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At the E.R.

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We’re featuring Summer Camp stories from our first book, Stories from the Creekbank.

Today’s chapter is a sober story from an unforgettable summer filled with joy and tragedy.

At the E.R.

Tuesday, July 20

The local emergency room is a place every camp manager dreads to go. Many times my perfect day is interrupted with a call on the radio, “Bro. Curt, this is Nurse Judy. I need to see you in the First Aid building.”

When I hear that, I know there is a good chance we are going to Beauregard Memorial Hospital, twenty-five miles away in DeRidder. Normally, it’s just a couple of stitches. Sometimes it is a possible fracture. No matter how careful we are, with more than twelve thousand people per year coming to play, swim, canoe, climb, run, and be together, accidents will happen.

And my trips to the E.R. often allow me to get to know campers better. My first trip as manager was during R.A. Camp in 1993. Aaron Stanley, an R.A. camper from Singer, got clobbered on the back swing with a putter. Our trip together to DeRidder resulted in four stitches and a lasting friendship. Aaron is now an older teenager. When I see him at camp, it is always a pleasure to see how he has grown.

But as I stand in the emergency room on Tuesday, July 20, I’m not here for stitches or x-rays. I’ve followed an ambulance into town carrying Mr. Bill Harrod. During the drive here, the realization has hit me that Mr. Bill is dead, probably the victim of a heart attack. They had called me on the radio for an emergency in dorm 4. The boys there couldn’t rouse Mr. Bill for breakfast. We did all we could do until the paramedics arrived. The hardest part was then going out to his campers sitting in the pavilion. Their stares told me more than any words could tell. I’m sure my look conveyed to them the seriousness of this.

I had enjoyed watching Mr. Bill and his boys from Fullerton Baptist Church on Monday. During the evening service they stood in the back of the Tabernacle singing and following the motions to the songs. Mr. Bill, who was a robust man, stood tall above his group of nine- through twelve-year-olds.

But now these boys all sit quietly on the pews in the pavilion. Andy, their staff counselor points out Eric to me. He is Mr. Bill’s grandson. I don’t know what to say to Eric, but just hug him up and sit by him. If there is anything I’ve learned this summer, it is that words are inadequate, but just being there is priceless.

And inadequacy is what I feel now as I stand in the E.R. waiting room with Judy, Mr. Bill’s wife. The shock of this sudden event permeates the entire room where many of his family members have gathered. I don’t know what to say to this sweet woman whose world has just crashed down. So I simply say the words we can always share, “I care and I’m praying for you.”

There was a time in my life when I said, “Well, all I can do is pray for you.” But God has taught me that praying for folks in times of tribulation is the most important thing we can do. I recently read a quotation attributed to Vance Havener:

“We often think prayer is preparation for the main thing. But we need to learn that prayer is the main thing.”

Eric, the grandson, sits quietly in the Emergency room. There is just something special about this young man that even this sad time cannot hide. He has a shy smile and a kindness about him that both my wife, DeDe, and I notice immediately.

Finally, when there is nothing more to do, I leave to go back to the camp. A heaviness and complete exhaustion hangs over me. On the drive home, I recall a quote by Mother Theresa,

“I know God will not put on me more than I can bear. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”

I know God gives us grace to handle whatever comes our way. God has proven Himself faithful in this manner over and over again this summer. However, I’m beginning to wonder what’s next . . .

I return to camp to deal with the many issues that have come up on this sad day. We are so blessed with how everyone pitches in and helps. Dr. Sam Williams, a Christian psychologist from Lake Charles, cancels his afternoon appointments to come be with our campers and counselors. We see campers open to the gospel because of the day’s events. As always, Romans 8:28 proves true as God weaves victory through the events of today.

The next day as I walk down the camp road, there is Eric. He comes up to me with the special, quiet smile he has. Without my asking, he says, “I decided to come back to camp. It’s what my grandpa would have wanted me to do.”

With that said, he turns and runs off to join dorm 4 on some activity. And Eric leaves me to stand and ponder the wonderful grace of God. How He stands by us not just during the joys of life, but holds us close during the trials and troubles that come to us all.

For all things work together for good for those who love God. . . (Romans 8:28)

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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