20 Years Ago Today

Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you. Luke 8:39 (NKJV)

Twenty years ago on this very day, God called us to the mountains of south-central Montana.  My husband and I had been married ten years, bringing with us our nine-year-old daughter Kallie, our six-year-old son Jacob, and our brand new one-month-old baby Kevin.  

We drove our U-haul truck up the winding, bumpy Boulder Road to a piece of heaven called Camp on the Boulder.  There, my husband was to be the new camp manager.  It took two hours to get from the nearest town of Big Timber to the camp with that U-haul, so I assumed it really was a two-hour drive (though later, in emergency-room runs, I could fly down it in 38 minutes!).  

We drove into the camp and to the cabin designated for us, moving ahead as directed by board members.  Yet no one saw the power lines and the height of the U-haul.  So the very first thing we did was knock out power to our tiny new home.

Volunteers helped unload the truck full of boxes and furniture from our home in Iowa.  Unfortunately, this little mountain cabin did not have the room of our previous spacious house, so boxes were piled to the ceiling. I sat on our sofa, trying to nurse my baby, freezing because the power was out, noticing mice running under the doors.

All the glamour of living in a log cabin in the mountains completely left me.  I burst into tears and wanted to go home.  I wanted to load that U-haul back up before my husband could return it to town.  I wanted to go back to familiar Iowa.  

The closest telephone was next door in the Ranch House, the original cabin from the Hell’s Canyon Dude Ranch that precluded the camp.  This was another scary, unfamiliar building with its dark interior, dust, and almost a century of memories.  But at least it had heat for my baby and me. 

I called my daddy back in Iowa on that phone. We had just spent the previous month with my parents while between jobs and already I missed them.  I cried to my daddy, “I want to come home.”  And guess what my daddy said…

“No,” was his reply. “I’m sorry, Jenny, I can’t let you do that.”  

And so I cried buckets of tears and resolved that I would be stuck there forever:  Be there with the mice running under the doors, be there with the power going out regularly, be there with all the ups and downs of church camp ministry.  And we served Jesus there for almost 12 years before God called us to town, and I cried again because I didn’t want to leave.  

Today, we are still in Montana, and very often I proudly sing, “My home’s in Montana, I wear a bandana…”  so glad to be where “the deer and the antelope play,” thankful for the Big Sky and open places, where, as one pastor pointed out, we’ve been practicing social distancing since 1889.

In 20 years, God has sent so many blessings, that I can’t number them all, but let me try to list a few…

God provided a new home for us. We only had to stay in that old log cabin four summers and then a lovely year-round home was built for us by volunteers at the camp, one that was tight with no mice!

God rescued us from forest fires. I used to know how many times we evacuated because of forest fires, but the number escapes me now.  It was so many that our kids were experts at loading the car with prized pets and possessions.  And each time, God kept us and our camp safe. 

We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment. Psalm 66:12 (NKJV)

God sent so many wonderful volunteers and camp ministry team members and Nomads over the years with whom we still keep in touch.  What a blessing to know such dear people.

God fulfilled all our prayers for the camp. The ministry that broke our hearts, and often broke our backs, is now owned by the one of the biggest churches in Billings, Montana. God is answering all the prayers we had for it so long ago. It’s a delight to see God using this piece of heaven for His glory.

In 2011, we moved to town where Jesus provided again a beautiful place to live, wonderful people to work for, church family, praying friends, and Awana and youth group leaders for our kids.  And everyday we wake up to the breathtaking view of the Crazy Mountains, the Beartooths and the Absarokas.  Thank you, dearest Jesus.

God watched over our children… with God’s help, we homeschooled, bringing them up to love and know Jesus. Our daughter Kallie earned her bachelors and masters degrees and is now married and the mom of our two dear grandchildren. Our son Jacob also earned his college degree and is now an engineer in California, engaged to be married this summer. Our little baby Kevin we brought to the mountains is now 6′ 4″ (6’6″ during the corona-haircut-crisis) and busy with college classwork and his Campus Crusade for Christ group.

Along the way, after sending three babies to heaven, God heard our prayers and blessed us with our little Joel who is now 8-1/2 years old. Joel is keeping this old homeschool mom busy learning about oceans. Thank you, Lord, for our children!God has allowed me to continue in ministry, writing two books with more on the way (My TEA CUPP Prayers and Mom’s TEA CUPP Prayers). God has been so good to us these 20 years.  Thank you, dear Father in heaven!   

God is ALWAYS so faithful…providing for all our needs, comforting us in every sorrow, protecting us from evil, healing our bodies, and growing our faith in Him.  Now, with our granddaughter’s cancer, we trust Him to be faithful again.  He provided a camper and we were able to visit her for almost a month and saw her improving day by day.  And so many are praying for little Kennedy…God bless you all!

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 (NKJV)

Today’s TEA CUPP: Dear Friend, you have a story, too!  I encourage you to write it down. Record how God has been faithful through all your ups and downs.  Put it in an album with photos for your kids and grandkids to read. Point your family to Jesus. Keep telling the story of God’s great love!

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. Psalm 40:5 (NKJV)

Thank you for stopping by My TEA CUPP Prayers. If you enjoyed today’s post, you might also like to read When God Says No and Fires and God’s Faithfulness and  My Sweet Baby Blessing at 45.  

For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. Luke 1:49 (NKJV)

The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad. Psalm 126:3 (NKJV)

Scripture from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.




The Beginning of Prayer

prayThen men began to call on the name of the LordGenesis 4:26b (NKJV)

Every new year I begin reading my Bible all over again.  The excitement of Jesus reigning in Revelations during December is replaced with the beginning of the world in Genesis during my January readings.

I follow the history of creation and the birth of mankind.  I cringe as Adam and Eve give in to the serpent in the garden,  hiding from God in the bushes. I imagine how hard it must have been to be the first parents with boys fighting and one kills the other (Cain and Abel).  I rejoice when God gives Adam and Eve another son, Seth, to heal their hurting hearts.

And then I come across this amazing verse:  “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.”  (Genesis 4:26b).  Adam and Eve already spoke to God when they were hiding in the garden.  Cain also talked back to God when he questioned, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Genesis 4:9). Yet at this point, people began lifting their pleas to Him. They were calling on the name of the Lord.

I wonder what those early prayers were like?  We’re they frantic yells, “Help me, God!”  We’re they more poetic like the Psalmists in the Old Testament, who poured out their hearts https://www.wnymedical.com/buy-accutane-acne/ along https://xanaxcost.com with their cries?  Just this morning I was reading one of those Psalms, Psalm 17, and it gave me just the right words to cry out to Jesus:

Hear a just cause, O Lord,
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.  Psalm 17:1-2 (NKJV)

Another favorite cry of my heart is…

Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  Psalm 61:1-2 (NKJV)

Aren’t you glad that people began calling on the Name of the Lord so long ago, leaving us God’s Word as an example so we can call on Him, too?  We can share our hurting hearts and happy moments and anything we want with Jesus.  He is always there to listen.  Thank you, dear God, for your invention of PRAYER!

Today’s TEA CUPP:  When did prayer begin for you? Thank God for that moment when you first heard His voice and answered Him.  Give Jesus the glory for the prayers He has answered in your life.   prayer_kid

New King James Version (NKJV)The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Afraid to Tell

afraid to tellSo they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:8 (NKJV)

It happens every spring when I read the Easter story from the book of Mark.  I’m taken back to a time when I said nothing to anyone, because I was afraid.  Perhaps you have a similar story.

We were at a church camp conference in Georgia with the theme, “This is My Story.”  Whenever there was a lull between events, the crowd would launch into a lively rendition of the old hymn.  “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long…”  The song still rings in my heart almost two decades later.

Between singing and game workshops, maintenance manuals, recipe exchanges and all the other information you need to run a church camp, there was a delightful morning Bible study.  I wish I could remember the name of the speaker who led this, an energetic, Asian-American dynamo.  She ran us through the life of Jesus in the book of Mark, because that is Mark’s pace.  She explained to us how most scholars believe the last twelve verses were tacked on later, so Mark 16:8 is really the final verse.  And what does this verse tell us?

So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:8 (NKJV)

Who were these people?  Mark 16:1 tells us they were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome who brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  They didn’t know how they https://www.fertileheart.com/buy-diflucan-online/ would move the big stone that blocked the tomb.  So when they arrived, they were so surprised to see the stone already rolled away.  An angel in the tomb told them, “He is risen!”

Isn’t that the best news of all!  Would you run tell all your friends?  Well, according to Mark, these women were afraid and didn’t tell anyone at first.  I wonder how many of us are like that.  Do we know the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection, but are too scared to tell others?

The Bible study speaker challenged me to not be afraid to tell my story.  That very day I wrote my story in my journal.  The next Christmas I sent it out with our Christmas cards.  Today I continue to look for ways to tell others about the love of Jesus, how He saved me by dying on the cross, and that He is risen.  Many days, I’m still afraid, but the Holy Spirit nudges me to share more and more. Are you being nudged, too?

Today’s TEA CUPP: Read Mark 16 today.  Celebrate the Good News that Jesus is Risen!  Then find someone to tell the Good News of how Jesus has helped you.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.”  Mark 16:6 (NKJV)

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Camp Prayers for God’s Faithfulness

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

A few weeks ago I was writing about God’s Faithfulness at Church Camp.  As goes life at camp, all of a sudden we were so busy that there was no time to write.  But there was still time to pray!  I encourage all of you involved in camping ministries to keep Jesus and prayer as top priorities no matter what the season, slow or busy.  If we stay in God’s Word and have TEA with Him each day, all of our tasks will be blessed.  God is faithful, even during our busy times, sending wonderful volunteers to help us.

Here are some ways we incorporate prayer in our camping ministry.  I hope these ideas are a blessing to you.  Please let me know if you have other ideas…

Prayer emails to prayer friends & family…We have a group of people who are interested in our ministry and have promised to pray for us. Every so often (and I need to write again soon), we send out a prayer email, giving these folks an update on praises and prayer requests for the camp.  We are so thankful for these folks who petition the Lord on our behalf.

Prayer friends adopt a team member or board member…These same prayer friends have the opportunity to adopt one of our ministry team or board members each summer. They pray for that person specifically by name, covering all our team in prayer.

Prayer partners each week with ministry team…In addition, every Sunday night at our ministry team worship service, we write our names and any prayer requests on a slip of paper and put them in a basket.  At the end of the service we each draw a name to pray for that week.  We get to cover each other in prayer this way.

Pray over camp before season…During our week of team training at the beginning of summer, our ministry team takes time to walk over our entire camp and pray for each building, recreation, vehicles, campers, team members, volunteers, etc.  We ask God to cleanse each part of the camp and fill each room with His Holy Spirit, touching the lives of all who come to camp.

Footwashing and communion service for ministry team...At the end or our training week, we hold a commissioning service for our ministry team, asking God to bless and prepare each one of us to serve.  Each team member washes another’s feet and we lay hands on that person and pray for him/her.  As we share the bread and cup, we are united as one body to serve Jesus at camp for the summer.

Daily devotions and prayers at lunch with ministry team…Every day at lunch in the summer we share a devotion and prayer with our ministry team.  This is the perfect time when both the morning crew and afternoon crew are there together.  Team members sign up on a calendar for this prayer time, so they each have the opportunity to lead in this special way.  Lunch time together is one of our favorite times of the day.

Sunday night praise service for ministry team and neighbors…One way we open up our ministry to others is offering a free cookout and praise service to the community on Sunday evenings.  The cookout is a time of fellowship, followed by a praise service lead by our ministry team.  Neighbors have the opportunity to submit prayer requests in our prayer basket, and also to draw a name and help pray with us.

Bibles and devotion booklets available around camp for guests…When guests head back to their rooms for the evening, some may be missing home, worried about jobs and family, having trouble sleeping.  And so in each lodge room is a Bible, and devotion books are also available, to encourage our guests and campers to have TEA with Jesus.

Prayer Chapel…Right in the center of camp is a little cabin that a mission team turned into a prayer chapel for us one summer.  The stained glass windows and miniature pews invites folks to pray 24/7, whenever they need a quiet spot away from the bustle of other campers.

Graces and prayers offered at meals for guests and team...Finally, even when things are rushed and busy, we try to make time for a prayer before meals with our ministry team.  Depending on the groups in camp, we may also lead a prayer for our campers.  We want them to know Jesus loves them and we thank the Lord for sending them to camp!

I’m sure many of you have other ways you incorporate prayer in your camping ministry and lives.  Please share!  As I write this I’m thinking of another idea to add next summer…A Prayer Walk along the Bambi Trail...it starts with “T” for Thanks, then “E” for Exalt, then “A” for Admit, then “C” for God’s Call, then “U” for Understanding my Story, then “P” or Promises, and finally “P” for Petitions…My TEA CUPP with Jesus in the forest!

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12 (NIV)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

My Treasure

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

I had the Treasure, but they didn’t know it.  I wanted to give them the Treasure, but they didn’t ask.  They seemed to be content with their own treasures, but I knew I had the best One.  And now I pray they will find the Treasure.

We were at a Bed & Breakfast the other night.  My husband and I finally had the opportunity to sneak away for our anniversary.  We used our date money from the past year to get a room for one night at an old mansion B&B.  The charming gardens and antique furniture made it more special than your standard motel room.  But what I didn’t realize until morning was that all the B&B guests eat together.  It wouldn’t be a romantic meal for the two of us, but a group of people conversing over candlesticks and waffles.

The folks at the table were a friendly bunch, though we felt a bit out of our league. There was the young bank investor couple from South Africa, spending several months traveling.  There was the retired English couple from the Cayman Islands, also investors on their American tour.  There was the Texas couple traveling the U.S. before heading to Europe.  There was the political commentator’s wife who had just taken her daughter to college, leaving an empty chair at the table. There was the mysterious couple sitting at the overflow table in the next room. And there were we, the church camp workers celebrating one night away from home.

Topics of conversation traveled from careers to wineries to  itineraries to politics. That proved to be touchy ground between the Texan and the political commentator’s wife.  If politics are touchy, surely religion is also. As I nibbled my fruit compote, my thoughts wandered to the mystery stories I’ve read in the past.   If there was a murder, we would all be kept at the B&B while an investigation transpired, and we’d all get to know each other more than we desired.  Perhaps, before it was announced that the butler did it,  I could have given them my Treasure.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

What is my Treasure?  My Treasure is Good. My Treasure is Love. My Treasure is more precious than silver.  My Treasure is more costly than gold.  My Treasure is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My Treasurer is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.  My Treasurer is my Delight, my Helper, my Hope, my Keeper, my Light, my Miracle Worker, my Refuge, my Rescuer, my Rock, my Shield, my Strength,   my Reward.    My Treasure is the same yesterday, today and forever. My Treasure is Alive, Almighty, Bread of Life, Compassionate, Creator of the Universe, Eternal, Faithful, Forgiving, Glorious, Gracious, Great, Holy, Just, Kind, King of kings, Lord of lords, Merciful, Perfect, Powerful, Redeemer, Righteous, Savior of my soul,  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, the One and Only, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

He is worth more than all bank investors combined.  You don’t have to travel the world to find Him.  He loves all people, no matter their political leanings.  He was sitting right with us in the empty chair.

Ask me and I will gladly give you My Treasure.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34 (NIV)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Freezes & God’s Faithfulness

Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 (NKJV)

These past few days I’ve been reflecting on God’s faithfulness at church camp.  As I spend my TEA CUPP time with Jesus each day, He reminds me how He is always faithful.  We have seen how God is faithful in floods, God is faithful in fires, God is faithful in fiascoes, and today I share with you how God is faithful in freezes.  Yes, forever God is faithful.

It was Christmas day at our first camp in Iowa.  For some reason towards the end of the day my husband Kent decided to run up the hill from our house to the camp office.  And for some reason he thought to open the door between the office and the lodge where the summer staff slept during the summer.  When he opened that door he heard the sound of rain, water gushing from the ceilings and showering  upon all the bunk beds.  But the roof was solid and it wasn’t raining outside.  It turned out the building had hot water heat which ran through the ceilings.  Somehow the pipes had frozen and burst, causing the rain shower on the night of Christmas.  Kent shut off the water, but now there was no way to heat the building while waiting for repairs.  We needed heat so more pipes wouldn’t burst.  Kent and a plumber spent the next few days getting it all fixed, while avoiding the ice skating rink on the floor.  And we wondered, what was that all about, God?  Why on Christmas?  Why at all?  But God doesn’t explain these things, He just stays beside us and helps us through it and shows us that He is faithful.

Another freeze happened just a year ago at our camp here in the mountains of Montana.   We had a wonderful group of quilting ladies here for an early October retreat.  Half of the buildings in camp were shut down for the winter, but the other half were still open.  The ladies were staying in two of those lodges and eating at the dining hall.  When it started to snow we worried about the ladies arriving safely, but that wasn’t a problem. Their four-wheel drive vehicles brought them here just fine.  The problem was the temperatures plummeted to three degrees, colder than most Januaries!  The pipes in the lodges froze, so the ladies had to walk to another building for showers and toilets. The dish room with its thin glass was a chilly place for us kitchen workers, but at least the machine carried on.  Somehow we made it through the weekend, while praying for warmer weather. Finally the pipes thawed enough for Kent to shut off the water and blow out the pipes for winter.  Some pipes were so full of holes, they drained themselves.  In the spring all the pipes needed to be fixed. And God was faithful, sending volunteers (Thank you Gary & Rob!) who knew plumbing well and helped Kent to fix all those leaky pipes.

Another winter we had a freeze on the dirt road leading to camp.  The mountain streams often freeze over the road, leaving huge ice puddles.  On a warmer day, the puddles start to thaw, trapping unsuspecting vehicles.  One time that vehicle was ours.  My husband was away at a meeting.  I was driving our children to town for their regular day of piano lessons and Awana.  On the way we got stuck in this ice puddle, just a mile from home.  I walked back home to call the tow truck and hiked back down to the kids again.  It took over an hour for the tow truck to arrive and then he also got stuck. After much fuming and fussing, the truck driver got himself and us pulled out of the ice.  We made it to town, but were late for our piano lessons.  Coming home late that night, just the kids and I, I wondered what we should do with the ice puddle.  I decided we should park the car before the ice and then walk the last mile to camp.  Some loggers on the road had mentioned they had seen a pack of wolves recently, so I was a bit worried.   I prayed and we walked and we laughed as we carried our groceries, thinking we’d just throw the wolves one of our frozen pizzas if they came by.  But I thought what a crazy life we have, where my young first grade son trudges home through the snow at 10 p.m., surrounded by mountains and shining stars as he listens for the sound of wolves.  Yes, God is faithful in freezes.

Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness
reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness
is like the great mountains;
Your judgments
are a great deep;
O LORD, You preserve man and beast.
Psalm 36:5-6 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Fiascoes & God’s Faithfulness

Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles?…Judges 6:13 (NKJV)

Fiascoes. Troubles. Hard times.  Yes, this is all part of life in a church camp ministry.  How do we deal with this each day?  I prefer to stay home and pray and have my TEA CUPP with Jesus, while my husband Kent heads out to the battle.  But sometimes I also must join him on the frontlines, and sometimes he also must join me in prayer.

Looking back at almost 15 years of camping ministry, it is painful to relive some of the fiascoes.  Some were harmless as a  group of 100 campers arrived a day early and didn’t bring bedding while we were having a day off, and our housekeeper tried to gather linens from other camps and patch up the situation until we returned (good work, Tim!).  Some were scary as our cook drove to town in the camp Suburban for donuts, only to have the engine catch fire and burn up at the side of the road (we’re glad you are safe, Meadow!).  Yet some fiascoes brought tears as we sent off members of our ministry team.

Every summer there is one member of our ministry team who can’t stay all summer, due to health, school, family or poor behavior.  Those times are the hardest for all the ministry team, because we are one body serving Jesus here at camp.  It sure hurts when the foot is cut off!  But sometimes that is necessary for the rest of the body to continue functioning.

One summer there was a fellow who was so eager to serve and had big ideas for the camp. We appreciated his enthusiasm.  However, on the side he was harassing some of the female members of the ministry team.  That unacceptable behavior forced Kent to ask him to leave.  The fellow needed a ride to town, but Kent didn’t want to drive him alone, so he asked one of our kitchen assistants to go with him.  We have a safe-sanctuary policy of 3-deep at all times, so Kent had to take our young son along, too, so there would be 3 people in the vehicle coming home.  So, this poor fellow had quite the escort out of camp that afternoon.

The rest of us were back in the kitchen working, wondering what was going on.  As dinner was served and the ministry team sat down to eat in the kitchen, a thunderstorm rolled in.  The rain pelted the old dining hall roof, pouring buckets of rain into the dish room.

The camp has another policy about privacy for all team members, so if one person is asked to leave, we don’t share details.  We just mention they have left and remind the team to follow all rules in the handbook. As Kent returned and told the ministry team the fellow had left, we were all crying tears of sadness as the roof cried right along with us.

We ended that day with prayers…prayers for our departed team member, prayers for those still at camp, prayers for hurting hearts, prayers for this camping ministry, and prayers for that weeping roof (it still leaks, by the way)!  And we thanked God for always being faithful in every fiasco.

You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
Psalm 71:30 (NKJV)

New King James Version (NKJV)Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Fires & God’s Faithfulness

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine…When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)

It must be August. The fire trucks zoomed up our mountain road last Saturday, followed by the Sheriff and forest service vehicles. Thunderstorms had threatened our valley all afternoon. Could there have been a lightning strike? My husband Kent was on the phone to the Sheriff’s office and neighbors to find out the news. A lightning strike had started a small fire on Carbonate Mountain, two miles south of us. Officials would let us know if the fire spread.

The memories of five previous fire evacuations came flooding back to me. We did not want to go through that again! We didn’t want to alarm the people in camp either, so what did we do? We prayed. Right there in the camp office where we knew we were helpless to any fires, we prayed. And God sent rain, and hail, and the most beautiful rainbow we had ever seen. And no fire evacuation. Thank you, Jesus.

Earlier this summer I came out of the house to a smell that I’ve come to call “August.” It was the campfire smell we have experienced almost every year since moving to Montana. It was only July at the time, so I was surprised and worried. It turned out that smoke had drifted over from a fire in Yellowstone National Park. Our valley was still safe.

Every summer the threat of fire danger in our valley in south central Montana is a cause for concern. We’ve experienced so many fire evacuatons. The ones that stand out most in our minds were two back-to-back evacuations in 2006.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2006,  lightning caused fires to start in our county, Sweet Grass County.  The fires were to the west and east of our valley, but for safety, the Boulder Valley was also closed at Natural Bridge. The fires were the Derby fire (named for Derby Mountain where the fire started) and the Jungle fire (named for a stream near where it started) .  Together they burned an area about 1/4 the size of Rhode Island.

It was a scary time for the people of our valley.  We asked our prayer friends to pray.  There are many Bible verses that can provide comfort at times like this.  Most meaningful to us was our camp Psalm 121…“I lift my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Sunday night, September 3 at 9 p.m. the Boulder valley was evacuated.  The Derby fire was in the East Boulder and the Jungle fire was in the West Boulder.  As we approached McLeod, we could see the sky was orange and smoke was rising in the east.  We spent the week in Big Timber, checking with the forest service each day, and watching the fiery orange sky each night.

On September 10, we returned to Camp on the Boulder and found everything just as we left it.  We praised the Lord!   Smokey the Bear said “extreme” for the fire danger on our road.

Wednesday, September 13th we were evacuated for a second time.  The temperature was 87 degrees.  The Jungle fire was headed for the old Boulder River Ranch and Natural Bridge.  We were so thankful for the firefighters, volunteers, forest service, sheriff’s department, and everyone who worked so hard to keep us all safe.

But they wouldn’t have been able to save our valley, if God hadn’t sent over an inch of rain and then snow  that Friday and Saturday, drowning the fires that had threatened Montana for weeks.  Kent had to hurry back to camp to shut off water so the pipes wouldn’t freeze!  September 18th we were able to return to camp and stay.

As we drove up the valley and saw the snow-capped mountains, the familiar campfire song came to mind, “Praise God” to the tune of Amazing Grace.  And as we passed the burnt hillsides, the third verse of that great hymn seemed most appropriate…”Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come, ’tis Grace hath brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us home.”

And the last verses of Psalm 121 rang true:
“The Lord will keep you from all evil;
He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and for evermore.”
Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Floods & God’s Faithfulness

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you
...Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)

When we pass through the waters, God is with us.  How many times has this promise from God’s Word been put to the test in our camping ministry?  We have lost count! Floods have brought us to help others, as our ministry team has lent a hand in Iowa and Mississippi.  Floods have scared us as they whisked away our campers on Huck Finn rafts. And floods have brought us to tears, as Kent has battled overflowing toilets and drains.  Yet God has been faithful through it all.

So, today, for your entertainment, I bring you another suspenseful episode of Adventures in Camping, the continuing drama where one must always expect the unexpected.  The scene is Pictured Rocks United Methodist Camp, a lovely camp nestled on a hilltop above the Maquoketa River in Jones County, Iowa.  It is mid-November, an unusual time for all four of the camp’s cozy lodges to be rented.  Our adventure unfolds during supper on Friday evening.

Scene 1 Timbercrest Lodge Kitchen

Camp Manager: (rushing into the kitchen after checking in a group) Well, the first group is checked in, now I’m just waiting for the others.

Manager’s Wife: (turning from doing the dishes) Honey, there is a toilet that needs your attention on the boys’ side of the lodge.  (Manager nods and heads towards the appointed rest room.  Just at this moment another group arrives and his attention is focused on the new guests)

Manager: (smiling) Welcome to Pictured Rocks Camp.  Let me show you to your lodge.

(A little while later. Manager stops through kitchen on his way to that restroom again.  He holds in his hand a sign that says “Out of order.”  He gets a piece of tape and proceeds to the plugged commode)

(Meanwhile back in the kitchen, dinner is being served and dishes are being washed)

Cook: This sink just isn’t draining.  Is there a plunger around here?  Oh, I found one (cook begins the active job of plunging the sink)

Guest: (poking his head in the kitchen door, speaking to the manager’s wife) Can you come here for a second?

Manager’s Wife: (looking up from her dishes) Sure.  (She follows the guest out into the dining hall, drying her hands on her apron)

Guest: OK, stand right here.  Now smell (She sniffs the air). Do you smell something odd?  (She wrinkles her nose at a definite odor in the air)

Manager’s Wife: Yes.  I will let the manager know about it right away.  Thank you.  (She quickly heads back to her dishes, which she would much rather do than deal with this smell)

(A few minutes later, manager once again enters the kitchen)

Manager: Well, all the groups are checked in and settled.

Cook: (gesturing with plunger) Could you please take a look at this sink?

Manager’s wife: The guests want you to sniff out in the dining hall right away.

(Manager, torn between the sink and the dining hall, gives the sink a few good plunges and then heads out to deal with the guests.  Cook, manager’s wife, and volunteer staff finish supper cleanup and say good night)

Scene 2 Manager’s House

(Later that evening, back at the manager’s house)

Manager: (coming in the door) Hi.  All the groups are settled for the night. Everything is under control.

(1:30 a.m. Telephone rings.  Manager leaps out of bed)

Manager: Hello.

Guest: (anxiously) Hello, this is one of your guests in Timbercrest Lodge. We have a major plumbing problem.  None of the toilets will flush, the showers are all backed up, there is an awful smell, and I have some desperate ladies in my group who want the rest rooms fixed pronto…

Manager: Yes. I see.  I will be right there.

Manager’s wife: (wandering out sleepily) Who was that?

Manager: (flipping through a phone book) It seems there is a major plumbing problem.

Manager’s wife: Oh, no (sitting down, realizing it is a long night ahead.  Manager proceeds to make calls to plumbers, none will answer their phones.  After one more try, he hangs up. The phone rings again)

Manager: Hello.

Guest: Did you call a plumber yet?

Manager: (keeping his voice patient) Yes.  I have just called a couple of plumbers, I will be right up (gets dressed and prepares to head to the plumbing disaster)

Manager’s wife: I’ll be praying for you!

Scene 3 Timbercrest Lodge and Manager’s House

(For this final scene, the stage is split.  One side shows the manager at the lodge, surveying the plumbing problem; the other side is the kitchen of the manager’s house.  The manager just shakes his head as he sees the floor of the rest rooms and smells the awful odors.  He attempts to telephone the plumber again.  The manager’s wife, knowing she cannot sleep with all this going on, fixes herself a cup tea, gets her Bible, and settles down at the kitchen table for a long night of prayer)

Manager’s wife: Lord, I don’t know if You fix plumbing problems, but I know you can do anything.  If you could please send us a plumber right now, that would be a big help.

Manager: (finally getting through to a plumber) Yes. Can you come right away?  Thank you very much.

Manager’s wife: Lord, please give my husband the strength to get through this night, and please fix the plumbing.

Manager: Good!  (Happy that a plumber is on the way, the manager grabs a mop, and heads to the rest rooms to begin the task of mopping up the overflowing sewer water)

Manager’s wife: (unaware that a plumber is on the way) Lord, it’s me again. Could you please fix the plumbing problem?

Manager: (seeing the plumber drive up) Thank you so much for coming!

(For the next couple hours we see the manager and plumber trying every trick to get the sewage system unplugged. We see the manager’s wife continuing to knock on the Lord’s door, asking for help)

Manager’s wife: (the clock on the wall says 3:45 a.m.) I’ll stay up until 4 a.m.

Plumber: Well, let’s try this electric snake one more time (manager and plumber feed the electric snake into the outside access to the pipes once again)

Manager’s wife: (4 a.m.) Dear Lord, I’m asking just one more time.  Will you please fix the plumbing?

Manager and plumber: Hooray!  (After many unsuccessful attempts, the plumber and manager have victoriously pulled out the clog from deep in the sewer system. Water can flow through all the drains once again.  Manager helps the plumber pack up and thanks him again and again.  Manager proceeds to mop and freshen up the rest rooms, so the guests can awaken to a pleasant new day)

Manager’s wife: In Jesus’ Name I pray, Let Your will be done, Amen (heading to bed)


(At 5 a.m. the manager tumbles into bed. His wife is overjoyed at the success of the plumber. They try to catch a few hours of sleep before serving breakfast to the camp guests.  The next day at camp there are no more plumbing disasters.  Praise the Lord!)

And so ends yet another suspenseful episode of Adventures in Camping. The victory is the Lord’s.  Diligent labors and persistent prayers won the battle of the clogged sewer system and conquered the November floods! Yay, God!

New International Version (NIV)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Forever God is Faithful

Hello, camping friends!  As I ponder My TEA CUPP Prayers for Church Camps, the song that keeps coming to mind is “Forever” by Chris Tomlin.  I sit at my kitchen table in the mountains, typing this website, a recent copy of “Voice of the Martyrs” newsletter nearby.  Our camping challenges have been nothing compared to the persecution endured by Christians around the world.  But my friend Kimberly reassures me that God cares about my troubles just as much as He cares about theirs.  And I can see His faithfulness through it all. I hope you will enjoy the stories in the coming days of God’s faithfulness. May you see that forever God is faithful, forever God is strong, forever God is with us, forever and ever…

Give thanks to the Lord
Our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
With a mighty hand
and outstretched arm
His love endures forever
For the life that’s been reborn
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us

From the rising to the setting sun
His love endures forever
By the grace of God
We will carry on
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise
Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us