On the sixth day of camp, everyone left the hotel for a day trip to one of three optional destinations. Ours involved hiking to a castle perched on a mountain. We’d done the same hike last year and told everyone, “It’s an easy walk – mostly flat until the last part immediately before entering the castle. That’s the only steep section.”
Ha! Those were our famous last words. We knew a surprise was headed our way when our bus driver pulled over and stopped in an unfamiliar place. “The old parking lot is no longer there,” he announced in Polish. “You must begin your hike here.”
Flexibility is a key word we stress when training our short-term volunteers. And it’s a word we have to put into practice every day on a ministry trip like this. And so we practiced flexibility….all the way up a rocky, very steep mountain road. I didn’t time the hike, but I’m sure that we panted and puffed for more than an hour. Each time someone lagged, I asked if they’d like to turn back or wait by the roadside for the others’ return – and I graciously said that I’d turn back or wait with them. Unfortunately, no one accepted my offer. And so I plodded on.
The view at the top made the trek worthwhile. Fields and mountains stretched for miles, dotted by red tile roofs. My eyes lingered on the beauty before me, and my imagination pondered the heart-wrenching history of Poland and its amazing people. I felt an overwhelming love for our campers who live in poverty and pain as a result of circumstances beyond their control, and I thanked God for the opportunity to bring hope and healing through the message of Jesus Christ.
The hike provided a great opportunity to build closer bonds with these precious campers. We walked together, we shared snacks, and we swapped stories about life. Then the clouds rolled in and we broke a speed record heading downhill in the pouring rain.
Besides good exercise and bond-building, the hike also provided me with a touching visual image: A young man, about 20 years old, holding the hands of his younger brother, 11, and sister, 9, as they navigated the rocky road in the pouring rain. They’d lost their mom to cancer only two months prior. Their dad had since suffered a stroke. It took a lot of courage for this family to come to camp and be immersed in a setting so unfamiliar, and the older brother’s care and tenderness towards his siblings warmed my heart. It’s not often you see affection between siblings demonstrated like this. It’s an image I want to keep forever.
I’ll write a bit more about the trip on Friday’s blog and then switch back to devotionals. Blessings on you today, my friend.