In a few weeks, our students will be headed to Summer Camp at Fort Caswell. Not every summer trip is spent there, but for many here at Starnes Cove, it has some long-standing roots. From youth trips to senior adult retreats to personal vacations, the NC Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell has served our church well. I’ll be heading out with our students for this trip as a chaperone, and I’m looking forward to joining them. When I left Starnes Cove to become the lead pastor at Bent Creek, I didn’t imagine I’d ever be doing this again. But here we are, and I’m excited!
Well…mostly. There is one stretch of road, right at the end of the trip, which I usually dread. It’s somewhere within the last hour of the drive, and it can be a doozy. It is long, tree-lined (without much of anything else), and when the heat is high, it is awfully warm—especially after driving for hours and hours, it can seem like you’re in a desert. In fact, each time I drive that stretch, I’m reminded of one of my earliest years of driving students there.
This particular summer, the church still owned the old church van, which I affectionately termed “Ole Bessy” (our current bus is Big Bertha in case you’re wondering). And that van, while steady and true, had a number of, let's say, – mechanical deficiencies. And one of those included the air conditioning. Well, Allison Livingston (now Lawing) and I were transporting students on that bus. And when we got to this stretch of road, you would think we’d entered the apocalypse. The sun was high in the sky, the heat was sweltering, and they had recently done a controlled burn on both sides of the road. So the landscape was full of stumps, charred to a crisp. We had the AC cranked up of course, but it did little to nothing – so we were a sweaty mess, driving through a scene that I imagine will mirror something like the unfolding of the Book of Revelation. It was rough.
But, it was made easier by being together. Because outside of that tiring stretch of Highway 211, I remember laughing all the way to camp with my friend Allison. And singing songs off and on with the students we had. And racing the other van that was going down with us….oh wait, forget that part. The toil of that trip, and the tiresome nature of that heat, was made easier by company of other people who were right there in the thick of it.
You know, God’s word tells us in Proverbs 17:17 that, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Adversity comes in all kinds of forms. Sometimes it’s a sweltering van ride. Other times it’s the threat of cancer. And other times it’s being shaken up by all the changes unfolding in our world. But God has meant for us to be together, even when circumstances are tough and we can’t change them. Because in that place, we will find comfort, encouragement, and hope for what lies ahead.
We made it just fine to camp that summer and had a great time together because we did it together. This summer there are all kinds of special opportunities to be together. We will be having our Ice Cream Social on July 16th at 6:00 PM, the Youth will be heading to camp on July 31st (with Big Bertha) and of course, we will be with one another each Wednesday and Sunday. So if you feel like you’re out there on a long lonely highway, with the sun scorching the pavement, know you’re not alone— you have a community. And you can see that in real-time if you take the time to be together with us.
(Pictured: Ole Bessy in all her glory)