Week 12: August 16-19 (return)
Well, the summer is essentially over, yet I just recently started feeling like I had arrived in Southeast Alaska. It is finally getting the rain, gray skies, and chilly air that supposedly mark every summer. August has arrived, and with it have come the pitch-black nights (that are beginning at more “normal” times now) and the death of most of the flowers around camp. I just recently that Juneau is in a rainforest, which I didn’t know existed in Alaska. I feel like I missed out a little by not getting to see the tundra that is the rest of the state, but I guess I already know what cold feels like.
It’s been sort of strange this past week. Counselors have slowly been trickling out, and I am one of the few left. I’ve been spending the last few days hanging out with the remainder of the crew. Monday night was spent in front of the fireplace in the dining hall, drinking tea and eating s’mores. We stayed up there for a few hours sharing childhood stories, talking about church, and generally soaking up what was left of our time together. In my opinion, it was a nearly perfect way to end camp.
What can I say? I am finished counseling for the summer. Looking back over the past couple months, it all just seems like a blur. People have come and gone, drama has started and ceased, and God has been moving in and through it all. I feel like I just got here, and I also feel like I’ve been here forever. It will be weird to go home and realize that nobody else will understand what this is like. But it will be okay.
Finally, it is my turn to make the journey southward. Around 2pm on Tuesday, I listened to everyone sing me “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” (as is camp tradition when someone goes home) as I gave my final hugs and goodbyes. I teared up a little as our car drove away to meet the boat at the front beach, but I guess I was mostly used to goodbyes by now. As the boat went around the cove and camp slowly faded out of sight, I wondered if I would ever see that place again.
I spent a few hours in town with Ray and Lyn, my camp “parents,” before going to the airport. Lyn and I went up Mount Roberts Tramway to enjoy the view of town from above. We watched a short film on the native Tlingit (pronounced “Klingit” or more commonly “Klinket”) people and learned words like “gunalchéesh” (“thank you”) and “I gu.aa yáx x’wán!” (“Be brave”). Afterwards, we ate at a seafood restaurant called The Hangar, which was delicious.
I checked in at the airport around 7pm (making sure to weigh my bags before I arrived this time – 49 lbs and 46 lbs each!), took some more pictures of some more stuffed bears, and then awaited my departing flight to Anchorage. I was feeling a little depressed, knowing that it was all over – but God was at work even then. One of our campers saw me sitting outside the gate and came over to say hi. I hate to admit that I have no recollection of her, but it was encouraging to feel like I never really left. I was seated next to a young Mormon man on the first leg of the trip, which I believe was God reminding me once again that my part in ministry could extend beyond the borders of Juneau. While we didn’t talk extensively about our religious views, I did get the opportunity to share with him about God’s love and faithfulness, Christ’s complete atonement for our sins, and what the Bible says about life after death. (Just for kicks, I also ordered a hot tea and asked him if he was a tea or coffee drinker. He politely said no, but that he did enjoy the smell.)
As I write this, I am on my final flight home: Chicago to Oklahoma City. (Naturally, I am well-prepared for the 100+ degree weather as I sport a hoodie and rain boots.) I am jet-lagged, hungry, and a little disoriented by the lack of mountains, tall trees, and ocean. The red eye flight from Anchorage to Chicago was 5 ½ hours of death, but I made it through by the grace of God. But I suppose that can be said about pretty much everything in life.
It’s going to be a crazy rest of the week. I’ll get home this afternoon, spend the next two days packing, and then head back up to school in Bourbonnais, IL on Saturday. I’m excited for the opportunities God is already giving me to minister, though: I’ve been asked to be a mentor for the Freshman Connections class this semester, and I’ll be helping out again with the College Church senior high group. It’s going to be busy this fall, but God is faithful, and I have faith!
Thank you to all who have been praying for and writing to me. I’ve said it before, but I really do mean it when I say that can’t express enough appreciation for all your love and support. You guys helped make this summer for me. I hope my words and experiences were encouraging to you and helped to strengthen your faith as they have built up mine.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 1:24
Grace and peace to y’all!