Hume, CA / June 7-20, ’09
18 years ago, I counted them. I’m not sure why. Boredom? Fatigue? But from a certain juncture in the road, I noticed the quick, sharp curves, as well as the turns that never seemed to end. I was working at Hume Lake Christian Camps. And now, 18 years later, I still find myself…counting! 16 turns.
We drove that slalom of road leading into camp. The familiar scents of Manzanita plants and fresh pine filled my lungs with nature’s fumes. And I did not know what to call it that night; a prayer, a thought, or perhaps a brief brush at a dream. I will never forget unpacking, and while hanging my clothes in the closet, wondering how amazing it would be to not only stay that week, but be asked to speak another.
Speaking schedules at Hume were filled months in advance. The likelihood? Chances were slim. I dropped it, went on my way, and sensed a peace. Call me selfish! I needed two weeks at a place I love. Besides, I was desperate. I needed the money, and only mentioned that to a few people. I did not know how I was going to pay my upcoming bills. 2009 marked 12 summers speaking at camps, and 9 years as a full-time speaker.
At church the next morning, the program director approached me to extend an invitation. “What are you doing next week? Are you speaking somewhere else, another camp?” The peace I clutched showed itself strong. “If not, we would love to have you speak to our high school camp, Ponderosa.” I told him that I wanted to pray about it. An ignorant Christian at its finest! Doubting Thomas? Did the Holy Spirit just laugh? Go!!!
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25)? The moment I started walking across the Meadow Ranch lawn, I stepped into another world of summer. How fitting that my first week of camps began here! Hume Lake was the place where I regained my independence; held my first job; relearned to ride a bike after being confined to a wheelchair; and spoke about my redemptive life.
The last couple of years I have wondered. Should I keep traveling? There have been months where I have just made it financially. Should I hang my hat and pursue other means? Should I settle down in a local church and teach? Is my story becoming too redundant for others to hear? It all becomes frustrating, disheartening. Round and round, I go. And I keep being reminded – this is God’s story, not yours.
It was that second week. A friend approached me carrying a sealed envelope. As I sat on the chapel stage, he said, “This is for you! I am not sure who it is from. They do not want to be found out.” I tucked it away and opened it later in my room to find 10, crisp $100 bills. No card. No names. Sitting in the place where I began speaking years ago, I received a double portion to remind – this is God’s story, not yours. 16 turns.
Some many times, I have been that expert in the law. Life becomes figured out. Eternal life, but was I exercising faith? Students came to Hume this summer being experts in the law. Christianity has become a culture, and not their relationship. Many only saw the Parable of the Good Samaritan from a distance, spewing verbatim the right answers. Jesus desires us to go beyond the know – “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28).
I did not become a Christian at Hume, but it has been a place God has used to change my life. It made me realize one of my purposes in this world: speaking. I owe that to God; and then to my family, youth pastor, and friends who did not give up on me those times I wanted to quit.
Just once. I want to announce at the fork in the road “16 turns” and watch the subsequent smirks, curious eyes, ever so oblivious to the sentiment. I want whomever I am with to roll their eyes, let out a respectful, tolerable sigh as if to say, “Get a life, Simning!” Just once. I’ll keep looking straight ahead and just start counting. And underneath my breath, I’ll respond in kind, “if only you knew…”