I came home and saw a package sitting on the kitchen table. It was opened. Beside it was a note from a friend, “Geoff and Tam, For all the love and friendship and ministry together. Love, Dave and Nicole.” As I set down my keys, Tammie asked me from the other room, “Did you see the package?”
The gift is an 11 x 14 picture of the snow covered chapel at Pine Lake Camp, part of Crossways in Waupaca, Wisconsin, where Tammie and I served on summer staff 1994-1996, 1998, and 2000.
I have many fond memories of that chapel. Along with the campfire area down by the lake, the chapel was the spiritual heart of the camp. We had worship every morning in that chapel. There were songs, prayers, scriptures, and a joyfully gathered community each day, as we came in from morning activities and worshiped prior to lunch. Our Thursday evening light service took place in that chapel. We’d start at the campfire – some years J-Jeff and I would paddle a canoe in carrying the Paschal candle from the center of the lake to begin the service. Everyone would light a candle from it and we’d march up the hill into the chapel. The light service always put a meaningful exclamation point on the week, as kids would go home Friday. In later years we invited pastors to lead communion for us making it even more special for all those gathered. Friday afternoons before everyone went home, parents picking up their kids filled the place for one final celebration. On weekends, family retreaters and the staff tending to them also gathered for worship each day. Besides the Dining Hall, the chapel was the most used building on site, appropriate for a church camp I think.
Tammie and I got married in the Pine Lake Chapel. We came to camp the week before the summer started in preparation of our wedding in June, 1997. We spent a couple of days alone in the chapel scraping off all the wax from the previous year (or years), tidying up old papers, cleaning more bat droppings than I want to remember, and making everything look great for the special day. Of course there were stories told of the three summers we worked at camp prior to our wedding. As we cleaned we had yet to consider the two more summers Pine Lake would still give us and we had yet to consider the future that seminary and the joy found in three congregations would bring.
After we got married we went to California for the summer (that’s another story for another time), and when we came back we worked that next year in churches as youth workers and at another camp called Lutherdale in Southern Wisconsin. It was at Lutherdale where we met Dave and Nicole, the ones who sent us this lovely gift. (We also met a few others who continue to be close friends over the miles and the years).
Dave now serves as the Executive Director of Luther Crest Bible Camp in Alexandria, Minnesota. For the last two years we have gone out there for family camp, a short 1380 mile jaunt from the St. Michael’s parsonage to the camp driveway. (If you look on the Education/Youth Bulletin Board in the St. Michael’s foyer, you’ll see an article featuring the Sinibaldos in the Luther Crest Newsletter.)
I love our new picture. It serves as a reminder of who we are, what got us here, and who helped shape that journey in powerful and meaningful ways. This thoughtful gift found on my table the other day helped me recall some memories, not forgotten, but not contemplated in a while. For both gifts, I am grateful.
What are the gifts you have given or received that open up those possibilities for you? Is it a card or a picture? A trinket or treasure? Is it stashed in a drawer or on display for all to see? What does it remind you of, who does it remind you of, and why?
Friendship. Faith. Memories. Reminders. That is the joy of what it means to be the church together. This picture opens that possibility for me to give thanks in a new way.
But now, where to hang it?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)