Friday, September 27, 2013

A Taste of Friday with Cheryl Rogers and Lost in the Woods

Swayed by her love of Nancy Drew Mysteries, Cheryl Rogers decided as a child to become a writer. Her Bible Camp Mystery series encourages youths to seek God early.

Cheryl Rogers
October 14, 2012

The boys were talking loudly as they waited for their leader, Chet Harrigan, to make his big announcement.

Without revealing details, Chet had been dropping hints for a couple weeks that they didn’t want to miss tonight’s church meeting. There was lots of excitement in the air when Chet appeared before them as they sat on folded chairs in their church hangout, The Boy’s Den. The chatter stopped quickly as the boys turned their bright eyes, filled with exuberance, on Chet. The room became silent, as they waited expectantly.
Obviously enjoying their reaction, Chet began, “Have I got your attention? Then he laughed.
“Well this is it, guys. The moment you’ve been waiting for. …  It’s been in the works for about three months now, but I’m planning our first ever Bible camp.”
Chet, a 29-year-old former gang leader, led the Boy’s Den at Living Water Community Church. It was a great group of youths from varying backgrounds, who met regularly for encouragement in their faith. Until now, most of their activities were either at the church or in town.
But Chet was planning to change all that with this outdoor adventure. And so this was, for this small group, a pretty big deal.
“We’re going to go deep in the woods far away from everything, pitch our tents and spend some time hiking and canoeing,” he told the boys. “If you’d like to go, sign up before you leave today and we’ll give you all the information.”
Excited, the boys resumed talking. Thirteen-year-old Zack immediately turned to his friend Jeff, who had been attending church with him and participating in the Boy’s Den for as long as he could remember. “Wanna go?” he asked excitedly. “I’ve been wanting to go camping for a long time and nobody has taken me.”
“Sure,” Jeff replied. “Sounds like fun. I went canoeing once and I liked it. You get to swim and eat. It’s real quiet and peaceful. That’s unless you see some alligators.”
“Alligators?” questioned Zack, almost whispering.
“Sure, the gators like to sun themselves on the fallen trees alongside the river,” he said. “They don’t bother anybody. We’re just not supposed to feed them.”
“What’s this about gators?” asked Danny, another long-time pal.
“Aw, nothing Danny,” replied Jeff. “I’m just telling Zack here a little bit about being in the woods and canoeing. There are going to be gators. They won’t bother us if we don’t bother them.”
“That’s right,” Chet reassured them. “We’ll tell you all about staying away from the gators before we head out. If one of them comes near you, I’ll let them have it!”
Chet was six foot three inches and relied upon his tall frame to keep the sometimes rowdy crowd in line. To him, a gator was just another untamed creature, except this one stretched itself out horizontally instead of vertically. And Chet knew a lot about untamed creatures, having been one many years ago.
“You tell him,” piped in Bill, son of Youth Pastor Chuck Holden. “No gator is going to mess with us.”

“Yeah, Bill is going to help me lead this expedition, guys, so he knows what he’s talking about,” Chet grinned. “How many times did you say you’ve been out in the wild?”
“A couple of times,” Bill said hesitantly. “I’m just going to do the cooking, though. Gary, he’s the assistant leader. By the way, I’m accepting assistant chefs, if any of you want to volunteer.”
“Hey man, if you want I can ask my Uncle Carlos if he can join us. He knows how to cook a pig in the ground,” Peter said. “We can probably catch a pig in the woods, y’ know.”
“Yeah, I was thinking we might see some feral pigs,” Chet said pensively.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what I mean,” Peter said, “Feral pigs.”
“Now just what is a feral pig? I hope you don’t expect me to cook a feral pig when I don’t even know what it is,” Bill protested.
“Let’s not plan on a pig roast just yet,” Chet said. “Thanks for suggesting it, Peter. Unfortunately, we just might have to put off the pig for another trip.”
“You’re not kiddin’ when you say tasty. My Uncle Carlos can cook the pigs real good,” Peter continued. “Well,” he shrugged, “it’s your loss.”
“Hey Zack, maybe you and Danny want to help me with the cooking?” Bill asked pleadingly.
“I’ll think about it,” said Zack, mumbling. “I think I’d rather just eat.” He laughed a bit nervously.
“I heard that,” announced Gary. “We also have latrine duty, if you’d like to sign up for that.” He gave Zack a broad smile.
“Oh, no,” mumbled Zack. “Cooking sounds pretty good, actually.”
“What’s a latrine?” he asked Jeff in a hushed voice.
“I dunno,” Jeff shrugged.
“We’ll get the chores assigned later,” Chet said, herding them towards the door. “It’s getting late tonight. Just be sure to sign up before you leave. We can only take about ten this first time.”
“Hey, can I bring along my 3DS and some games?” Chang asked, pulling his from his pocket as he waited in the signup line.
“Wow, what a great idea!” exclaimed Zack, who stood behind him. “Be sure to bring your Mario Kart 7 game.”
Chet overheard the boys and interrupted. “As much as I know you love video games, we’re not planning to allow them,” Chet announced abruptly. “One of the reasons we’re going to the woods is to get away from all the distractions in our lives! We want to focus on God and his creation.”
“We want you to have time to build friendships, too,” added Gary with an encouraging smile.
Chang was new and his Mario Kart 7 game might be a great icebreaker, but it could interfere with serious sharing and fellowship on a trip like this.
“Maybe you could come over to my house, Zack, you and a few of the guys?” Chang asked cautiously.
“Sure, sure. Maybe we can hang out and play video games sometime. Why don’t you talk to your mom?” Zack replied.
After the last boy had signed up, Chet and Gary were alone in the room. “It’ll be two whole days and nights of that,” Chet said, a tiredness creeping over him after the long evening. “Are you sure you are up to it? I know I can’t expect to do this single-handedly.”
“I KNOW you are not going to want to carry those pup tents by yourself,” Gary said smiling. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be a chance to get away from it all for a couple days in the woods.”
“Away from it all,” retorted Chet. “I wouldn’t go that far. I think we’re taking it all with us.”
They smiled at each other. “But I’m looking forward to it,” Chet added.
“Me too,” said Gary, “I didn’t figure on those gators, though. Did you?”
“No, neither did I. Didn’t think twice about ’em,” said Chet, turning serious all of a sudden. “I’m wondering if the parents are going to go for this. Gators like kids,” he said.
“You didn’t think about them because you can fight ’em off with your bare hands,” Gary grinned.
“I used to rely on my own strength, but you know I don’t do that anymore,” Chet said somberly. “I’m going to have to trust God to keep ’em safe. It’s his deal. He’s the reason for the camp. But I’m still going to have to convince everyone I can handle this.”
He stopped, looking Gary directly in the eyes.  “Do you think I … we can?”
Gary looked at his feet, momentarily uncomfortable at the thought. “We-ell, I wouldn’t trust myself with any of this, either. I’m not much of a camper after all. But ... we’re doing this for God, like you said. He’ll take care of us, right?”
“Of course,” Chet replied matter-of-factly as they walked toward the door leading outside. “Of course, God’s got it. Let’s go home.”
Chet turned off the lights in the Boy’s Den and locked the building. He smiled at Gary, as they walked toward their cars. Deep inside, Chet knew he’d need to do some serious praying to be sure, absolutely sure, this was God’s idea, and not his own...

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