As requested by faithful reader and friend Mona Gibbs, here is my story, “The Ripple Effect.”
The Ripple Effect
From the book, Wind in the Pines by Curt Iles Copyright 2004 Creekbank Stories.
Do all the good you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
It was a wonderful day. The sixty-two members of our Dry Creek Camp family sat high in the upper deck near the left field foul pole at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. We had traveled as a group for a fun weekend as a way of saying thanks to our wonderful summer staff.
There’s nothing like walking into a major league ballpark. I love the scene from “The Rookie” where a team of high school players from West Texas enter the seating area at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Their look of awe as they stand there is exactly how I felt the first time I was in a major league stadium.
I still feel the same wonder entering Minute Maid Park as the first time I stood under the vastness of the Astrodome roof as a child. I’ve watched this same excited feeling of awe on the faces of my own boys for over twenty years.
About half of our group is seeing their first major league game. We settle in our seats up in the “nosebleed” section as the Astros and Chicago Cubs prepare to play. Most of our group is pulling for the Astros. A few Cubs fans are mixed in. Gary Wiley Ashworth, one of our staff leaders is loudly pulling for the Cubs, mainly to aggravate those of us who love the Astros.
The game begins and it is an exciting one to watch. There are home runs, exciting plays, and a good old fashioned fight where Jeff Kent of the Astros and his manager get tossed out. The manager, Jimmy Williams, follows up his ejection by kicking dirt on home plate, much to the delight of the crowd, especially our Dry Creek staffers
Midway through the game, an event occurs that is even more memorable than the home runs or excitement of the game. Some of our crew decides they need to start a wave. They get together and Thomas Bethke, our most extroverted staffer, decides to start the wave from his end row seat in the upper deck.
Minute Maid Park is not conducive to good waves. There are few seats in the outfield areas. Because of this it is hard to make a 360 degree circle of a crowd wave. Getting a wave with sustained momentum is next to impossible. But that doesn’t deter Thomas and our staffers. They begin to stand and yell as they raise their arms. Their first attempts barely make it out of our section.
Minute Maid Park
Home of the Houston Astros
Personally, I don’t care for waves. I’ve come to see a ballgame and don’t want a bunch of people standing up and hollering just as Jeff Bagwell steps to the plate. Even so, trying to be a good team player, I take part in the wave.
All sixty-two of our crew are now avidly taking part in the wave. Small groups of fans throughout the upper deck
stands take part.
After many attempts with only small success, I expect our wavers will give up and return to the game at hand. But I’ve underestimated our staffers: They are determined to have a good stadium-sweeping wave.
Now on each successive try, Thomas and our crew see momentum build on each wave. It’s mainly on the upper levels, but it does travel around about two thirds of the stadium. Our crew continues to start each wave off with enthusiasm and cheering.
The wave continues to grow and then, to our amazement, it makes its way completely around Minute Maid Park.
Thinking on it later I realize that this wave, in one way or another affected a crowd of 42,679. It was started by one person, our boy Thomas. He was then joined by those around him, and then others, until the entire crowd joined, and even those diehard fans (like me) who detest crowd waves still had to acknowledge that it was a fine wave.
And I thought about our ministry at Dry Creek Camp. What God does in the hearts of campers, especially teens, can have a ripple effect that can never be completely measured or predicted. At the camp we have a saying that describes the ripple effect of our camp ministry:
Only Heaven will reveal the lives that have been changed, by the lives that have been changed, by the lives that have been changed by the Lord at Dry Creek.
When God starts a good work, He continues it and finishes it. Each life changed by His love bumps against, and intersects with other lives. Just as when a rock is tossed into the water, the resulting ripples travels far and wide.
I saw a reminder of this “ripple effect” last year in China during a visit in the home of Chris and Annette Place. They are serving the Lord though the ministry of Hope Medical Center in Macau Province. Chris, a medical doctor, works with the residents of this Baptist clinic. Annette is busy with their six precious children (three Chinese and three Americans.) They live on the 31st floor of a huge towering apartment complex.
Sitting there with them, I recalled Annette’s years as a student at East Beauregard High School. She was one of my students. She was a wonderful learner and fun to teach. She came from a good country family. Her dad was our game warden and her mother worked at the school as a teacher’s aide.
…And here was this Sugartown girl serving God halfway around the world. As we visited, and what a special visit it was, Annette reminded me of two things. First of all she told me,
“Coach Iles, you probably don’t remember it, but my life was changed when I met Jesus at Dry Creek Camp as a camper.”
That thrilled me, but Annette wasn’t through, “A few years later as a youth camper, I first heard God’s call upon my life toward missions. And here I am today in China!”
Once again I could see that water ripple from a rock spreading all the way across a large body of water, in this case the vast Pacific Ocean.
It was an emotional moment as Annette shared this. I smiled through my tears and replied, “Well, Annette that decision sure brought you a long way from Sugartown and Dry Creek, didn’t it?”
A few months after this China trip, I talked to one of my camp manager friends in Texas. Eric Small is the manager of Piney Woods Baptist Encampment, a wonderful camp south of Lufkin. He told of encountering a young man in a Target store in College Station. This man was a cadet at Texas A & M. The student saw Eric’s camp shirt and inquired as to where he worked. After Eric finished telling about Piney Woods Camp, the student said, “Well, I met the Lord at a little camp over in Louisiana. You’ve probably never heard about it, but its name is Dry Creek.”
Once again, that ripple from a distant rock amazed me at how God works…and works and works.
The ripple effect doesn’t have to go across the Pacific Ocean, or even across the Sabine River to be effective. Part of our ministry at Dry Creek is to get out into the world right where we are. This neat story from the summer of 2003 illustrates this “stay at home” principle:
During the summer I don’t watch much television, so I didn’t see the news on this July weekend. But plenty of other folks saw this story on KPLC Channel 7. The news featured a story on a large drug bust in Lake Charles. Their main video of the arrests showed a big man being put in a squad car. You’ve seen enough detective TV shows to know how they carefully guide the head of the handcuffed suspect while they placed him in the back of the squad car. What everyone saw, and couldn’t wait to call me about, was that this handcuffed older man had on a bright blue Dry Creek Camp T-shirt.
At first this embarrassed me, and we were the butt of plenty of joking the rest of that week. Then I realized that the fact that this man had on a Dry Creek shirt meant that the gospel of Jesus had penetrated somehow into this man’s family. Jesus said it best in Luke 4:18:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (King James Version),
I’m sure this man’s son had attended one of our camps. It was a reminder that the ripples God starts will penetrate into areas we would never expect.
The following historical event helps illustrate the power of “the ripple effect”:
On August 27, 1883, one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in history took place on the island of Krakatoa, located near the Indonesian island of Java.
In one tremendous explosion the entire island was blown sky high and the world was never the same. What was so amazing about this eruption was the effects it had over the entire planet.
In his book, Krakatoa, Simon Winchester tells of the long term world-wide effects of this volcanic explosion.
… The shock wave from Krakatoa’s final cataclysmic explosion had traveled around the earth not once but seven times.
In the Ceylon town of Panama, 2000 miles away, a woman died when she was swept from the harbor rocks by an immense influx of water. This tidal wave was traveling at 370 mph.
In the harbor of Socoa, France, 10,729 nautical miles from Krakatoa, there were seven small waves that traveled up the English Channel, from this original wave in the Pacific.
The millions of tons of dust hurled into the upper air in the East Indies disseminated themselves around the world for many years and caused all manner of extraordinary phenomena- not the least of which were sunsets. These brilliant sunsets, caused by the dust particles blown out from Krakatoa, were the delight of viewers and landscape painters for up to two years.
The temperature of the earth was also cooled by the volcanic dust in the atmosphere. The haze resulted in a drop in temperature of one degree worldwide.
One single event in the vast Asian hemisphere affected conditions around the world.
Now, who knows what will happen when another “Annette,” or an “Andy”, attends camp this summer at Dry Creek. Maybe four or five days in the environment of camp will be the location of a life-changing, world-altering experience with Jesus.
A ripple, whether small or large,
that starts in Dry Creek,
and travels around the world
affecting an entire city, a vast nation,
or even the entire planet.
Don’t underestimate God..
And don’t underestimate what can happen when a young person personally experiences the love and power of God in their life.
It’s called the ripple effect…
Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
Copyright 2003 HarperCollins Publishers