A teen myself, I thought I was grown when I said, “Yes”, to marrying my groom. I walked the aisle at age 18 and woke up the next morning, on my birthday, a 19 year old woman. Married the end of May, just three short weeks later, we arrived at Camp Roman Nose in Oklahoma.
My husband answered his call to the ministry at age 15 and began working as a youth leader among his peers in his home church. He first traveled to Oklahoma to preach this particular church sponsored camp when he was still a teen himself. So at the ripe old age of 21, he had experience in spades compared to me.
We shared a private cabin in the woods at camp Roman Nose. Sounds romantic, huh? Not exactly. The A-frame cabin housed about ten bunk beds along the two side walls. A window on one end and a door on the other, there was no a/c and no bathroom. We took all of the mattresses off of the bunks and stacked them in the middle of the room to build our own queen-sized bed. There was a dirt path to the haydite block building that housed the showers and toilets. A large multi-purpose building housed the kitchen, dining, and chapel area. Instantly submerged into ministry, I watched others and acted from my own camp experiences from my childhood, just the summer before.
We remained active in youth ministry for the next 15 years. Actually, Samuel has continued to minister at youth camps, even this current summer. Weekly youth services and multiple activities filled our lives. Amusement parks, water parks, camps, mission trips, days at the park, combing the neighborhood passing out flyers, productions, and more taught us life lessons and an appreciation for laborers. The stories are endless, and each experience offered an opportunity for learning.
The carbonated soda lesson:
One summer we took the youth to a water park in Shreveport, LA. It was less expensive and less crowded than Hurricane Harbor, so we could enjoy the day with shorter lines. Also, our admission tickets included lunch: a burger, fries, and soda. We stayed from opening to closing ensuring our money’s worth. My husband, my sister-in-law, Debbie, and I were the adult sponsors on the trip. We had one old, church van and one car-load of teens.
One of the boys had complained he wasn’t feeling well, and we chalked it up to too much sun. My sister-in-law had already refereed in a disagreement between our niece and her best friend, and we knew it was past time to head home.
Samuel lead in the church van, and we followed in the car. Suddenly, the van pulled to the side of the road. The boy who felt ill was having chest pains, shaking violently, and having difficulty breathing. This boy had an over-protective father, and the knowledge of this worried us even more. We were in uncharted territory and unsure what to do. We grabbed a sprite for him to drink, but he just couldn’t keep it down, so we drove to the nearest city with a tiny hospital and admitted him to the ER.
All of us were tired, sun burned, and hungry. We filled the small lobby. It took a couple of extra hours, but the diagnosis was simple: he was dehydrated. (You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh,” but for us, 17 years ago, it was a first.) The boy had drunk no water the entire day, only soft drinks. The doctor informed us that carbonated drinks actually cause you to dehydrate faster. The carbonation basically sucks the fluid from you. These kids needed water and Gatorade!
Ever since that scary experience, we stress water to our young people. We often buy bottled water and take coolers with us. It was a lesson I will never forget.