Full Circle Summer

A missionary returns the call of camp


Wow, Mom! Look at this!” our six-year-old daughter, Eryn, exclaimed. Our family had just arrived in the United States for a year of home assignment following four years of Alliance ministry in Japan. As we landed in Pittsburgh after 20 hours of travel, my wife, Evangeline, took the girls into the airport restroom. There, Eryn had discovered her first automatic paper towel dispenser. “Look here, Mom,” she called again, thoroughly fascinated by this machine that automatically spit out pieces of paper every time she waved her hands in front of it. Evangeline was able to intervene before Eryn was buried beneath a pile of paper towels.

For missionary kids born in Japan, coming to America can be a culture shock. After arriving in Pittsburgh, we went directly to Edinboro Conference Grounds in Pennsylvania, where we would live and minister for the summer. The next day, Evangeline and Eryn were once again in the women’s restroom at the camp. As Evangeline finished up at the sink, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. There was Eryn, jumping up and down, moving back and forth and swinging her arms wildly in front of the paper towel dispenser. To her dismay, nothing was coming out! Quietly, Evangeline walked up behind her, reached over her shoulder and pumped the lever on the side of the dispenser. Out came a strip of paper. Boy, America is confusing.

Old Times, New Memories

Such began our summer at Edinboro Conference Grounds, a camp ministry of the Alliance in northwestern Pennsylvania. We spent the rest of the summer living in one of the cabins on the grounds and speaking each morning during the missions hour.

It was a great summer for our family and a perfect place for our three children to get acquainted with America. When our son, Josiah, wanted to catch frogs and asked where the nearest rice paddy was, the director’s wife introduced him to giant mud puddles. The incredible directors, staffand volunteers taught the kids how to find deer tracks in the woods, where to find salamanders and which rocks might have cool fossils on them. Of course, we all learned lots of crazy games and songs as well. Most importantly, the kids learned more about Jesus—the center of everything at Edinboro camp.

We loved the opportunity to talk with the campers each day about the 126 million people in Japan who still need someone to tell them about Jesus Christ. Yet, it was doubly rewarding for me to spend the summer at Edinboro camp because of the role it played in my own spiritual life.

Since I was four years old, Edinboro has been an important part of my life. My parents would take us every year for the family camp, and then, as we got older, we joined the youth camps as well. At first, we stayed in old canvas army tents with no floors. Summer storms inevitably sent streams running through the tents. Later, we graduated to tents with floors—which helped only a little in keeping the torrents out.

Today, though some still brave the rain in tents, many more spend the summer days at Edinboro in camping trailers. Since I was a kid, the tabernacle has been rebuilt several times and an all-season lodge has been built, accommodating retreats and events even in the winter. The old restrooms have been replaced with much nicer restrooms, though we’re still waiting for the automatic paper towel dispensers!

Call of a Lifetime

Some things have changed, but Edinboro camp remains a place where lives are changed. Coming back after four years overseas, we were greatly encouraged to find so many young people totally committed to the Lord and many others meeting the Lord each week.

At eight years of age, after a week at Edinboro camp, I gave my life to the Lord. I cannot remember who the speaker was that year, but I remember lying in bed reflecting on the incredible love of Christ that the speaker had impressed on us—love so great as to lay down His life for us. I knew I wanted to know that love and prayed to know my Savior that night.

Over the following years, each summer was marked by more steps of faith and commitments made at the front of the tabernacle at Edinboro camp. Through the missionaries I heard speak there, my eyes were opened to the millions around the world who do not yet know the Name of Christ. My heart was also opened to God’s calling in my own life, and I began to ask, “Where are you calling me, Lord?”

Little did I know that my calling would one day take me to Japan, or that I would one day be back at Edinboro as one of the missionary speakers. As a father now, I thank God that Edinboro camp and the other camps of the C&MA are still going strong and still providing great fun and wonderful opportunities for our children, and us, to hear the voice of God as He speaks so clearly during these weeks each summer.

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