And to be honest, I hate camping. I hate sweat and bugs and outdoors when they are all at the same time. But for good people… I will do it. And so this was a weekend I would do it for. I had no clue how appreciative I would be by the end of it.
*When Jason called me to tell me that the place hadn’t been cleaned as expected and they had to bug bomb it on arrival, I knew immediately that this was a group of friends who could handle it and wouldn’t freak out. They’d already been taught to be flexible. And besides… most of us lived in less than Hilton conditions on the field.
* Arriving late to a campfire and familiar faces I don’t get to see nearly enough. Waves and smiles from people I dearly love… realizing we’re about to pick up where we last left off… no matter how long ago it was.
*Sitting under the stars and talking about how big God is… And seeing it at the same time.
* Our kids… playing together like no time has passed.
*Hannah falling asleep in my arms.*Singing around the campfire. Singing. Singing. Singing.
* Singing Alabare, and No Hay Dios, and Solamente in Cristo. Then someone asking if we could sing something in Russian or Thai. Nope… can’t.* Smores. Glowsticks. More Stars.
* Walking up to the cabin in the dark and overhearing the kids have this conversation with each other.
“Won’t it be so cool when we grow up and we’re all missionaries together?”* And hearing the rest of that conversation:
Her: “When I grow up, I’m going to go to AIM, and then do whatever God wants me to do.”
Him: “Yeah. Or you could be a wrestler.”
* Seeing the little girls set up their bunks. Together. And Tonya gets mom of the year for sleeping on the top so the girls could be together.
* Walking out the cabin door to see all the tents neatly lined up. Knowing those tents are filled with more people I love. Every single one.
*Early morning mist.
* “A cow woke me up.”
*”There were wild animals. And I think I heard three gunshots.”
*Seriously yummy sausage gravy.
* Walking in and seeing friends reading their Bible, getting up early to go pray, alone or together. And no one’s making them.*Remembering why I have such deep love for these people. Even the ones I don’t know well…yet.
* Discussing how AIM, for many of us, was our spiritual parent…the first real experience of discipleship, by which we judged all other experiences, good and bad. Appreciating more that simple but profound reality, and it’s place in my walk with Christ.
* Seeing Kris and Barb walk in. Then learning they’d taken a motorcycle 8+ hours to see us over lunch, and then head back another 8 hours.* Knowing in this crowd… even if a job isn’t delegated…everyone pitches in till whatever is done. Serving is ingrained. It’s fruit of a life lived loving Christ.
* Listening to mountains and valleys...* Talking. About stuff that matters.
* Watching friends relax. Watching my friends hang out with my kids. Realizing this really is more like family.
*Getting to know people I knew I’d love… and loving them.
* Watching a second generation of kids learn to “be flexible”. Little Piper and Michael could take a nap on a concrete floor with the best of them.
* Being out on a beautiful lake with my husband and kids in a rowboat.
*Hearing, (while in that rowboat…) “Mom, go right! Go right!” Now left. Left. LEFT!!!” Realizing they’re too freaked out and we have to do this more. THEN realizing the last time I said those same words, I was in a dugout canoe in the rain forest with a 12 year old Ecuadorian boy leading us to find caiman… in AIM.
* A huge slip and slide. Smiles all over kids faces.
*Seeing Cory dump his kids off in the middle of the lake.
*Tigger getting back in the lake just to help Eli and Allison get on the floating dock… jumping back through memories from years ago that I never knew would lead up to moments today that I appreciate so deeply.
*Being especially content and more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time. Coming to a mutual realization that in AIM, we learned to have very deep, intimate, friendships…. and that most of us have a hard time ever finding that quality of friendship again.
* Steak and Chicken for dinner. Cajun Shrimp boil for lunch. Seriously? Who EVER gets that while camping?!?! De.Lic.ious.
* Sunday worship… a meal together. Hearing our children ask questions about our relationship with Christ. Sitting around the tables… a family of almost 40… and yet every bit intimate.
* Breaking bread and communion within our families. Explaining… to my kids, as my friends explained to theirs. Knowing they’ll remember.
*“Time for a drawing!” It’s the FORD family. It’s the FORD family. And again… it’s the FORD family!
* Nerts. I still liked the loser table.
* “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it… It’s the end…”
Cory… thanks for ruining this game for me forever.
Chris… playing so well... After it’s over. “Stupid.” You were the best part of the game, friend.
Donovan and Brandon’s faces… caught in pained silent laughter and tears as Katie tried so hard : “It’s when you’re in a car accident, and you don’t wake up , and your uh, …. and you don’t remember anybody…. “ “COMA!” “Yeah! “Oh wait…. it’s’comma’.”
*Our poor kids actually putting themselves to bed…whether going to the cabin by themselves, or bringing up sleeping bags to sleep on the floor in the dining hall while we played and laughed and played.* Realizing it felt so late… and it was only 9:30.
*Cheese crackers. Twinkies. Guacamole.
*Morning on the lake.
* Smalel groups. Question #8: “Is anything keeping you from sharing the difficult parts of your experience like Paul did?” and sitting there, choked up, wiping tears from my eyes, praying that God will help me figure out how to say ‘pride’ and ‘judgment’, and it make sense, and not make a fool of myself…and not being able to do it. Then Alisha says “Pride and judgment. Does that make any sense?” Ummm..yeah. Thanks.
* Mountain and Valley notebooks. Okay. Who didn’t rip into those like a 3 year old at Christmas? God knew us when He said to encourage one another….
I could go on and want to… but I’ll wait for next year. It’s on my calendar. :-)
- Heather Pitney Thornton