Most families go on vacations. They go to Disney World, the Grand Canyon, Colonial Williamsburg, and other places. There is nothing wrong with that. I have stated before that if my wife and I were from the same state, we would be able to do vacations like that, but since our extended families live in two different states, we have to spend our “vacation” time visiting family.
Don’t get me wrong; I love visiting my family. I think it’s important that our children grow up knowing their relatives. I think it’s important to spend quality and quantity time with family. You never know how much time you have with those you love. But when you have three weeks a year to spend, and you spend all three weeks visiting family, that leaves no time for California (which I will always and forever pronounce in my head like Arnold Schwarzenegger does), Canada, or wherever else people go.
If I add up all the trips we have taken since our children were born, and I delete the ones that included visiting family, if my memory serves me correctly, we have taken one vacation. We went to Florida in 2006. We would like to go to Washington DC, Colonial Williamsburg, back to Florida, and other places. We even planned out a vacation one time where we would drive down to Texas, across New Mexico, Arizona and into Ca-Lee-FOR-nee-uh (see, I told you). We would see the sights in San Diego, Drive north to Disneyland, and see the Golden Gate Bridge on our way to Seattle. Then we would head to Yosemite and spend a few nights there before we drive back home through the Rocky Mountains. We’d see Mount Rushmore on our way through Iowa (to visit family!) and then home. Maybe someday we can do this.
One thing that we DO do (there’s no good way to say that) is go to family camp. We first went to family camp in 2003. We usually go to the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp in Clear Lake, Iowa. I was a lifeguard there as a teenager, my pastor was heavily involved (I believe most of his family worked there, his mom was a cook in the kitchen, etc) so we were always encouraged to go to camp. I left high school and went to Bible college and seminary where I was surrounded by other believers and heard preaching almost every day, so going to Bible camp didn’t really seem necessary.
In 2002 I accepted the call to be the pastor of the Evangelical Free Church in Rockwell City, Iowa. Kim and I are Baptists (and we told them this before I became the pastor), and after being there a year, we felt like we needed to be around other Baptists, so in 2003 we went to family camp at the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp for the first time. For anybody who has never been to family camp, let me explain how it works. You load up the van, drive to the camp, and unpack in your room (there are varying levels of rooms from “bring your own tent” to rooms with your own bathroom and a few rooms that remind me of a hotel. Most of the rooms are air conditioned and furnished with several bunk beds. Everybody picks a bed (parents get dibs!) and then you go out to enjoy yourself on day one. Sometimes the food isn’t what you would pick, and other times it’s amazingly good, but on the average it’s above average.
My wife doesn’t have to cook or clean dishes, I don’t have to mow the yard or anything else. You get to hear good sermons and devotional messages, you spend a lot of time with your family doing fun things, reading the Bible, boating, swimming, archery, zip line, etc. There are tournaments, carpet ball, softball, paintball, and all sorts of other kinds of -ball. You enjoy yourself and you get closer to your family and closer to God. In short, you come out the other end better than when you started. It’s an annual recharging of our family that we have only missed twice in the past ten years. Once was the summer we moved to Indiana, and the other was the summer right after that when we took that vacation to Florida.
This year we got to reconnect with Gerald and Julie Hawk, some friends from Faith Baptist Bible College that are on deputation to become missionaries to the Hispanic population of Katy, Texas. We are also hearing some great preaching. The preaching of Pastor Steve Cox (in the Book of Ruth) has been especially challenging to me. The first night he preached how God is sovereign (in total control) and I realized that I have been asking God to show me His will for my life, when I haven’t been consistently doing what I already KNOW He wants me to do (namely, spend daily time with Him, pray, and witness to others.). If I’m not doing what God has already specified He wants, how can I expect Him to give me other jobs to do? Last night he preached about how Ruth picked the field of Boaz seemingly by chance, but God was in control of the situation, and worked out all the details. There are no accidents. There are three days of camp left, and I look forward to what God will teach me in them.