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The Day One of My Students Fell Out a Window

February 23, 2014

Last night we returned from an overnight camping trip to Wa-Floy out in the greenery of the Gatlinburg region.  What a great place!  The camp is under a massive renovation but I like what we experienced as it is.  Our lodge was builtimage in the 1940s and has that deep-timber take-on-any-weather type of feel complete with a generous fireplace and a massive kitchen.  I’ll be taking groups up on a regular basis, that’s for sure.

The study for this weekend was an intensive look at Mark 10, with an especial investigation of Jesus’ very words “and whoever wants to be first among you must be the servant of all.”  The reflective private time that each student had was very significant  – they considered personally how they could start serving the minute they got back on school campus on Monday.

Ah, how I love the camp setting, and my reasoning goes beyond the scenery and the escape from the busy world.  My main joy in these camps is that an opportunity is created that magnifies the ability to concentrate on God’s Word. This is my seventh or eighth Theology Camp in the past two years, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the times God has given us.  In fact, I’ve been working in camps as a teacher for over thirty years.

But not all of them have gone great.

The very first camp I attended as a Bible teacher was back in California when I was twenty-one  – if I recall correctly the camp was called Lucerne Center or something of the sort, and it was at a 1920s-era hotel of over a hundred rooms  situated near the small town of Lakeport.  The building was wide and long, with two large wings and a front porch that had sweeping steps and ivy gardens.   I was told recently that the camp is no longer there, but let me share my experience as a teacher/counselor at this camp…

Our school wanted to support this small camping ministry, so I was given the assignment to chaperone our fifth grade class to a Middle School Week in late June.  Dutifully piling my kids in the school van,  I drove the four-hour trip to the camp location and was surprised at two things.  First, the beauty of the countryside around Lake Lucerne was quite enjoyable.  Second, the entire camp property was settled in less than ten acres and was situated within the town.   While this is quite fine for an adult retreat, the potential for problems with over a hundred middle-school kids in such a small area is very real.

Compounded to this fact was the initial greeting by the head of the camp.  He greeted me brightly and was indeed a friendly and energetic gentleman, but I could see that things were, well, not organized.  As I headed toward him he weeded himself through a mass of running, shouting kids.

“Brad…Zah-koll, is that how you pronounce your name?”

I tried not to notice that there were children tromping through the ivy.  “Yessir.  I’ve brought ten students, and here’s the list…”

He shook his head vigorously and waved a hand.  “Fine, fine, I’ll look at it later. Did you get your luggage unpacked and in the dorm?”

I nodded and winced as I saw kids vaulting over picnic tables and tackling each other.  “Yes, I did.  Er… when do we start?  I see we were cutting it close in making it on time.”

“No, you’re fine, fine,” he smiled widely.  “I decided on a ‘get acquainted’ time to let the kids get used to the property.  We’re going to have free time right now.  As for you, just walk around and relax.  We’ll handle everything.”

I shrugged my shoulders.  “Well, okay.  Do we meet back in forty-five minutes, an hour, or…”

He laughed.  “Heavens, no.  I’m giving them three hours.  Let ’em run!”

He walked away with an easy gait but I was anything but comfortable with this set-up.  I was raised in a family of twelve and if there’s one thing I knew from childhood was that undisciplined activity is an opportunity for trouble.

Still, my students had sprinted to the far reaches of the ten acres and there was little I could do, so I decided to take a stroll around the property and view the lake from the best vantage point of the property.  The walk was nice, despite kids flying by me at a manic pace.  And I had to admit, despite my misgivings, this was a beautiful part of California and perhaps things would work out…

“Pastor Brad!  Pastor Brad!”  A panicked voice was calling for me.  I spun around and saw Randy charging toward me with a terrorized look in his eyes.

“What is it, Randy?”

He was out of breath, but trying to choke out words.  “It’s Timmy… he’s … Timmy’s fell…”

“Calm down for a second and get your breath.  What happened to Timmy?”

Randy kept pawing the air in the direction of the hotel’s third story.  “Timmy fell from a window…”

I grew sick inside.  If it was going to be anybody, it would be Timmy. He was the kid in your class that was always pushing the envelope rule-wise.  A fight here, a smart-mouth comment there…  He was the one who was making a regular visit to the principal’s office.  I had my hesitations about his attending this camp, and now my worst fears were coming true.

I broke into a run for the building.  “What happened?  How did he fall from a window?”

Randy ran beside me, still gasping for air.  “We were playing hide and seek with some other kids…up on the top floor, where nobody was…”  Gasp gasp.  “And Timmy ran down a hall and we knew he was in there, in the end room…”  Pant pant.  “So we caught him in that one room, we knew he was in there…”  Wheeeeze.  “So he hung out the window, hung by his hands on the sill, and didn’t think we’d look…”  Gasp.  “But while he was hanging there one of the boys saw his hands and thought it would be funny to slam his fists on Timmy’s hands to hurt him while he was hanging … and so Timmy fell…”  Randy stopped and put his hands on his knees.  “It wasn’t funny.”

I glanced up.  “You mean to tell me Timmy fell three stories? Where is he?”

And at that exact moment, so help me, Timmy showed up.  He walked right next to me … but he really didn’t see me.

I looked at him and I could tell he was in shock.  He walked in a straight line but his eyes were glazed.

“Timmy, are you all right?”  I took him by the shoulder.  “Are you hurt?”

His eyes were wide.  “No…yes…no.”  He sort of met my eyes.  “I fell.  But I’m okay.”

I found out the rest of the story.  When the other boy crashed his fists on Timmy’s hands and he let go, God in His Providence had Timmy fall in the most fortunate place on that entire landscape.  Right below that window was a massive ornamental bush.  It didn’t come away looking unscathed but it had saved Timmy’s life by breaking his fall.

That evening was the first service.  I looked toward the back row – Timmy’s usual location.  To my concern, he wasn’t there.  Was he injured after all?  Did he go to the nurse’s station? I moved toward the door, but as I glanced back…

There was  Timmy on the front row, Bible opened.

I was immediately reminded of the passage in the Psalms that the writer wrote directly to God:  “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your teachings…”  I saw this passage come to life during the course of the camp week.  The young man had grown calloused to instruction in church and school.  God decided to give him a different lesson in the form of a Close Call.  This time Timmy responded.

Smart lad.

Before you think I might try a snide closing,  I’d like to humbly that that I  have also been a student in the classroom of Close Calls over the years … and I’ll bet you have, too.  God, in His gracious ways and omniscient instruction, reaches out to teach us in various ways.  Tireless in His efforts for us to grow closer to Him, He sometimes resorts to a new form of instruction.  As a Bible teacher, we’re all familiar with a new educational approach and we often experiment with some – just not this one, this is too drastic for mortals to endeavor.  We leave the Close Call system of instruction to the Almighty.  But we become willing students and wiser graduates when we ourselves go through this method.

Don’t we?

I’m sure Timmy will agree.

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2 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Armor of God and commented:
    Amazing how God works to get your attention! Great post and great blog! If you are not familiar with it, be sure to check out some of the other great posts! God bless you!

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