They will remember, for years, the summer of 2011 at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. On the Day of Pentecost, Sunday June 12, ten of us from Saint Peter made our way to Rainbow Trail for a week of Junior High Camp. We arrived onsite with high hopes for a rich week of worship, Bible study, fellowship and fun. As we drove up Billy Humble Road, we noticed a small plume of white smoke rising up out of the forest, about three quarters of a mile south of camp. We called camp, wondering if they had noticed. They had, and fire officials were responding.
Soon enough, the situation changed dramatically. That 15 foot wide plume of smoke spread, and before the day was out, nearly 1,500 acres had been scorched in the Duckett Fire (which that would eventually burn more than 5,000 acres, require the attention of more than 550 firefighters, and cost more than $4 million to control). 145 of us were evacuated from Rainbow Trail, first to a meadow a few miles down the road, then to an emergency shelter set up in a Junior High gymnasium in nearby Westcliffe, eventually finding a temporary home at Horn Creek Bible Camp south of Westcliffe.
It was an exciting week, to say the least – one that our campers will not soon forget! It could have been a disappointing week as well. After all, we had been anticipating the chance to spend seven days in one of our favorite spots in all of Colorado. What made the difference, was the purposeful attention of Rainbow Trail’s staff. They wrestled with three transitions, ministering to over 100 Junior High School students in unfamiliar settings, and the total disruption of just about every plan they had established – but all the while, kept their sights fixed on the purpose that had called them there in the first place: helping these campers grow closer to God.
That single-minded focus on their purpose was what empowered them to stay strong and healthy and productive in the midst of some remarkably trying circumstances.
As a congregation, we could learn from them. We too have a purpose. We have declared that this will be a community where we all are welcomed into God’s love, just as we are, and where we all are sent into God’s world to be a reflection of Christ’s love. Every ministry, every event, every conversation, every e-mail, every prayer becomes an opportunity to pursue this purpose. As we focus on placing our energies in service of our congregation’s purpose, there will be far fewer energies left over for distractions that might otherwise preoccupy us.
As individual believers, perhaps there is room for us to learn as well. As we become more attuned to what God calls us to be and to do in this world, we become less likely to become involved in wasteful and meaningless behaviors. God calls us to be a light, shining in the darkness of this world. How is it that our words, actions, commitments and priorities make witness to the faith that lies at the center of our lives? We are called to be a people of purpose – knowing that through us, God is planning to transform this world.
Thanks, Rainbow Trail, for this shining example. May we all learn from you!
God’s peace to you all, David J. Risendal, Pastor
Duckett Fire Update can be accessed here