He’s No Bullwinkle
It was July 19, 2008. Tomorrow we would leave for camp, but today was set aside for final preparations. I was crossing every “t, dotting every “i,” and finishing all of those simple, final details that come up before a trip when the phone rang… less than 24 hours before a group of senior high youth set out for a week of ministry in Ecuador I got a call that would radically change not only my next day or week, but the next month.
Camps are a passion for me. I grew up in a family of “Fuge” camps sponsored by Lifeway Christian Resources, and I worked for several summers at a missions and ministry camp called “M-Fuge”. My final summer on staff was with “M-Fuge International” where I worked at the same camp that our youth were headed to. This is why my phone rang. There was a rare meltdown situation with the camp pastor in Ecuador and the coordinators needed someone they could count on to preach for the week. I was already heading their direction, so they called on me. With that call I began desperately preparing a week’s worth of first-class sermons. Actually, let’s be honest, on 24-hour-notice, I was desperately trying to gather materials for a week of decent/good sermons.
Some of my sculptures happened at that camp in Ecuador, but this isn’t the story of one of those sculptures. As fortune would have it, the M-fuge team had a week off after our week in Ecuador before transitioning to St. Lawrence College in Canada for the final few weeks of camp. I was able to join them for one week in Canada after filling in as camp pastor for the last week in Ecuador. This break gave me an opportunity to dramatically improve my sermons and it opened the door for a moose sculpture along the shore of Lake Ontario—we were on a campus less than a mile from the water. Keep in mind, I was working a camp and it had to be my first priority. I was wholly focused on the campers and my sermons until my final sermon was done, but I packed all the balloons I needed for the moose. Once the last sermon was finished, I set to work.
I started sculpting the moose around 11:00 PM on July 10th, knowing it would not be a fast sculpture. The head involved a rather slow balloon weaving technique, and I was trying to make the sculpture realistically large. Adding to the challenge, my body started itching as the evening wore on and I began wondering if I’d developed an allergy to my favorite hobby. Fortunately, I later remembered getting some red paint on me at ministry site and realized that must be the culprit. I sculpted through the night. For the first few hours, I had company, but I was the only one awake in the final stages. I finally finished up around 5:00 AM, just in time to carry my moose the 3/4 of a mile to the shore. It was late enough in the morning, in fact, that a youth chaperon who was already awake and preparing to pack up his group offered to drive my moose to the water in their church van and helped me photograph for a while.
I managed to get a few serious balloon moose shots that I really liked, along with some silly shots in the van and in a nearby park that I thoroughly enjoyed. Then, I walked the 3/4 of a mile back to the campus with the giant balloon moose lofted above my head. I gave my sculpture to a departing camper and prepared my own things to catch my flight home. One of my absolute favorite balloon stories happened on my way back to Texas, but I will save that story for another post.