I haven’t thought about Luke Haynie in a long time. This story takes me back to Luke and the Summer of 1999.
There they stand on top of the power pole—Luke and Rory Haynie. As they stand on top of the 30-foot-high pole, their arms are around each other as they prepare to jump. I’m down on the ground holding one of their safety ropes. It is truly a Kodak moment because of how special these two guys are.
I first met Luke Haynie in March. He was sitting, waiting for me outside the student center at Louisiana College. I was to interview him for a summer counselor’s position. He sat there on a bench—a big strong boy with a baseball cap and an easy smile. I walked up to him and spoke. He smiled and said, “You’re Curt Iles from Dry Creek, aren’t you?”
I said, “No, I’m Bill Smith, I’m here selling insurance.” Luke Haynie looked at me suspiciously and then I burst out laughing. There on that bench I began my love affair with this unique young man.
The next time I saw Luke was at our Spring Preteen Retreat. He had an unusual haircut which explained why he had the ball cap on two weeks earlier. His hair was highlighted in the style that many teens prefer—streaks of blond washed in.
But as Luke counseled the pre-teeners in that spring weekend, it was not his hair I noticed—it was his big heart. He is naturally friendly, kind, and lots of fun. We were excited to hire him for the summer.
When he shows up in June, he has changed his hairstyle—it’s even more radical than before. I have trouble in writing, explaining visual images, but let me try—I call it a “porcupine haircut.” His highlighted hair is combed back and sticks up in little tiny spikes.
In the mornings when Luke comes in, his hair often looks as if his finger was in a light switch. It sticks up all over . . . But Luke has my heart. He is a great counselor and a favorite of everyone. He wears a nametag that says, “My name in Luke. Ask me about Jesus.” He loves sharing his faith and does in a creative, cutting-edge way.
The only morning I can’t take the hair is the first morning of Boys Opportunity Camp. Luke has spiked it up with mousse. His hair stands up in about eight vertical spikes. He looks like the Statue of Liberty. I do a poor job of explaining how this style will be a distraction to the boys. Luke obediently, but reluctantly, goes back to the dorm and combs it down.
Week after week Luke is used by God in cabin 2. On the weekends he goes to several of our country churches to preach. I’d like to be a bug on the wall when he went in with that hair. I can just see those redneck men when they first see Luke’s hair. However, I hear good reports from each church on what a blessing he is.
As we near the end of the summer, Luke asks me if his brother, Rory, can be squeezed into Back to School Youth Camp. Luke is burdened about some poor decisions Rory has made recently and feels that a week at camp is just what his younger brother needs. Luke prays fervently with me about his brother’s spiritual needs.
Rory’s mom brings him over from Carthage, Texas, on the second day of camp. Now Rory doesn’t have porcupine hair. He has dyed his dark hair blond. It is a unique style just as bizarre in its own way as Luke’s. We place Rory in Luke’s cabin. As I observe throughout the week, it is evident he is having a great time.
On Thursday afternoon is when these two brothers come to the Power Pole. This event on our outdoor challenge course is the ultimate event. It is a scary event that will shake the knees of the stoutest camper. It is a thirty-foot-high pole with climbing staples leading up. The top is a small platform just big enough for two people to stand on. A trapeze is suspended seven feet out front. The object is for both partners to simultaneously jump together to catch the trapeze bar.
Now it goes without saying that the jumpers are hooked to safety harnesses manned by us on the ground. But when you are standing on a swaying pole, thirty feet in the air, no harness or rope gives you enough security. The power pole has another name—“The pamper pole.” I bet you can easily figure out how it got its name!
How special it was to see Luke and Rory up there together. Luke had climbed first and then helped Rory up. It was a wonderful picture of the encouragement Luke had given his brother spiritually.
So arm in arm they stand there. They are talking in each other’s ears. I’d like to hear what they are saying. Then they yell out “1…2…3… jump!” and with a hoarse scream they launch out together to the trapeze.
God did a real fresh work in Rory’s life during this week of youth camp. At the end of the week, Luke came to me, “Bro. Curt, would it be possible for Rory to stay next week and help me as a counselor in cabin 2?” When I looked in Luke’s eyes, I knew it would be wrong to say no.
So at our last week of camp, Luke and Rory were together as Preteen counselors. Once again I was astounded that when God gets in control of a person’s life, dramatic changes occur. Rory was not the same guy who’d arrived last week. There was a light in his eyes and purpose in what he did.
On the last night of services, I slip into the gym where campers are being counseled on personal decisions they’ve made. I call this area the “spiritual maternity ward.” Sometimes when I lose focus on what camp is about, I go back to the gym to watch new births taking place.
And tonight is no exception. All over the gym in chairs and on pews, counselors are listening to campers. But it’s over on the ping pong table my attention is riveted. There sitting with a camper are Luke and Rory, one on each side. They are sharing the gospel.
And suddenly it doesn’t matter to me that one has porcupine hair and the other is a peroxide blonde. All I see are two brothers—two brothers who’ve found the common bond that holds brothers together—the love of Jesus Christ.
From the Curt Iles book, Stories from the Creekbank.
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