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Monday, May 20, 2013
Memory of 1988Posted Sunday, July 15, 2012, at 3:57 PM
We've just endured nearly 16 consecutive days of temperatures over 90 degrees with several additional days over 100 degrees. We are now officially in a declared drought area of the State with our water levels several inches below normal. Indianapolis has declared a water emergency and tickets are being given to people who even water their lawn.
And, for a while, each night during the television weather report you'd hear words such as that it hasn't been this bad since 1988.
The drought in central and southern Indiana during 1988 was indeed a horrible year. Nationally we lost one third of our crops that one summer not counting the number of livestock that died of hunger and thirst.
My memories of that summer might be different than most. I look upon that summer as being the last time I was able to get off all of my allergy medications! I love dry, hot weather and so the summer of 1988 was like heaven to me (well, sort of ...). But my strongest memory of the summer was the church camp I directed and all that I learned from our junior high students.
Camp Moneto is found in eastern Brown County, seven miles east of Nashville and 10 miles west of Columbus. A mile of dirt road north of Highway 46, the Camp includes over 700 hundred acres of natural woodlands for both cabin and "primitive" camping. I directed over a dozen junior high church camps in my time and that summer I was responsible for one 122 people including my volunteer counselors.
While having fun was our goal, the central theme of the week was always the development of community. Counselors would arrive on Sunday afternoon and junior high students would be "dropped off" on Monday morning. Most of the students came with just a friend or two so we all were meeting strangers with whom we would spend the week. The first couple of days would include tensions and conflicts that naturally developed but by Wednesday evening the camp would form its "personality" and run smoothly until the parents arrived on Saturday morning.
The week would include meals in a common dining hall and swimming in a large concrete pool. Each cabin group would have its own rituals around lights out and each family group its own lessons around spirituality and tradition. But for half the day the entire community would meet together for programs, discussions, crafts, and a variety of focused activities and these were the parts of the week I directed.
In 1988 our week of camp included six consecutive days of 100 degree temperatures. We had no rain the entire week. The skies were so clear at night that, with our telescopes, we could reveal the beauty of the planets to many inner city youth. One night starving coyotes attacked a deer just ten feet from a cabin and it took hours to calm our students back to sleep!
Yet my favorite memory occurred on Friday afternoon. Our lodge's air conditioner broke while talent show was going on. I ran to tell the site manager about it, who interrupted me with "you've got to keep everyone inside." I thought she was nuts until she explained that the water pipes had busted in the heat and that repair crews were all over the campgrounds putting in new lines. We couldn't have anyone outside for safety reasons and it was my job to keep everyone inside a room with windows for walls, no air conditioning, and (I believe) 104-degree afternoon sun.
The beauty of this experience is that everyone cooperated, everyone stayed inside, and everyone worked hard to make sure that the talent show was excellent and long! My counselors came up with skits off the top of their heads. The "talented" kids got to perform two and three times. And even the kids without real talent were able to spread their wings and get in front of the crowd and receive applause. Everyone felt like a "winner" under what could have been a horrible situation. I didn't hear a single complaint about the afternoon "sauna" that lasted until 5:30 p.m., when the last of the utility trucks pulled away.
I've learned many lifelong lessons from that week. You can endure anything if your community is solid enough. With the right motivation a community will come together as one. You don't have to know all of the facts if you trust your leadership. If each person is given a chance everyone else will applaud when its your turn on center stage.
I am SO glad that I'm not directing church camp during this drought of 2012! And I am so glad that I had my very positive experience from church camp in the drought of 1988.
How are WE doing as a community through these horrible conditions? We can endure anything if our community is solid enough...
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.