This is being updated a little late, as I’ve been on the road and out of reach of the internet, which is, incidentally, something I generally dread and then find to be rather refreshing.

Thursday, March 11

Yesterday, I flew to Meridian, Mississippi with Kirk Bennett and a team. We connected through Atlanta and then directly to Meridian, where the airport boasts of 3 flights daily (all to Atlanta). Our hosts, Gene & Pam Garrett, drove us to a 400+ acre campground where they fed us Killer Fajitas. Life was good.

After lingering over the dinner table, the camp director, Jason, led us through a beautifully structured time of prayer….had I known what was coming, I might have prayed more fervently.

Jason and his assistant, Rico, took the ten of us out into the woods….rural Mississippi, darker than dark, about 9 PM. They announced to us that we were on the Frisbee golf course. They had to announce that because it was just too dark to tell. We could have been standing in the middle of I-10 for all we knew. Then they explained that we were going to be playing Nitro golf.

For the uninitiated, Nitro golf is Frisbee golf played at night, with glow sticks tied to the Frisbees…and the entire team of 10 linking arms…and it’s played for speed, not strokes. The player on the end throws, the entire group runs through the woods to the Frisbee, then that player picks up the Frisbee and hands it to the person behind them and joins the back of the line. The chaos continues. We played nine holes in the deep woods in 7 minutes. No casualties.

The next stop would involve transportation. The camp owns an old World War II 6x6. This thing makes a Hummer look like a Ford Escort. They insist the engine will run on anything from gasoline to drained oil. Judging from the smoke it was emitting, I’m guessing they were burning the grease droppings from dinner.

Once we were all seated on benches in the back of the truck, Rico took off through the woods at what can only be described as an alarming speed. Driving through sand ruts and between trees entirely too close together, he charged up a large hill and over a ridge. Periodically I would stand and peer over the open cab only to hear “TREE!” and duck.

After a hike through the woods, we descended back to camp. If the ride up was exciting, the ride down was frightful. Rico casually mentioned that the brakes were not great. He was being kind. The speed this thing carried down through the woods scared me spitless…and then near the bottom, there were two hard right hand turns – a gate between them and the final turn near the bathhous..

We were going WAY too fast – the first turn sent us careening all over the rear of the truck. We went through the gate sideways, defying physics…broad sliding in a 6x6! The final corner had us barely missing the bathhouse and rumbling to a stop at the bottom of the hill. Rico had a hard time making eye contact with us after that.

This morning – off to breakfast and getting ready for the conference-goers to arrive. No truck rides.

Friday, March 12 7:46 AM

Yesterday morning the camp directors walked our team through a series of team building exercises that had us, among other things, running through the property blindfolded under the leadership of Josh Matlong. It was not unlike church on a variety of levels….

Conference goers started arriving late in the afternoon and things got rolling around 7 pm. It took a little MacGyvering to get the internet connection for Kirk’s laptop to work (I had to remember how to speak Windows AND dial-up…) for the product table. The service went great – people had obviously come to worship and receive.

Late night found us all over at Jason’s house (the camp director) for more fajitas and killer bean dip (so named for a reason). The hospitality here has been great – warm hearts and a seemingly bottomless supply of southern food. J

Same Day 5:00 PM

Spent the day mostly in worship and teaching sessions. I sang during the morning set with Sarah Huff, which is felt a little like cruising around the Indy Motor Speedway in a VW while someone runs circles around you in a race car! The girl has a voice….yikes. Tonight I’m taking part of the teaching responsibilities.

This camp is gorgeous – hundreds of squirrel infested acres. Kirk saw wild turkeys down below the gymnasium. It’s a unique camp in that they offer their services ala cart to groups. If you want to run your own program, they’ll allow that…or you can pick from a menu of activities they offer such as Frisbee Golf, water sports, and Killer Jeep rides. Well, they call it a Super Jeep, but after our ride on that six wheel drive monster, I’m guessing Killer is closer to the truth.

I’m writing this sitting out in front of our cabin with OTR’s Good Dog/Bad Dog on the headphones competing with the rustle of Rocky the Almost Flying Squirrel in a tree above me. Later I shall wander down to the ping pong table and school Ashley Kirschner in the ways of the game. Or not.

Saturday, March 13 11:48 PM

I think I have a glimpse at just how amazing of a team I was a part of this weekend. Kirk and Jonathon left late this afternoon for a flight from Meridian to Atlanta and another from Atlanta to KC so that they can catch their flight tomorrow afternoon to LaPaz, Bolivia. The rest of us hung out this evening with camp directors Jason and Joy, and their staff, Opie, Rico, and Five (Camp nicknames are big here….). After Jason and Joy put their kids to bed, they asked us to pray for their little girl, Gracen. (!J) She was apparently pretty upset, not feeling well, etc. We filed into her little bedroom – Sarah, Katie, Jill, Heidi, Alicia, Ashley, Josh and myself – and began to pray. When we started, she was sobbing in her mothers arms. In five minutes she was quiet. As Sarah began to sing beautiful spontaneous song over her, she fell asleep. Shortly thereafter, we slipped out.

A few minutes later, Jill said “You know, I just don’t feel like we’re done there…” With Jason’s permission, the girls went back in while the guys worshipped and prayed – joined by the camp staff. For forty-five minutes we interceded for this beautiful little girl. The tenderness I saw in this young IHOP team touched me. For them, this was the most important thing they could be doing. And I think they were right.

Tomorrow, we’ll do a brief devotional and head to Meridian for lunch and the hop to Atlanta and then KC. I will be back to this campground…with my family.

Sunday, March 14 5:48 PM

We’re 30,000 feet over Somewhere, Tennessee, on a full Delta flight between Atlanta and KCMO. I’ve just finished skimming the photos I took on the trip – watch for a few shots on the photoblog (rbohlender.fotopages.com). It’s a typical evening flight…plane dim, headphones plugged into iTunes, still hearing the droning of the woman in the row in front of me who has not so much as stopped to take a breath since we left the tarmac in Hotlanta.

This morning we had a light breakfast and brief devotional service in the lodge…the highlight of which was the camp director’s daughter, Gracen, joining Sarah for a dance during worship. It seemed almost sacreligeous for me to interrupt them for the teaching time…I’m pretty sure God was at least as pleased (probably more) with their pure worship than He was the impressions I had to share.

This has been a great trip – the staff of Waukaway Springs were great, and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with Kirk’s team. It is simply pitiful to know that I have seen most of these people almost daily for the last six months and didn’t know them any better than I did. I learned so much…that Josh is ridiculously funny and kind. That Kirk has a very big hat size. That Alicia is a middle child but operates in the anointing of a first born. Every time I see her I want to blurt out “Thank you for inviting me. I had a nice time!” (She says it with a cheesy grin because it was what her parents made her say every time they left someone’s home when she was growing up.) I learned second hand that Jonathon’s feet stink but his shoes don’t (a mystery, to be sure). Jill is very kind and holding out for a tall guy. Katie carries not one ounce of pretense. Heidi is an amazing testament to redemption and restoration. I learned Sarah’s fascinating story of ending up at IHOP. And I learned that Ashley raised show cattle. And that five days is too long to be away from my tribe. I’ll be home soon…

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