Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ministry

Last week’s blog was delayed because I cut myself on the thumb right where it hits the space bar.  Today I have two more band-aids from assorted adventures.  The thing is—when you get old they make you take a baby aspirin every day so you don’t get blood clots that give you heart attacks and strokes or whatever.  This is peachy but, since your blood never clots, if you cut your finger on anything in the hardware store you find yourself walking around the store leaving a trail of blood drops until you can find a nice clerk to give you a band-aid from their well-stocked first aid kit.

Let me just say, if you’re ever going to hurt yourself, or if you forget your baby aspirin and have a heart attack, try to do it in a hardware store.  They’ve got all sorts of accouterments in their first aid kit. Gosh, you could even fall down dead and they could spray paint a circle around your body waiting for the police and even have the area roped off with caution tape.  A good hardware store can always go that extra mile.

I spent last weekend at the Gilmont Womens Retreat, not to be confused with the Garland Woman’s retreat which will be held in two weeks.  The Gilmont one has their own flavor, very different from the Garland one.  Gilmont has a lot more crafts and a national known speaker, Margot Starbucks.

"Margot Starbucks" has to be the coolest name ever.  If it wasn’t already her own name I’d be tempted to use it.  However, it still can’t top the one I suggested to a friend who was writing a bodice ripper while serving as a Girl Scout leader. She was looking for a nom de plume, dontcha know—since she had a position in the community.   I suggested “Chastity Hotflash” but she went with another version of her legal name.  Since she never used it I might take it myself.

Margot was a great speaker.  Check her out on Amazon. We had cool crafts, and lots of quiet time in the perfect weather.

We did one thing that I've never done at a retreat before.  We sang "Kum Ba Ya."  Go ahead and laugh but in all these years and years of retreats I really do think it was the first time I have actually sung this iconic campfire song.

The Garland women have a similar schedule but with some added activities like canoeing and massages, a Taize service, lots of free time and me as a speaker this year.  We’ll be talking about Grace. I think there might still be time to sign up.

Each retreat has its own ministry and each ministry has its own flavor.

Camp Gilmont has many ministries of its own and most of them are unknown until somebody like me pokes around.

Nancy Wilkinson is the kitchen supervisor.  I think she’s in her 70’s.  She told me once but the exact number didn’t sink in right then.  It wasn’t until I found out she spends around 6 hours a day on her feet in the kitchen with a silicone foot that her age impressed me.  When she first told me about her foot I thought she meant an artificial one but her story is a bit more complicated.  She was diagnosed with melanoma and when they removed the cancer they were able to leave the outer shell of skin and bone while filling in the huge cavern with silicone.  She says the foot is numb now so that might help.
But Nancy does something even better than cooking while on her feet—she walks in a cancer walk every year.  And she has done this for 20 years.
Gilmer, Texas has a cancer walk in March and they have asked her to be their speaker this year but she didn’t want to. She’s a lot more comfortable spending all day on her feet cooking.  So I told her I would include her story in my blog.  She has lost her husband, her son, her 17-year-old grandson, and her husband’s mother—all  to cancer.  Cancer has carved a huge hole not only in her foot but in her heart as well.

Nancy spends  six hours walking around the Gilmer football field every year  during the Gilmer cancer walk. They start at 6 pm and go ‘til midnight. Then she shows up for work at camp the next day.

A couple of years ago the theme for Gilmont’s summer camp was heroes.  They brought in a lot of speakers to come talk to the kids about heroes never noticing they had one in their own kitchen making yeast rolls for lunch.

 Another woman on their kitchen staff discovered a quiet spot by the back door that would be a perfect spot for reflection.  Somebody gave her an outdoor table and chairs.  Then Cassie spent her own money to buy a fountain.  She only did this a couple of weeks ago and I hope she’ll have it ready for the Garland ladies to use in a couple of weeks.

Then there is Sarah Kay Monk.  She is another of the volunteers at Gilmont.  She hails from neither church or camp staff.  She’s just a local citizen who enjoys the nature Gilmont offers.  She has been taking kids on nature walks around the camp for years.  My favorite moment in a Sarah Kay hike was always visiting a Sassafras tree to dig up a bit of its root then taking the root back to camp to make root beer and recognizing the familiar smell.  She’s had to stop leading the hikes because of Parkinson’s disease but she still keeps up with the many flower beds and boxes.  She has a passion for nature and will urge you to visit the nature trail her grandson cut as an Eagle Scout project.  It hosts the only White Buckeye plant she has ever seen in East Texas.

None of these women have a large stash of cash or energy to draw from.  That’s how you can tell it’s a ministry.  Fredrick Buechner said that where the world’s great need intersects with your own great passion that is where you will find your calling.
These women have found a calling. Thanks be to God.

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