Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thanks, Ruby-Lou!

It was so long ago, Rebecca Smith was still on summer staff and I still wore a mullet.

So many of you have already heard this story so many times, but that's okay, because first, it's a great story, and second, it only gets better as the years go by.

Rebecca and I were nearly murdered. That's the story; we're sticking to it.

We were leading a Lutherhaven summer camp trip (with a third counselor, Craig) on the Missouri River, expertly guiding a dozen high school boys and girls through country little changed since Lewis & Clark...even littler since mullets.

When you put in on the Missouri at Virgelle Ferry, it's three sleeps to Judith Landing, the nearest real road. Canyons, arches, massive castle-like walls, prickly pear cactus, abandoned homesteads, bandit hideouts, native pictographs, and rattlesnakes are all you see for three days of floating.

Our second night out we expertly guided our group to camp in the wrong spot. We thought we were camped where we were supposed to, but we weren't. We were off by more than a few ticks and so pitched camp--unbeknownst to us until after midnight--where the locals camp ...

...locals themselves who were off by more than a few ticks.

We campers were nestled all snug in our bags, the kids in big wall tents, (boys, girls,) and us leaders parked just outside, drifting off to sleep under the Montana stars. Along about 12, however, we three expert guides were wakened by the lights of a couple pickups of locals, rising over the far ridge and descending the canyon for our (uh, "their") spot. Party spot.

We watched the headlights close in, heard the tenor of the engines whine and the gears grind as the two-track got rougher and rougher.

Soon they were on us. On top of us, really. If Rebecca and I hadn't jumped up just in the nick of time, I'm pretty sure we'd've been just another hump in the trail for this band of inebriates.

Pickup doors slammed. Bodies spilled out of tailgates. Then, spotted!  "Somebody's camped in our spot," one of the brightest said.

"You're camped in our spot," the leader, a little dimmer than the first, told us.

"We didn't know," I offered, stepping forward. Rebecca instinctively melted into the shadows to begin rousing our 12 campers to trouble. "We thought this was the campsite," I explained.

"They're camped in our spot," the first repeated.

"You're camped in our spot," the leader brightly echoed.

"Uh, sorry," I mustered. "We didn't know."

"I think we should kill 'em," a third suggested. Solid agreement from the onlookers. "Yeah, let's kill 'em," the leader agreed. "How?"

"I think we should run 'em over, " another miscreant chimed in. Laughs all 'round.

"No, let's just shoot 'em," came yet another brilliant idea. A chorus of yeas.

"Run 'em over!" cheered that faction. "Squish 'em in their sleeping bags! Run 'em over! Run 'em over!"

"Shoot 'em!" declared the Shoot 'Em Club. "Shoot 'em!"

The debate waged on, each party presenting their platform of pros and cons as to why their method of murder was best.  "Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!" "Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!"

"Uhhhh..." I suggested, "could we talk about this? Maybe come up with another idea?"

"Run 'em over!" "Shoot 'em!"

While the two committees met, Rebecca and the other counselor managed to waken all the kids, preparing them for swift escape.

"All of you, listen to me!" Rebecca stage-whispered. "Do just as I say! Don't ask any questions. Just stand up in your sleeping bags right now!"

"Huh? Wha?" the teens responded.

"I'll tell you why later!" she declared. "Stand up in your sleeping bags now! Just stand up!"

It's been almost 20 years since the night Rebecca and I were nearly murdered, and it's just as funny now as it wasn't then. "Stand up in your sleeping bags and ... what???" we laugh together. "Prepare to hop away???"

I tell one of my favorite Rebecca stories again because she retires from Lutherhaven coming up this May 15. Her and husband Stephen's awesome twins, Sam and Lucy, have two more summers at home before school starts, their amazing daughter Mercy is not far from taking her first crawl, and Rebecca is heeding the call to stay home with them. Stephen has launched into a Masters of Nursing program alongside working full time in the ER at Kootenai Medical Center, so Rebecca's timed her departure from Lutherhaven with that exciting, challenging transition in their family's life.

Rebeca has served Lutherhaven for one short of twenty summers, first as summer support staff and camp counselor, then after graduating from Western Washington University, as year round Program Director for the growing Lutherhaven ministry.

She's overseen summer camp, outdoor education, staff recruitment, women's retreats, family programs, skits, games, scheduling, curriculum, supervision, publicity ... everything programmatic. Under Rebecca's incredible guidance our programs--summer and year-round--have helped Lutherhaven grow to be among the largest of Lutheran and Christian camps in the country.

Because of Rebecca, there's hardly a month we don’t offer a weekend retreat or other special program for “campers” of every age—from children to youth to older adults & families. Literally thousands and thousands of campers--my own kids included--have been impacted, had their faith molded by her leadership. Hundreds and hundreds of summer staff--my own kids included--have learned and grown under her style, warmth, organization, hospitality, creativity, heart, drive, spirit, humor and mentoring. There are untold numbers of people in life and ministry around the nation--world, even--who are who they are today because of Rebecca Smith.

I'm pretty certain canoe trips, sleep-outs, arts & crafts, campfires, s'mores, sing-a-longs, bedtime devotions, traipses in the woods, star gazing, Discovery Centers, and Bible studies--all with kids--are on Rebecca's and Stephen's calendar for years to come.  I'm also certain Lutherhaven will sorely miss her fingerprints in every aspect of who we are and what we're about...

...and I will dearly miss my closest compadre in outdoor ministry.

Oh. By the way. The campers did not have to hop to safety. We convinced the locals it was a bad idea to run us over. Next time we expertly guided the group to the right campsite. Rebecca and I were not murdered that night on the Missouri River.

Just nearly. It's a great story. You'll hear it again sometime.

Use this blog to send your well-wishes, thanks, stories and pictures of Rebecca!
Or email her!
Or send a note or card to
Rebecca c/o Lutherhaven, 3258 West Lutherhaven Road, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

1 comment:

genius786 said...

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