In the early 1920's a young, fervent couple purposed to use all that they had to serve the Lord. They didn't have much in the way of worldly goods, but they did have a small cottage where they had honeymooned in Bellingham, WA. It had been abandoned for many years, but they decided to commit it to His service and through circumstances only He can accomplish, it became a retreat for weary missionaries home on furlough. Bible studies began to be held there which grew in number and lives were changed in dramatic ways.
As the years passed, the ministries of The Firs expanded and increased and eventually it became a conference center providing biblical retreats and camps for adults, teens and young children. During the past 20 or so years our family has participated in the family camps during the summer at the conference center. We were privileged to sit under the extraordinary teaching of such gifted people as Walter Kaiser, Paul Brand, John Stott, Ron Allen, Phillip Keller and Calvin Miller.
In addition to great teaching, we have met exemplary saints through the years and have enjoyed enduring friendships, we we renewed each summer when we would all meet up again at one of the retreats. We fondly remember Canadians Leroy and Mary Gauger and the delightful sisters, Anne and Sue Neufeld, who are now enjoying sweet fellowship with their Savior. We met out very dear friend Mauri Macy at one of the earliest conferences. Mauri was leading the worship music for the week. His dulcet voice, his command of a multitude of musical instruments and his insightful lyrics would instantly transport us out of ourselves and into the presence of the Lord. It was Mauri who reintroduced me to the song noted in the title of this post. It was a song I grew up with and hadn't heard in years and years. One night Mauri sat with us at dinner and told us he was from Newberg, OR. "Where is that?", we asked. Little did we know how that connection would develop as years later Jess chose to attend George Fox University in Newberg. We always looked forward to the week Mauri and his family would attend the conference center so we could catch up on their lives. Several years later we had the joy of meeting Sherry, his then new bride, and the circle grew bigger and richer. When we visit with Jess in Newberg, Mauri and Sherry graciously host us!
Sadly, there are no longer family camps during the summer, but the senior conference still takes place each fall and is always full to the brim with dear old saints who have faithfully followed the Lord throughout their lives and into their twilight years. There isn't much they have not experienced and weathered in their walks with God and their stories are precious to us and always leave us in awe and a bit appreshensive about our ability to fill their shoes once they are gone!
We were delighted this year to see Ralph Hunziker again! We had lost touch with him over the past 8 years or so, so it was heartwarming to see his smiling face and to catch up.
And over the past few years we have become acquainted with Don and Josie Vanderlaan. Don's lungs were badly damaged in an industrial accident many years ago. His every move requires great exertion as he must carry his oxygen with him everywhere. His spirit is undamaged, however, and his irrepressible optimism, gracious manner and thankful heart never cease to amaze me. He always has a word of cheer and a smile for anyone who crosses his path.
How blessed we are to stand on such mighty shoulders. With the Lord's help, may we rise to the challenge!