It was supposed to rain and thunderstorm. Every modern day prophet said so: The Smartphones.
The wind picked up, throwing sand, dirt and bits of gravel across the grass and parking lot. Parents screamed for their children to run back inside. A few of the kids were so far off into the playground, mommies and daddies had to snatch them from the grass as dust and debris fell into their hair. Men pointed to the sky, trying to predict which way the clouds were moving.
“It’ll pass. It’s moving right across,” one man said.
“So much for the campfire,” someone else said, less reassuringly.
The weekend retreated started on Friday, May 19. The main attraction that evening was supposed to be a bonfire with S’mores, but perhaps a lesson in contentment might be brooding in the charcoal-colored sky.
Seventeen families from Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church, of Burtonsville, Maryland, had signed up for their congregational weekend retreat at Camp Wabanna. The camp location was gorgeous, placed on a peninsula tip right on the Chesapeake Bay, less than an hour from either Baltimore or Washington, D.C., and an easy drive from Trinity’s church building.
Wabanna was the site where for six years, from 1999 to 2005, Trinity families had come for their congregational weekend. But twelve years had passed since their last retreat, and now members who were children then brought their own children now to pass on the memories. It would be a shame for thunder and rain to soak their first evening.
In the end, the Mighty Smartphones were proven wrong. The sky held, and the congregation fired up the logs, singing campfire songs led by two of their younger ladies, Cynthia Stewart and Katrina Gazo, with a devotional led by elder Vince Skwarek.
Saturday morning started off with croissant, egg and sausage sandwiches, with lots of conversations held around the breakfast tables. The camp host, named Patrick, later mentioned how impressed he was by this congregation’s desire to want to talk to each other. He said he was impressed by how we didn’t seem in a hurry to rush away toward other activities. Talking and getting to know each other was a main attraction for us.
Later that morning, the children went to a caterpillar climbing wall organized by Arielle and Carlos Gonzalez, as the adults met to discuss the mission field. Several people gave presentations, but one family in particular, Nick and Theresa Bloom with their three children, talked about how a vacation to Germany last year unexpectedly turned into a Gospel ministry opportunity to reach the thousands of refugees now living in Europe without a home. The Blooms are from Eastvale RPC in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, but Theresa’s parents are from Trinity. The Blooms shared how they had already met several Muslim men eager to engage on theological matters in a secular country that was so “Post Christianity” that it had become “Pre Christianity.” The congregation finished that meeting in prayer on the Blooms’ behalf, as well as for other Gospel ministries spread across the globe.
The rest of the day, families enjoyed kayaking, a giant rope swing, a playground, and more fellowship time of talking or reading Dr. Seuss books to their children in a large and cozy living space in the main retreat center. That evening, Betsy and Brad Stewart (Brad is an elder and Betsy was the main organizer for the whole weekend) hosted a “Minute to Win It” game show. The congregation was divided into eight teams. Individual team members competed in wacky challenges involving props like tennis rackets, ping pong balls, straws, candy, water bottles, tweezers, balloons, plastic cups and more, as they raced against time to complete each challenge in less than a minute. The game show host was “Smedley Junior” (a character played by Brad’s son, Tim), dressed in a wild blond wig and a hodgepodge of 1970s clothes that looked like they had been handpicked by Uncle Rico off the Goodwill racks. The original Smedley character was played by Brad Stewart a decade ago, and now the Smedley puns lived on (One of the jokes: He made a bet with his sister that he could make a car out of spaghetti and drove right “pasta”). The evening closed in board games and a movie night with popcorn, organized by Chris and Mark Pritt.
On the Lord’s Day morning, Pastor Bill Edgar, of Broomall RPC, preached on Genesis 22 in a sermon titled “Father, Where is the Lamb?” Edgar asked the congregation to imagine a three-day journey to Mount Moriah to kill a beloved son, answering the title’s question in the Lamb whom God provided for us on the cross.