You’ve been asking just for rain, demanding that He do things your way. What if He has a better idea?
Published on: 10-01-2019
You know it’s dry when dust puffs up above your shoes when you walk. By July, dust puffed halfway up our legs. No rain. No thunderstorms. No water in the springs. No water running into the storage tanks. Barely enough water to flush all the camp toilets three times. And 200 9-year-old summer campers were arriving on Sunday, just seven days away.
We prayed. All the camp staff begged God for rain, reminding God that Pine Springs Ranch was “His summer camp” and that the ministry we were doing here for the kids was “His ministry.” We prayed for a thunderstorm that would fill the lake without starting fires in the forest. We prayed for water from the sky, on any cloud He would choose. We prayed, certain that God was hearing and that His response would be rapid and powerful, a direct answer to our prayers.
Monday evening Mare Judson, our chief horse wrangler, came to camp with a friend who needed help boarding her horse for a few days. We accepted Cindy as a new staff member. She listened to our water prayers, amazed at our conviction, and wondering about the God who was not answering.
* * *
Tuesday we called a special camp council. “We have a bigger problem than dry ground,” our director said. “The Forest Service tells us that if we don’t have water—lots more water—we’ll have to cancel camp.”
That intensified our prayers and turned us into avid “cloud watchers.” Thursday we actually saw clouds. They arrived as white puffy wisps that floated over the mountain peaks, then disappeared into the shimmering heat of the summer sky.
No water. None.
By Friday we were thoroughly discouraged. Pine Springs Ranch is one of the “star” summer camps in the North American Seventh-day Adventist Church. Each summer a couple thousand children fill the dusty forest with joyful laughter and campfire songs. They ride horses, paddle canoes, shoot arrows, make new friends, and learn about God in the mountains above San Bernardino, California. This is “obviously” God’s camp, and He will make sure all goes well. Right? Wrong!
Our prayers had progressed from “please” to direct commands. We knew what God should do and demanded that He do it NOW!
Friday evening the director and I walked up beyond the boys camp to the giant water tanks nestled beneath the pines. Each tank held more than 10,000 gallons, and each tank was nearly dry. The pipes that fed clear cold water from the spring were hot. No water was flowing. Unless a miracle occurred soon, we were going to have to close the camp.
We told God it was time for a miracle, described the appropriate size of the thunderstorm, and even told Him which mountain it should come over.
Sabbath a counselor asked to speak before we began worship.
“I’m bothered by how we have been commanding God to do something, but have not been doing anything ourselves. We’ve been praying for rain, but if we get a big huge rainstorm the water will just drain down into the valley. It won’t flow into our lake or help with our water supply. We’ve got to put our own energy into this, do our own part, not just wait for God to send rain.”
Then he passed out shovels, hoes, and rakes, and showed us where to dig trenches, where to clear pine needles, and where to place mounds of dirt to dam up God’s coming rain. Church was canceled as we did “our part.”
* * *
As we toiled, God sent a thunderstorm! It was huge, a gray-and-white cumulous boomer that promised to fulfill our prayers. We shouted, hollered, praised God for His bounty, and celebrated each raindrop that fell. That didn’t take long, because we felt only about three drops before the clouds went away and the sky returned to the terrifying shimmering blue of a very dry summer day.
After sundown we met in the cafeteria, a sad group of counselors, archers, cooks, and leaders. Hope had washed from our hearts. We prayed. Poorly. We sang. Worse.
Then Cindy stood, walked slowly to the center of our pity-filled circle, and finally spoke.
“You guys make me sick. All week long you’ve been telling me about this wonderful God you serve; about how you can trust Him with your lives and everything; about how He’s going to send rain because He thinks this is the best summer camp on the planet. Now, when He pushes your faith to the limit by leaving you dry, you put on long faces and cry as if He’s forgotten you, left you alone out here on the mountain, abandoned you in the dust.”
We all stared silently, listening but not really feeling what Cindy was saying.
“If you really believe in your God, then quit whining about His choices. Get down on your knees and celebrate everything He’s doing for you. And by the way, you’ve been asking just for rain, demanding that He do things your way. What if He has a better idea? Now get out of here; go somewhere and pray for forgiveness.”
We went. Shredded in spirit. Repentance on our lips.
Later that night several of us were talking humbly near the dry creek that threaded through camp. Two of the counselors, Jack and Don, said good night, and headed up to the boys camp. Moments later we heard a scream that sounded like Jack was being attacked by a cougar.
I ran, others right behind me, Jack’s screams drawing us into his danger.
We found him standing beside a 10,000-gallon water tank, cold water pouring out the overflow and showering over Jack. The tank, which had been 98 percent empty just a couple hours before, was now full of God’s water. I took a brief shower, then slipped around to the intake pipe, the one that carries water from the spring into the tank. The steel pipe was hot, dry hot. Nothing was flowing into the tank.
That night, and for the rest of the summer, we served in awe of the springin the tank.
Water. Pure cold water. More than we needed. Sent His way.