Sunday, August 18, 2013

Camping at Cascade River State Park

Boys being Boys

Grand Marias is one of Minnesota’s beautiful resources, both aesthetically and in natural resources. We took the family, minus the tennis-playing daughter, up to Cascade River State Park to spend some time sleeping outdoors. The boys had one tent and Rona, our oldest son’s girlfriend, and I got the smaller tent, about the size of a twin sized bed. My husband laughed as we set it up saying we will get to know each other well in that tent.

As we set up camp, a little visitor checked out our goods. My youngest son thought it was a prairie dog and I thought it looked like a squirrel, except spotted. We still are not sure what it was, never having seen anything like that before. He seemed friendly enough though, crawling up onto the picnic table looking back at us as if saying, “When you bringing out the food?”

The first thing on the list of to-do’s was to walk over to Lake Superior. The boys thought it would be fun to go swimming. We reached the shoreline and looked over the bluff and saw the Cascade River flowing quickly into Superior. “I want to go in there,” my 13 year old said pointing to the raging waters of the Cascade. I panicked thinking, ‘Only if I put a harness and a helmet on that boy.’ But that is not what came out of my mouth thankfully. I replied, “Okay. It looks a little dangerous though.”

Mark reminded me of the things he was allowed to do when he was a kid: Playing in the park by himself, unsupervised for hours, when he was three; Riding a dirt bike around the neighborhood when he was eight; three-wheeling at 12; the list goes on and on. I thought, ‘Yeah, me too. I was often taken on wild rides through the woods on unruly horses when I was a kid.’ So I said, “Alright.”

It all went well. No deaths or injuries. We didn't have to call the Sheriff. The boys thought it was a little chilly, but they stayed in the water for a while anyway and had a blast.

A Very Tired Dog

We took at 6 mile hike along the Cascade River which, round trip, took 3 hours. We took the kids and the dog, Butters who is half-Shitzu, half-Lhasa. He isn't what you would consider 'outdoorsy.' He didn't enjoy sitting in the dirt while we were on the comfortable lawn chairs at the campsite. And he shivered all night long, only stopping when I shared my sleeping bag with him.

We headed up the hill on our 3 hour trip. Butters enthusiastically headed down the trail. He seemed to enjoy the hike, peeing on every tree-like object along the way and sniffing the piles of poo he encountered. But the fun didn't last long for Butters. He decided he wasn't going any further and laid down in the middle of the path exhausted.

Butters wasn't going anywhere and no one was volunteering to carry him. So someone in the group thought it would be a good idea to put Butters in the backpack that Ashton was carrying ..  it actually did turn out to be a good idea! He only fell out once, which was enough for him to learn that he didn't want to fall from 5 feet in the air onto his head again and he seemed to be enjoying himself once he got settled in.

This is how Butters traveled the rest of the trip.

The kids had fun and Butters was a happy camper . . figuratively and literally!

Friday, August 9, 2013

For I know the plans I have for you . . . Reaching out to Community

Kid's Last Backyard Splash!

Tonight was the second annual Kid's Water Fun Night at our church, Pine City Evangelical Free Church. We had a great turnout. I would say close to 100 kids .. not so bad for a little town like Pine City. The turnout was much to do with the Backyard Bible Clubs that have been taking place over the course of the week. The clubs got started from people going out into their communities and inviting children to their backyard club. The clubs consisted of Bible teaching, songs and snacks. This was an alternative to VBS. 

We have only been at our new church for two years, having been at a Baptist Church for the last 13 years. I was a little leary of getting rid of VBS as that has always been our Baptist tradition. But we moved to a new location and found a church that we love and I was willing to accept the 'unorthodox' summer outreach.

The Backyard Bible Club took off. By the end of the week, there were up to 45 kids in each of the two Bible clubs. This was exciting to hear. Before starting the Bible clubs, the youth group went into the community, distributing literature and inviting children to attend . . . and the kids came!

Before the start of the Kid's Water Fun Night, we also went into the community in the late afternoon, inviting any child we saw . . in the spirit of D.L. Moody. I brought two of my own children and another girl from youth group. We went out in pairs inviting kids who lived in the local trailer park across the road. The kids we encountered were very enthusiastic about the evening and ran back to their homes begging a parent to bring them and yelling out to nearby friends inviting them. Our youngest, saw a friend of his from school and was able to visit with him for a while. 

We looked for yards with toys or with pools or bikes in them. One particular place we stopped at had several children's toys scattered on the front lawn. There were two young men sitting on the deck. They looked a bit pale, sunken-eyed and shady, but I approached them anyway. I asked them if they had any children there. They responded by saying, "No." 

I gestured to the front lawn and said, "Are you sure you don't have any kids around?" 

They replied, "They are only here on weekends."

So we left and started toward another home. As we were walking back to our vehicle, after having covered most of the homes in the court, an older woman came out of the home where the two young men were, gesturing us and saying, "Are you looking for children?"

I replied, "Yes. We are having a Water Fun Night at the church across the street."

She said, " I have some grand kids coming soon and they would love to come." She seemed very excited about our being there. I gave her the information and told her we would love to have them come.

God is good

We left the trailer court and headed into town. We stopped at a couple houses where we saw children and the girls went out and invited them to the activities. We stopped at the school playground and the girls got out again and invited some more children to the night. This time the parents at the playground responded by saying they were already planning on bringing their children there. This was encouraging. I knew God had been moving.

The night began with Pastor Joel Preston gathering the kids to hear about the 3 H's of God . . head, hope and heart. He explained that this is what Jesus is to us and gave the gospel message to the children. He explained the rules of the evening and then prayed. 

I remembered back to when the kids and I were in the trailer court and how I met them half way through and told them that we forgot one thing. They looked at me blankly and I told them that we forgot to pray and ask for God's leading in what we do. We stopped there in the road and prayed, asking God to soften hearts of parents and children and to make the sun come out. It's hard to know how many of the kids actually came that we came in contact with, but we talked to about 10-20 enthusiastic kids before the evening started! 

As the night was underway, we saw many kids line up at the check-in table. The night had been planned so well thanks to our office manager, Jeannie and her husband, Lonnie, and the work of our Pastor Joel and Youth Pastor Joe. But I still wasn't sure if God was in it or not. As the children filed in I noticed a woman pushing a walker with two young children in tote. I recognized her as the grandmother we met in the trailer court who came out wondering what we had going on that night. The woman had brought her two young grandchildren. This was also encouraging to me. I greeted her and brought her grandchildren into the bubble pit where they hesitantly, but eventually, engaged in play with those around them.

I stepped back a bit and took in all that God seemed to be doing and met a friend in the church parking lot. She commented on the good weather. I told her that was one thing we were all praying for . . for the sun to come out as it had been a downcast, cloudy day and we were all concerned the weather would hold out. She stated that she had just checked the radar and there had been clouds all around Pine City and that the only clear spot had been directly over the city. This was encouraging to me.

I believe God showed up tonight. 

I don't know what will happen with these kids that came tonight. But I do know we have a church of faithful, prayerful believers that will continue to invite kids to our AWANA program and pray for those who do not know God!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)