetables, meats, freshly baked bread, and wonderful pies and cakes. Sally Jo and I were very good friends with Judy and her husband, George, who was also building the cabin. George was a consulting pastor to ethnic congregations in NYC. Their sons, Scott and Jason are Deerfooters. We hiked, canoed, and spent a week together in a “canal boat” on the Hudson River. George has since died of cancer. They asked Sally Jo and me to take them on their last canoe trip. George’s death was for us, the loss of a very close relationship.
Each meal was enjoyed as the 16 volunteers plus Allen Mackey sat at two tables. Much can be talked about during 24 meals. During the first several evenings, Allan, the instructor we had flown in from British Columbia, showed us videos on how to best make the difficult cuts. As the days passed, early to bed looked better and better, but there was still time for significant conversations when the joys and struggles of our lives were shared.
One day Allan’s daughter and son-in-law came from Toronto to see how we were doing. Both professional bassoon players, they gave us a wonderful concert – 21 of us packed into the Lookout living room. Those sitting in the back of the room were only 10’ away. We all enjoyed the wonderful interaction – two very special hours.
Out of these 8 days of 24/7 came continuing relationships. Charlie and Brent Karner, Paul Davidson, and Ken Bonn continue to come to almost every work weekend to work, laugh, eat and worship together. We continue to encourage each other: very important for Ken Bonn, a Delta pilot, when Delta reorganized, and he thought it wise to resign, and for Brent Karner whose custom furniture building company was struggling during the economic slow down. And these men have given me many hugs as I have transitioned from being Director of Deerfoot Lodge to “normal life”.
On work weekends these men pass on what they learned to many others, the result of which is a camp built of logs, straight from the forest. The log buildings built at DL are similar in structure to those built by settlers. The big difference is the tools now available.
Every year Deerfoot’s summer staff begins its 3 weeks of training unloading the heavy docks and boats from Founders Lodge. The slope is often slippery. During the training the 60+ guys study, work, eat and worship together. They have cabin devotions and pray together. The more experienced staff teach the less experienced staff camping skills they have learned. Staff training includes 2 Breaking of Bread services, a 3 day hike, one day solo, camp fire, banquet night, awards ceremony, and candle light service. There is time for laughter, and for very significant conversation. Many of the staff relationships began 6, 8, 10 years before, when campers together. Most summer staff are in college, with similar experiences. Facebook, texting, e-mails and phone calls make communication through the school year easy, but this sharing does not compare to the face to face sharing. Jesus is with us where ever we go, and so are DL relationships.
Our relationship with God is built and maintained in much the same way human relationships are built and maintained: over time, through shared experiences. There are no short cuts.