I made the short trip across town to get an oil change.  Proudly, I displayed my Buffalo Mountain Camp t-shirt.  The cashier stopped me to share a story about her mother, who lived below the camp and worked at the camp in younger years.  Our conversation left both of us deflated.  The flood waters of last Sunday night swept away buildings, roads, and carefully built fire pits and shelters.  With those physical reminders of spiritual and/or happy moments gone, we both felt as if we had lost a dear friend.  That conversation caused me to reflect on the power of special places in one’s spiritual journey.

In 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and 5:1 the Bible records of a place about four miles south of Gilgal, where the Israelites were twice defeated by the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen.  After Samuel wins victory and the Ark is returned, an Ebenezer is erected.  It is a large stone, sitting upright.  This simple word means “stone of help”.   It was erected to remind others that in an hour of crisis God helped.  Time has withered the stone away but the story lives reminding us of God’s help.  Generation after generation has been strengthened by the hope offered.

 An ebenezer marks God’s movement.  Not only at the time of struggle, but also in our memories and visits to those holy spaces.  Buffalo Mountain Camp is such a place.   Most people can recall a heart tugging moment or a story that brings a silly grin.  We were shaped by the place and all who invested in it.  It has become an Ebenezer. 

Even in this time of devastation, this Ebenezer calls us back.  We remember the stories, vivid images of this holy place display in our mind’s eye, and we are sad.  In reflection, we say goodbye to what was, give thanks to God for the past and comfort one another as we grieve.  It is good to be sad.  What happened to our camp and the Dry Creek community was indeed tragic.  When we embrace our emotions and give them our full attention, we are empowered to move forward.

At Buffalo Mountain Camp there a flat field, the flattest part of the whole mountain.  Many a field game has been played there.  Currently, it is full of stones from the creek.  The flood waters carried them there.  I image that many a hand will help remove those stones.  Those stones will be our ebnezers.  They will remind us that God’s help comes. Each hand that is lent to the Camp and the Dry Creek community is evidence that divine aid can come through human efforts.  Embrace your sadness; lend a hand and watch God work in us, around us and through us.  Our ebnezer will be the stories of God’s help as a new camp, restored homes and a stronger community emerges.  Oh, the stories we will have to tell our children!—