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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Warren W. Willis Camp

Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp

Saturday Kathy and I traveled to Leesburg, FL to attend consecration of Barnett Lodge at Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp. My nephew, Mike, is director of the camp. My brother Bob traveled from Georgia to attend the consecration. The service included a sermon by Florida UMC Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and music by the band that will lead the music during all the youth camp sessions this summer. About 300 people attended the consecration from all over Florida. After the service we enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria.

The Camp at Leesburg has a special place in the lives of both Bob and me. In the 60's as a young man Bob received the call to preach in the chapel there. He went to the chapel alone after midnight and God told him plainly that he should preach the gospel and that the Lord would lead him each step of the way. Since Bob had a young family at the time in Ellenton and was working for Florida Power Corp., the call required many challenges and changes. In preparation for the ministry he attended Fl Southern College and followed by studies at Emory, concurrently pastoring churches to pay his way. In Atlanta he met Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father—saying the senior King reminded him of our father. Saturday we stood in the chapel at Leesburg where Bob remembered his calling as well as his later preaching (along with his wife, Linda—also a minister) in the chapel during youth gatherings.

For me Leesburg also has special meaning. First and foremost, it represents the considerable practical investment made in my life by the Methodist Church and my family. Over the years, one of their primary objectives was that I live in the will of God. I suppose, in this sense, one can shorten it to the simple desire of many that I be a “good guy”. The church and my parents exercised great art and skill in this undertaking for the challenge was great. Obviously, they had to work with fairly intractable material. But beyond that, the Christian faith allows for specificity—but not too much of it. The challenge that confronts is how to teach principles without becoming legalistic, how to implant ethical boundaries without staunching freedom of the spirit, how to communicate that while the answers to many questions have already been answered by our faith, that yet one must creatively consult the Holy Spirit to meet each challenge with fresh perspectives and vital approaches. At the camp is the Path of Silence—a small isolated path that winds through the undergrowth near the lake. It eventually terminates at a clearing—a small meditation area opening onto the lake. An oak tree there has a limb that bends down and across the opening where a cross stands. I have been down that path alone as a child, teen, young adult, adult, and senior citizen. It represents to me the duality of my faith—it arises from the past yet yearns to meet the challenges of the future, all within the present will of God—it joins together set current reality with eternal purposes and divine assurances.

When we attended the services Saturday Kathy required a wheelchair supplied by the camp. (She recently had a bicycle accident in Saint Petersburg and cracked her knee.) Sitting in the wheelchair she had to extend and keep straight her right leg—meaning that her leg had to rest awkwardly and painfully against the foot rest. By reflex those standing by set out immediately to find some cloths to fold and put under her leg to cushion it against the foot rest. Such reflexive considerate action symbolizes to me one of the key missions of the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp.

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