Friday, August 17, 2007
Strength for the Journey
Hi folks, I have just returned from three mind blasting days with the Orange County Strength for the journey camp. This is the 15th year of the camp for people living with HIV/ AIDS. Ever since I have been serving on the Board of Congregational Development, and Jubilee Task Force, I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the four camps the Conference HIV/AIDS sponsors. I have been serving on this committee that seeks to support the work of the camps as well as educate the church about the issues related to HIV/AIDS. So this was a wonderful blessing to see how the camp is doing after I served on staff with Katherine Gara, and Jeff Notke 15 years ago. We have lost many campers and staff since we have started offering the retreat,yet I am glad to report it is going on strong. In fact, there has been full camps for the next 13 years, and this year 30 folks could not attend because it was full. The staff changes, and several years ago we lost Katherine due to a Brain Tumor. That next year the staff was not sure if they could carry on without her leadership. She was such a vital presence, and was passionate about offering unconditional love to those members of our society that were hurting. She was a preacher who inspired everyone who was fortunate to have worked with her. Now, as they gathered for the first campfire on the first night of the retreat, Jeff as Dean, her son Joel, and daughter in law Erika had mixed emotions as they faced doing a camp without her. Just then, a shooting star, the brightest they had ever witnessed crossed across the sky. They knew in that instant, that Katherine was with them and that they could continue the tradition she had started, offering a safe place for hurting souls. Now, as I visited the camp 13 years after I left to form a new camp, I was pleased to see the power of the retreat still working. The stories of how this camp has transformed lives still echo in my soul as I write this. I am tired by inspired by the courage of those I met and I know Katherine's halo is glowing with pride.