As I was thinking about a time when I experienced God in nature I had a few came to mind but the one that most stuck out was the encounter with a microburst at Camp Luther in Ohio. This was Monday, July 21, 2008, and the start of a week few of us present will ever forget. We actually have a book of stories and pictures from this week. It was a time I saw God bring people who may have never met before the day before together. We spent a few days with generator power from generators that were purchased for the camp by campers and worshiped together and didn’t let the cleanup keep us from remembering why we were there, to deepen our faith and get closer to God.
Here is my story from that night from the book we all wrote during the week.
Krista and I went to see what the adult program was. We arrives late, and heard from Scott Morris the name of the game was Star Power. We stuck around as I was intrigued by this game and wanted to see how this was going to come out. Well, the third round ended and discussion ensued. And about 11:00 the game wound up as some of the adults were leaving to check on their kids as there was lightning and thunder coming closer. Dave Kettlehake said he was going to get a flashlight and we should be ready for an uplifting game. Soon after he left, the wind picked up. I heard Krista say, “that was a tree.” I thought she saw one fly by the window, but she heard one snap. The lights went out and the staff started heading us towards the basement of the lodge/dining hall. I asked Marta and Kali what about the kids in the cabins? Corey said we had to go to the basement, and about that time Scott came in the front of the dining hall saying a tree was down and on fire. Corey said to ring both bells and get people in shelters. I looked back at Corey and said I’m going to get my children in the cabin, I need a flashlight. Krista and I went out the side door of the dining hall to be met with sheets of water, like buckets being dumped constantly. I was handed a little lantern, that was doing nothing. I screamed I need a real flashlight, and was handed one from Krista from Eddie who was ringing the dining hall bell. We headed directly from the dining hall towards the pine grove cabins. Our children Charis, Carina, and Calea were asleep, we hoped, I’m Martha. The direct path to our girls was right through where we would find out the trees had fallen. When I ran into the first tree only with the thought of my girls being afraid in the storm, I went under it with Krista following me. To do this we had to crawl on the road, in a puddle of water. The trees had brought down the power lines, so we were in water with downed power lines, crawling around trees that were on fire. When we went under the first tree, we came to the second one and went under it. When I got to the third tree I was wondering where Krista was, I could hear her behind me, but I couldn’t hear her behind me. I stopped and thought I had lost my wife in the midst of these trees that were in puddles and had power lines in them. I shined the light back to find her and finally I saw her after what was probably 2 seconds but felt like 5 minutes to me. During all of this time some one is yelling at us to get out of the trees, they were on fire and have downed power lines on them. My only thought is getting to my children, and Krista and I go over the last tree and I stand there and yell now where do we go? Krista sees the exit light on the laundry room and she says to head for that, we get to the cabin after running through inches of water on all of the camp. Our children are still asleep, as I run in the cabin and scream at them to get up and get their shoes on. Krista is telling me to be calm, and I just want all of this to be over. I was worried that I was going to lose my family. I wanted them to be safe. We got our girls up and shoes on and had them come out of the cabin and headed towards Bumpy’s basement. We rounded the shower house and got to the barn, and Kathy is saying to go back to the cabin. I send Krista with the girls back to the cabin, and I head over to talk to Kathy to see if there is anything I can do. And we look up into the sky and see the stars, it was like nothing ever happened, it was a beautiful night. I walked with them down the road to the trees and saw Scott there yelling at those in the lodge/dining hall to stay away from the trees and thought I would stay there to help him. Dan came by and so did Alex. Alex was saying that his feet were hurting because he was running across the field and was running into stuff that shouldn’t be there. Scott, Alex, Dan, and I stood there and told people to stay out of the trees. We talked about how this came out of nowhere and how we were lucky that no one had been hurt. Dan and Scott left to check on short-wave radios and I remember telling Alex that no one had checked the parking lot to see if there was any damage there.
Bumpy came driving through camp to check the damage. Dan and Scott returned and we all stood there and made sure no one else came through the trees. We talked and laughed about how the storm came on quickly and felt the lord’s presence. I give thanks for the counselors I spoke with that night, as we talked and laughed and they showed me the mercy and love God had for us in the fact we were able to stand there and talk about how Krista and I had just come through the trees, with downed power lines in puddles of water. Dan was talking to Corey on the radio. I remember hearing him say that the staff could go to bed, the emergency personnel had been contacted and the staff would need their rest. Dan and Scott went off to check on something else. About that time Bill Diehm came through and said they had just come from the parking area. He said there was only one car with damage and that was a blue minivan. My heart sank, as I thought about my blue minivan. I turned and walked to the parking area, and found my van with a tree on top of it. The back window was busted our, and the tree covered the top. It was the only vehicle in the parking lot with damage. I walked back over to the gate where Kathey and the others were gathered and I asked if I could get some garbage bags and tape to tape up the back window on my van. Bumpy’s daughter and one of the counselors helped me find these items in the barn, and I taped up my back window. I talked a little more with Dan, Kathy, Corey, and other counselors and decided it was time to go to the cabin, not that I would sleep, but I wanted to see my girls and know that they were fine. I told my wife we had a tree on our van, We thought it might be totaled. I wondered how we could replace if we needed to. Then I remembered it had about a half tank of gas, and I had just paid $70 to fill that tank before coming to camp. SO somebody needed to use that gas if the van was totaled.
The next morning I woke about 7:20 and wondered if I had missed the bell ring. I got dressed and emerged from my cabin to see coffee being set up outside the laundry room. I remember seeing the camp and thinking about how the trees had come down. It was interesting to see the pine tree in front of the chapel, and the three trees Krista and I had climbed under and over on the road. I went and took pictures of the van and wondered how we would get home. I called our insurance company and reported the damage. I remember hearing about the RV of the Dean’s. How they had branches through the top of their camper. I heard about the Flicks, and how their tent went up off the ground. How Eddie was lifted off the ground in the staff cabin. I remember walking around camp that morning in a haze, wondering why all of this had happened, but remembering that God kept us all safe. There were bumps and bruises, but we would all leave camp by our own power.
This storm changed my outlook on a God who is just for life. We were all called to Camp Luther that week. God kept us in the palm of his hand and showed us his awesome power. God brought us together as a family/ Bound us together and gave us a unity that many seek. God gave us a wonderful week, through all of the wind. The howling winds showed us God’s power and his love was evident in the faces of all the campers.
We encountered the power of nature and the awesomeness of God.