Laughter characterized camp

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2011

You might have wondered if a motorcycle gang invaded Blue Lake Methodist Camp if you had seen the shiny black motorcycles there on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 24. But relax; it was just friendly Christian members of a motorcycle club from Pace, Fla., lined up to offer rides to campers attending the Second Annual Extreme Experience Camp for blind and visually-impaired adults. Some of the campers had been anticipating this exciting opportunity for a year.

The motorcycle ride was the kick-off activity for the fun-filled agenda of the three-day camp. As I stood with others watching the cyclists roar off with campers seated behind them, I heard someone laugh and comment that several of the female campers must have had a ride on every motorcycle there. As one returned, she waved her arm in the air and shouted “Ya-hoo!” Even a couple of the women whom I had considered shy lined up for a turn. What smiles they all wore.

Ah yes, smiles—if I had to describe this year’s camp, I’d start with smiles, then add laughter, for it often erupted in the solarium as people sat around and chatted; in the dining room when we gathered to eat; in the lounge where we went for socializing, entertainment, education, and panel discussions.

Before supper on Sunday night, we assembled to introduce ourselves. After the meal, a song writer played the guitar accompanying himself and his sweetheart as they sang some of the songs he had written. Then most of us moved to the chapel where Rev. Cindy Howard, an Episcopal priest, gave an inspirational message and served Holy Communion.

While I slept the next two mornings, some energetic people went fishing at the camp’s new fishing pier. They returned to entertain us with their fish stories. Before breakfast, we walked down to the lakeside bleachers for morning devotionals, led by Blue Lake Executive Director Phyllis Murray. There was a rope on the route to guide those who needed it.

One night, Pastor Dave Andrus of St. Louis, director of Lutheran Blind Missions, spoke about how he has coped with his blindness. Afterwards, we sang gospel songs, accompanied on the guitar by Rev. Tim Trent.

Monday, blind artist Ricky Trione of Mobile told us how he lost his sight and revived his childhood interest in art when he could no longer see. He led the campers in an art project. After members of Deep South Dulcimer Association of Opp performed Tuesday afternoon, they helped interested campers strum a tune on a dulcimer.

Everyone piled on the “hay wagon” Tuesday night for a ride to the campfire site, singing camp songs along the way. While night critters made their music, we ate s’mores in front of a brilliant, crackling fire and heard more inspirational words from Pastor Dave.

Old friendships were renewed, new friendships budded. Smiles, laughter, education, worship, sharing stories of fears, struggles and joy—I felt God’s love in it all.