"Noah" by Jim Hovey October 28 to 31, 2004 by Jim House
Days of Preparation
For many weeks, as the DEAR 2004 committee led by several volunteers and myself at Mike Dobson's home in Virginia and online in AOL Instant Messaging chatrooms. This was the first year that 2004 committee appointed me take over as a Director as Mike, the previous Director wanted to take on a lesser role for this year's camp-out. It turned out that Mike played a major role as always even though he was the webmaster and treasurer. Francisca Trexler from Maryland was appointed as assistant director and took care of the youth program and a zillion other minor details. The success of DEAR 2004 would not have been possible without these people and others like my wife, Wendy from Maryland who developed the surveys and Pastor Trexler who pitched in with needed advice or essential errands. Let's give a big round of applause or "up-plause" (hands-waving in the air) to these special people.
Heaven on Earth
On Thursday afternoon October 28, 2004, 35 people came to our favorite "heaven-on-earth" at Camp Blue Ridge (CBR) for the Deaf Eastern Autumn Retreat (DEAR) 2004. It was a mini-preview of the long awaited heavenly reunion as old friends who haven't seen each other for years embrace in enthusiastic bear-hugs. Some of us were DEAR regulars who come to CBR year after year for true spiritual refreshment, while others came on glowing recommendations of brothers and sisters in Christ who had came to CBR in previous years.
After dinner, as I began my director's introduction with a "Fall-flavored" PowerPoint slide presentation, I started by thanking people who have volunteered to help with the planning and noted that DEAR would not be possible without them. Noted that of the 61 people who registered, 15 states were represented, led by Virginia with New York ranking as a close second. Maryland was a distant third while other states were represented by one or two people. After going through a few dull but necessary "housekeeping rules", I pointed out some major news events that surrounded previous DEAR campouts, noting that this year was one of the most exciting election years ever. I said, "It does not matter if you want things to remain the same, or if you want a change, it is important to speak out." This then led into a round of introductions by the DEAR campers who had arrived thus far. We learned that most of us came to seek a closer relationship with God.
The "Perfect Storm"
More people arrived during the night, traveling through the foggy mountain roads. Many of us have experienced times in our lives when we were confused and not sure of which road to travel. It had seemed as if a fog had descended upon us and blurring our path. Well, Friday morning was like that - it was so foggy we could not see more than 20 feet ahead of us. But by the time we had finished breakfast, it was mostly sunny. Our God is always with us; and He lights our way every day.
There was a movie a few years ago called "The Perfect Storm" about the crew of a fishing boat that survived a monster storm. This movie was based on a true story about a major storm off the coast of New England that was actually three bad storms in one. All the weather patterns came together at the same time to create one of the worst mega-storms in recent history. This should remind us of the coming crisis in the last days of earth history when the angels will loosen the winds of God's wrath upon the earth.
Here, I would like to say the perfect storm is "the storm that has not hit us" but instead let us look at the different elements of what we did experience. We had feared a rainy day according to weather forecast, but it turned out to be a false alarm. We were thankful for the sun, even if it came with the clouds. We were thankful for the colorful leaves on the trees, even if half had already fallen. It was not cold at all; the perfect Indian summer weather gave us a respite before we go headlong into what may be a cold winter. Upon returning home to Maryland after DEAR, a few friends did mention some rainy weather.
The "First Storm"
On Friday morning, October 29, Jim Hovey, Executive Director of Adventist Deaf Ministries (ADM) Arizona presented a series of three sermons about Noah and presented lessons from his life that we should apply to our lives today. The first sermon Friday morning verified once again that The Flood was a real historical event, supported also by many legends in different cultures. The ark, we learned had been built exactly to divine specifications by Noah. For comparison's sake - it was about half as long but much wider than the Queen Mary ocean liner, now berthed at Long Beach, California. If The Flood did not happen as the Bible said it did, then the Scriptures would not be dependable for us.
After a relaxing afternoon for many of us, we welcomed the Sabbath during vespers by Bunny, Jim Hovey's wife. She took a tube of toothpaste and squeezed all the contents out into a bowl. Now, try putting all the toothpaste back into the tube. She was illustrating that we need to be careful when we speak. Because if we say wrong words, we can never "un-say" those words back into our mouths.
After the vespers, Hovey presented the second of his series on Noah. This time we learned about how Noah lived to receive God's grace. The book of Hebrews says Noah had faith. He had never seen a raindrop before. He could have come up with "better ideas", but he knew that God's way is always the best. Remember, this is the Old Testament where many stories seem to portray a vengeful punishing God, but a deeper look at Noah's life shows that God has always been the same. His love and grace are present when people choose to follow Him every day.
The Sabbath Rest and Celebration
The population at CBR swelled to about 55 on Sabbath morning, October 30. Some people had arrived during the night and others came just to spend the day with brothers and sisters in Christ among nature. Pastor Paul Kelly from New York led a lively discussion on Daniel chapter five about Belshazzar's surprise party that witnessed the fall of Babylon and the conquest by King Darius of Medo-Persia. The kingdom of gold had fallen to the inferior second world empire portrayed in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream in the second chapter of Daniel. Alluding to the ongoing series about Noah, this party was another example of God's response when people continue to reject His pleadings for salvation. Meanwhile, Francisca Trexler led an outdoor Sabbath School class for the youth group of four teenagers, two boys and two girls.
The worship service concluded Jim Hovey's series on Noah. Jim drew many parallels between conditions in Noah's lifetime and conditions that we see every day. The Bible does not tell us much about the technologies during the pre-Flood era, but we look today at the rapid technological changes, especially in genetic engineering and other medical feats and can only wonder what technology was like back in Noah's time. When we get to heaven, I am sure we can ask Noah ourselves. In his day, the Bible only says that people were continually thinking with evil in their hearts.
The afternoon was definitely a cause for celebration both in heaven and on earth. Mike Dobson was rebaptized by Pastor David Trexler of Silver Spring Church in Maryland on the shore of CBR's Lake Skipping Stone, publicly rededicating his life to God. Shawna Jackson from Maryland signed a couple songs celebrating Mike's renewed commitment to the Lord, and Steve Nobles from Oregon performed a short skit. All of us were joyful, knowing the angels are celebrating in heaven for Mike too, and knowing that the miracle of salvation is more awesome than the miracle of creation. Many of us in our hearts rededicated our lives to Jesus, asking Him for more strength to bear the temptations that may come our way.
One Brief Shining Moment
After dinner, the cafeteria became the setting for the highlight of the day - the humble act of foot washing and the sacred Lord's Supper. Here, we followed the example of Jesus who came down from heaven above to serve others. Pastor Trexler led us in the Communion service with Hovey's assistance. We all partook of the bread symbolizing His Body that was broken for us, and drank the wine (actually grape juice) that represented His Blood that was shed for our sins.
After the Communion, all of us hiked up the hill to the campfire for a candlelight vigil. We were pleasantly interrupted by a group of Brazilians from a church in Richmond, Virginia who had occupied the rest of CBR. They brought us a huge dish of yummy "home-made" apple crisp. Then Francisca tried to lead us in a candlelight vigil, but it was so windy that the candles kept blowing out. We knew Satan would do everything to stamp out God's Truth throughout history. But we also knew that God's truth could never be completely extinguished, because for just ONE BRIEF shining moment, more than 40 candles were lit and raised high in the moonlit sky, defying the winds. Each of us also had a small piece of paper where we had written our sin that we wanted God to forgive. We all threw our paper into the fire, which assured us that God forgives our sins if we ask Him and He will give us power to live as Jesus lived. We knew God heard our message of commitment to Him.
From DEAR to a Deer
Sunday morning on October 31 was bittersweet. We had to turn our watches and clocks one hour backwards the night before, so that gave us an extra hour to chat or to sleep. At daybreak, many of us got up and began to pack for our trip home. We all had a hearty brunch of pancakes and fruit. After Sarah Johnston from Maryland gathered all the meal tickets from the DEAR participants, Wendy Hill-House led a ticket raffle where children drew winning tickets for prizes such as potted mums and small pumpkins. We presented a scarecrow doll to the caretaker of Camp Blue Ridge, and then drew the grand prize ticket. The grand prize was a complimentary package at DEAR 2005 and it went to a young lady, Monica Spangler from West Virginia. Then there was a slide show of pictures by Mike Dobson and Pastor Trexler taken throughout the weekend. Steve Nobles performed another skit; this one about loving our enemies. Then the staff opened the CBR store where many of us went on a buying spree to take home some souvenirs of our spiritual weekend up in the mountains. After finalizing the bill with the camp caretaker, Mike Dobson, Wendy and I were the last to leave.
Wendy and I went up Interstate 81 until she saw a sign announcing fresh apples in Woodstock, a small town and turned off at that exit. We toured an orchard a few miles up the road and bought some apples. As we were heading back to the highway, we noticed the traffic was backed up as if there was an accident further up north on the highway. Instead, we used US Route 11 north, which roughly paralleled the interstate. Soon we got onto I-66 and found ourselves trying to evade what looked like a runaway charter bus as the bus driver was going pretty fast weaving between all the lanes. Then we were stuck in the legendary DC traffic as their annual US Marine Marathon was winding down to a close. Finally, we got back onto the main highway going through DC, but at our exit, we nearly hit a car that was parked just around the bend beyond the exit.
Wendy and I met some friends at a Mexican restaurant. On our way home, about five miles before arriving to our humble abode, I stopped at a light and waited to turn left. As the light became green, I turned left onto a divided highway and saw a patch of fog. We were just about ready to cross the bridge when I saw something white and brown standing in the middle of the road. A deer???? No!!!! Yes!!!! I slammed on the brakes so hard and skidded at an angle while the deer turned to look at straight in my eyes. Wendy burst into laughter so hard because with the loud screeching sounds from slamming on the brakes, the deer was still standing there as if he was trying to figure out what was going on around him. I prayed and held my breath until I actually nudged the deer lightly on its hind legs. The stag finally took the hint and scooted away - jumped over the railing into the woods. She said, "He must be deaf!" We do believe angels were with us that night on the way home from DEAR and helped avoid injury, and there was no damage to our rental car.
Stay Tuned for DEAR 2005
Please make your reservations at CBR for DEAR 2005. Again, it will be on the last weekend of October 27 - 30, 2005. This will be DEAR's fifth year and the committee is coming up with some exciting plans. No need to bring gifts because the traditional 5th anniversary gift is wood, and we will have plenty of trees for you to enjoy. Mark your calendar now and visit this website http://www.deafellowship.org/dear/ often for updates.