On a big white board, the list began. Terry was chosen to be the scribe because she had the best hand writing. No matter how beautifully it was written though the situation was far from glamorous. “Okay, let’s make a list on one side of the damages and what we need to pray for,” Jim spoke to the worried, almost frozen staff. (This would be the first of many hours, days, without heat.) The list was nearly overwhelming.
A few hours earlier, on their way to the office that cold December 7th morning, Ryan, Laura, and Cassie noticed smoke -billowing smoke- coming out of Hilltop Two. Taking the radio from his pocket, Ryan asked somewhat casually, “Umm, do we know about the fire in Hilltop Two?” And true to camp form, witty charm met the concern, “I’lll bring the marshmallows. Who’s got the chocolate?” The fire department was called followed quickly by the decision to survey the camp for further damage. Ron and Rob set out in opposite directions.
Soon the second call came, “Ah, Jim. We have a tree in the dining hall.” With hopeful humor Jim reassured Rob, “Yes, we know. We designed it that way.” “No, there’s a second one.” Seventy five mile per hour winds violently snapped a tall ponderosa pine in half and the blast of the burst threw the broken tree through the roof. In its wake it left a fourteen foot hole, busted crossbeams, a bowed out roof line and many uncertainties. A third call came, this time it was the gas tank that was hit, lifted from its raised metal frame. And to top off the list, another tree was found on the roof of Eagles Roost that misaligned the roof and destroyed the internal dry wall.
So when the staff gathered for prayer that afternoon, Terry with her beautiful handwriting listed all the damages for everyone to see. “Now, on the other side of the board,” Jim looked to lift the thoughts of his staff (and perhaps more so himself), “Let’s write some praises. What are we thankful for in the middle of all of this?” One by one, the list grew longer and longer as the staff offered up ways in which God could indeed be seen in all of this. There were no guests during this time. No one was injured. Staff housing was untouched. The gas tank did not leak. The fire was contained. In a place full of notoriously brittle pines, twenty-three trees snapped but only three damaged structures…
The Chinese word for “crisis” has offered inspiration and hope to many found in such a situation. It could be interpreted that the two characters making up the word consist of "danger" and "opportunity." Last year's winter storm presented us with such a “dangerous opportunity.” Looking at the list from one side, anxiety and fear could have spread throughout the camp just like the fire that had over taken Hilltop Two. But looking at the other side, such adversity could become an opportunity for joy in trial and a chance to dream of impossibilities.
The days that followed were challenging as communications were down along with heat and running water. Kitchen staff managed what they could as staff gathered for each meal. “Despite the awfulness of the situation, it really brought us even closer together, “ Cassie recalls. Misconnection after misconnection with the insurance company was met with frustration. By the third day, the staff found comfort in a night at a warm hotel. Once in town, the word was quickly sent out to camp constituents. “Afterall,” Cassie stated with appreciation, “It was not only our lives that were affected but their camp.” And in response, love and support flooded in.
Now only a year later, we have a new beautiful and bigger dining hall. “A dream that we would have never dared to consider had it not been for the storm,” Jim smiles. Of course, we have not stopped seeking people to pray for protection this coming winter but we are also reminded to praise Him for his provision and grace in it all. The ability to see the threads of opportunity in such trials testifies to our assurance in His goodness and faith in His sovereignty. How do we choose to see it all? Does it depend on how it is written? In beautiful cursive or pitiful print, in standard English or complicated Chinese, let us remember He is the author after all and it is a always a good story. Always. So here at Prescott Pines, we invite you to gather around the campfire and retell such stories of trial and His victorious prevailing grace. I’ve got the marshmallows. Who’s got the chocolate?