Summary: Dare we believe that God is still at work in this world despite all its brokenness and iniquity? Dare we believe that God can still work in the world through the church despite all the change and cultural upheaval we see taking place in our society?
Lake Winona was the location of the YMCA campsite in Ormond Beach, Florida – the hometown of my childhood. For two weeks each summer the First Baptist Church would rent the Lake Winona campsite to provide for it Youth and Children’s Ministry. I began attending Junior Camp when I was nine years old. Later, when I was a teenager, I attended Senior Camp. After I left for college, I was invited back to become the camp pastor and preacher.
The Lake Winona campsite holds a special place in my heart. It was the first place I shot a rifle. It was the first place that I pulled back a bow and sent an arrow towards a target. It was the first place I ever kissed a girl. It was the first place I heard the gospel. It was where I asked Jesus to become a part of my life. It was the place where I first sensed God calling me into the ministry. In addition to all these significant events, Camp Winona also became the place where I almost died.
It happened like this. Each year on the last day of camp, all the campers engage in sort of an Olympic competition that pitted cabin against cabin. There were individual swimming races and team swimming relays. There were canoe swamps – an event in which cabin mates sat in a canoe and splash water into the canoes of their opponents. When a canoe sank, it was removed from competition. This continued until only one canoe was left afloat. Another big event greased watermelon competition. What a site it was. A grease covered watermelon was placed in the lake and the campers were turned loose (first the guys and then the girls). The challenge was to work as a cabin to bring the watermelon to shore. It was only by the grace of God that nobody was ever seriously hurt.
Now I was not then nor am I now a fan of deep water. I survived these events by steering clear of the competition. The problem was that each camper had to compete in at least one competition. Therefore, what they did was take all of us wimps and put us together in the cabin canoe race. It worked like this. Six of us were packed into a canoe and told to paddle out into the late (by hand) passed a small floating dock, and then to return to shore. Mr. Park’s (our cabin’s chaperon) had a bright idea. Instead of trying to turn the canoe by paddling on just one side, once we were passed the dock we would all standup, turn around, sit down, and paddle back to shore.
I do not have to spell it out for you – you are smart people. You know what happened. The canoe tipped over and sank. Everyone else in the canoe knew how to swim. I did not! In desperation, I reached out and grabbed the canoe that was paddle next to us. I tipped it over – and all of its members also knew how to swim and they headed for shore. At this point, I had no place else to go but down. I just began to sink. I splash and screamed for help, but with eleven other children splashing about, nobody seemed to notice my plight. I felt certain that I was about to die. I desperately reached out for something that I could grab hold of to save my life. Finally, my hands grasped hold of something. Somebody on the floating dock threw me a line. I grabbed of the very end of that rope and I held on for dear life while I was pulled to safety.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you were just holding on at the end of your rope? Maybe it was when you lost your job and did not have the resources to make ends meet. Maybe it was that day when your spouse left you saying your marriage was over. Maybe it was when your health began to dimension and healing did not look likely. Maybe it was that day when you stood near the casket of parent, or child, or spouse.
Have you ever felt like you were holding on to the end of your rope?
In one of Lily Tomlin’s movies, she becomes The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Somehow, Tomlin finds herself in the kitchen sink and she is so small and thin that she is in danger of being washed down the trash compactor. We see her swirling around and around in the sink desperately grabbing for something to save her from certain destruction. Finally, her hand grasps a string of pasta. She clings to that piece of pasta with all her might praying and hoping that somebody will see her plight and save her from certain destruction.