Work Weekend Reflections #224

Deerfoot Lodge is a stage for the wonder of God’s creation. Constant – yet with continual change. The sky can be cloudless blue, but it can also have beautiful white clouds which can turn a golden orange when the sun sets. The sky can be gray, as when it drizzles all day, or pitch black – total black. The thunderstorm brings into that black lightning which cannot be ignored, and the fierce thunder which follows. The sky which holds millions of stars can also dump gallons of water on tin roofed cabins, and support a rainbow that arches over the Dug Mountains. This same sky can drop snow which covers everything in the world below, snow that sparkles from the reflection of the sun by day, the full moon at night.

I could try to write a similar paragraph about what grows at DL: trees, grass, ferns, moss, flowers, fish, frogs…and people. All come from the hand of God, and none stay the same. Even rocks wear away in time.

When this world had been created, and God saw that “it was good”, God said “let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. And then God looked at all of His creation and recognized the truth “it was very good”.

On about 60 work weekends I have watched men arrive at DL with smiles, seen them hug each other, and then catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives. Many of these men have come together 30 or 40 times. There is much to share. And there are always men who come for the first time. With almost every one of these men comes the love of Jesus Christ – they truly live In Partnership With God. I have seen this reality!

Smiles, hugs, laughter… and also some very sober sharing. One man’s business is struggling; another is adopting three children – siblings: yet another is having a hard time balancing his corporate responsibilities and opportunities with his desire to be a wonderful husband and father. Many of us talk about Charlie Karner who had a stroke soon after the Memorial Day work weekend. He is doing quite well, but Barb was unwilling to have him return for his 78th consecutive work weekend. We missed him – hope to see him next Memorial Day.

The food is always excellent: Friday night at 7:00 we can count on steak and salmon… with all the trimmings – yes, a banquet! And the stories, the laughter, the kidding, and sometimes those very serious conversations continue.

After the dishes are stacked and the tables cleared, volunteers are asked to do the pots and pans, clean up the kitchen – and there are always more volunteers than space for them to work.

The God of creation is present on those weekends – His presence is welcomed into the conversations, His presence is integral to the relationships which have developed through work weekends over many years. Young, old, rich, poor – no one cares. One weekend I heard a man, obviously tired to the bone, say under his breath, “it is good to be at a place where nobody cares I’m rich.”

The work can be brutal – like carrying treated lumber up the Dugs as the left lean-to must be replaced. Other work takes skill – like building a log cabin with scribe, chainsaw and chisel, or replacing the fireplace hearth, or rebuilding the camp store cabinets. Some work takes patience, like replacing torn cabin screens, or sorting instructional area awards cards. Deerfoot seems to work like the body of Christ, the church, is to work. God is no respecter of persons. He asks that each person use their gifts, their abilities, for the good of His people and for His glory.

On Sunday morning all gather around the dining hall fireplace and the table where the communion elements have been placed. The first ring of people can reach out and touch the table. This is an experience of human closeness as 100 people gather at one end of the old log building. God’s word is shared with purpose, prayers are from the heart, and the singing reflects the words being sung: “And Can It Be that I should gain and interest in my Savior’s blood….My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

And we do so with God’s blessing.

Dale Harro MD Lived In Partnership With God #223

Dale and Dottie Harro and their five sons lived in a small, 3 bedroom home at the end of Norge Street. I stayed with them frequently during my first five months as Director of DL while my family remained in Texas through the end of the school year. I would enter their kitchen through a five foot hallway filled with coats, shoes, and boots. Dottie would welcome me, and soon we would be drinking tea together. Dottie’s warmth represented well the tone, the feel of their home. I would go through the living room to where I stayed in the small music room which was almost filled with the grand piano. Many had stayed in this room, sleeping with their feet under the piano:  a grandfather, a Pakistani nurse, a troubled young man, to list but a few.

The Harro’s did not want their sons growing up in a home their boys might never be able to afford, or to equate having a large, beautiful home with happiness.   The family of 7 slept upstairs.  The boys had the two bedrooms to the right – and to get to one of the rooms required going through the other.  I know from experience, the Harro’s was a happy home. Examples of family fun: every winter the Harro’s worked together to build an ice skating rink in the small back yard using boards, ordinary contractor’s plastic, and tape.  Hours were spent playing on this ice. The family often walked or hiked together, and when the need arose, they worked together to help others.

The Harro’s always had good transportation – meaning small, reliable used cars. Dale’s feeling was that cars were for transportation, and said nothing about the people who rode in them. Dale’s clothes were always appropriate, but it could never be said that Dr. Harro was a fashion statement.  The Deerfoot Board met in Newark every November, and to save meeting time, a simple lunch was rolled into the room. After everyone had eaten, Dale and I would make sandwiches to eat in the car during our 2 ½ hour ride home. This saved time, and the cost of meals.

To serve people was Dale’s joy.  We experienced his care when we asked him to come and check out our daughter, Jenna. Without hesitation, Dale made the 30 minute drive to our home.  When he arrived, Jenna was sleeping – so Dale took a nap on our couch.  Jenna had been in a car accident and our local hospital checked her out and sent her home. Dale checked her out and suspected a broken pelvis – and it was.  He also came to care for Sally Jo’s mom when she became very sick while visiting us.  When Sally Jo and I were in Florida for a Deerfoot Board meeting, we were in a car accident. Sally Jo went to the hospital – broken sternum. Dale waited until she was ready to leave the hospital, and then rode with us on the plane back to Albany. Many others tell stories of Dale’s care. At his memorial service we sat next to the man who had called Dale one evening.  His wife’s shoulder went out of joint. The husband and Dale carefully laid the woman on the dining room table, and Dale put the woman’s shoulder back into joint. Dale wondered what the neighbors thought when she screamed in the night.  As time would allow, Dale would stack wood for people, and take people to their medical appointments.  Working with other families, the Harro’s began what is now a large community church.

Dale worked with Albany Medical School to establish a family practice clinic to train students as their residency. As Dale was my doctor, I was in the clinic a couple times a year. There I saw people who must have been similar to those he served in the clinic he set up for the very needy during his 3 years of public service.  The clinic staff also cared for the elderly in a near-by nursing home. When Albany Med decided to close the clinic, Dale and another physician in the practice purchased the building and equipment from Albany Med, and continued to train Albany Med residents. Without the medical school’s involvement, the clinic became profitable and repaid Dale and the other doctor’s investment. Now, 30 years later, the clinic has a new building in the same location, continuing to serve the needs of people, while training residents in family practice.

The Harro’s were generous with their time, their talents, and their money. Living simply enabled the Harro’s to give away 1/3 of their income, live on 1/3 and save 1/3.  I have never known a more joyous man, a happier family

Dale, like Jesus, walked around doing good.  Both taught through their lives and their explanations – a partnership.