I went to an Order of St. Luke Healing conference held at ECCO, the conference center in Oakhurst, where we have attended family camp for twenty years. Being in that setting with a new group of people who were also committed to functioning in the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, brought into focus the work of God and the ministry experience that has been built up year by year in our annual week at the Gerard Family Camp.
George Gerard, the founder of Family Camp attended a Camp Farthest Out, 40 some years ago. In a prayer group of that camp, he said that he was Jewish, something he had long been silent about. The resulting freedom in Christ was so intense that when he returned home his face shone. The first thing his wife said to him was, "What happened to you?" When he then visited someone in the hospital, he said a simple blessing over the patient, who was immediately healed.
At first, George and Judy Gerard, joined by another parish priest, John-David Schofield, held the yearly Family Camp at Camp Galilee on Lake Tahoe. The camp moved to ECCO in the early ninties, after John-David became the Bishop of San Juaquin. We began attending the camp in 1986 and I have been every year since -- except for the year Robert was born a few days before camp. That year, Robert and I stayed home.
George also become involved with the Order of Saint Luke, an ecumenical healing order started in the 1930's. I love how groups in the church intermingle! Driving home from the OSL conference last week, I reflected on the scripture in Mark:4 where Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a seed planted in the ground. The farmer wakes and sleeps and the seed springs up, he knows not how. So it is in our churches and community life, we wake and sleep, night and day, not knowing how God brings the growth.
"Seven days without prayer makes one weak."
I am so grateful for the diligence of George, Judy and John-David in holding together our camp year by year, so that while we came and went, God could work a work of love, a work of life, in each of us. Visiting my son's family in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, I heard my four year old granddaughter singing "The day thou gavest Lord is ended. . ." as she went to sleep -- the song we sing every evening at camp.
Last summer I preached on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Family Camp. I thought about that while sitting in the same chair I always claim in the ECCO chapel. Funny that I had no sooner returned home this week, than Jim sent me the mp3 of that talk. I haven't listened to it yet, but if it's not too embarrassing, I'll send it to anyone who wants to listen.
George went on to glory a few years ago; Judy joined him a few weeks ago. Her memorial service is this weekend. The echo of their faithful ministry continues to reverberate in my life, in the life of my family and in many, many other people who through the Gerards received a taste of God's grace, mercy, truth, love, healing, growth, wisdom and an experience of our abundant life in the Kingdom of God.
"There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher." -Henry van Dyke