Sojourn: Central Florida Bible Camp, Eustis FL

“They say the happiest place on earth is Disneyland. They’re wrong, it’s camp.”               – #campconfessions

Lil Jan and I had the opportunity to “winter” in Central Florida, doing two sojourns and a sojourn workshop while staying at Central Florida Bible Camp (CFBC) near Eustis, Florida. We had high hopes for our first sojourn and the experience did not disappoint. We’ll tell you about the CFBC sojourn first, and save the workshop and second sojourn for a future post.

Zip Line Descends Over Campus
Zip Line Descends Over Campus

Central Florida Bible Camp has a compelling mission. It “ministers to enhance spiritual growth in individuals and families, throughout their lives, in a setting that is experiential, close to nature, includes Biblically sound principles, and is enriched with Fun, Friends, and Faith.” It’s a beautiful 100-acre campus with outlets for fun in every direction. Campers take advantage of air-conditioned cabins, a massive zip line (at one time, the longest in the state of Florida), a giant swing, leap of faith, paintball, ropes course, swimming pool, disc golf, human foosball pit, and a giant covered pavilion with basketball court.

Sojourners on a Mission
Sojourners on a Mission
Zip Line Launch Pad
Zip Line Launch Pad

Our 50-person Sojourner team arrived in RVs from all over the country with a mission to do whatever we could to help CFBC accomplish its mission. Lil Jan’s assigned duties included pressure washing all over campus, cleaning boys and girls cabins, scrubbing down the chairs and tables in the kitchen, and a little painting in the office. I worked with a team laying wood and ceramic tile floors in the office (10 rooms) and also helped cut, haul, and stack firewood used for camp bonfires. Other team members constructed an equipment shed, repaired and installed electrical outlets, built a carport for a tractor and hay wagon, cleaned gutters and roofs, made curtains, trimmed and picked up limbs and hedges, cleaned A/C coils and ceiling fans, removed a tree, painted the office, removed and replaced several toilets and faucets, etc.

Under Pressure
Under Pressure
Laying Floor
Laying Floor

The work was tiring, fun, and rewarding. Even more rewarding were the experiences we had meeting new sojourners and spending time with them on evenings and weekends. Highlights included…

  • Hanging out with Denton and Beth Wiggains. Spend a few days with this fun-loving couple and you’ll feel like you’ve known them all your life. Together, we enjoyed several movies, meals, and worship services. Really terrific people…much like all the others on this sojourn.
Pigging out w/ the Wiggains and other Sojourners
Pigging out w/ the Wiggains and other Sojourners
  • Taking in two Mount Dora Christian Academy basketball games, including one with sojourners Jerry and Dorothy Escue and Dr. James Moore, the MDCA President. The team completed the school’s first-ever undefeated season, but then lost in the playoffs in a thrilling, exhausting 4-overtime slugfest.
Mark Gordon throwing it down for MDCA
Mark Gordon throwing it down for MDCA
  • Game nights featuring multiple rounds of Hand & Foot and a new game we learned called Pegs & Jokers. If you’ve wondered if competitive card-playing couples mellow as they get older, I can assure you they do not.
There's a Stirring Deep Within Me
There’s a Stirring Deep Within Me
Get a Longer Shirt...I Know
Get a Longer Shirt…I Know
  • The trash talking and banter between members of the floor-laying crew. For example, as I was on all fours “precision measuring” the wood flooring, Durley McLarty (father of Harding University President, Dr. Bruce McLarty) would lean over me and say things like, “If you had measured that correctly, we’d be done by now” and “If you don’t pull down the back of your shirt, we’re going to move you over to the plumbing team.” He kept our crew laughing the entire day and it didn’t feel like work.
Bringin' the Lumber
Bringin’ the Lumber
Checking on Lil Cleaner
Checking on Lil Cleaner
  • I had the opportunity to present two devotional talks about my upcoming attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. My fellow sojourners were very supportive of my plans, and seemed fascinated that one of their own was going to try such a crazy under-taking. One of them (Maureen) even offered to let us stay at a friend’s cabin near Blue Ridge, GA for a couple of nights before I start my trek. We plan to take her up on her gracious offer.
Training Partner, Ocala National Forest
Training Partner, Ocala National Forest
St Francis Trail, Ocala National Forest
St Francis Trail, Ocala National Forest

As my date to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail drew near, I went on almost daily training hikes around the wooded and hilly campus. Janet and I also did a 7-mile hike on the muddy Saint Francis Trail in the beautiful Ocala National Forest. She was happy to join me on this training hike, but reminded me that she is also happy to not have to attempt the AT hike with me.

The Townsends...Nearly 30-year-long friends
The Townsends…Nearly 30-year-long friends
The Leasures...Still Crazy After All These Years
The Leasures…Still Crazy After All These Years

As luck would have it, two long-time friends happened to be visiting nearby Orlando during our sojourn. On one occasion, we headed to the Fort Wilderness Campground near Disney World and had dinner with Kevin and Dana Townsend and family. We became friends with Kevin and Dana while assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma in the late-80s. Janet and Dana both had their first children there, and even predicted our kids would marry some day. While our children grew up and left the nest, Kevin and Dana continued having children and are projected to be empty nesters around age 70. On another occasion we headed to Orlando to visit Chuck and Jana Leasure, friends from our time in Virginia. It was great catching up with them, and it’s always great when you see just really cool, fun, faithful people remain that way when you meet up with them years later.

Women of Faith!
Women of Faith!

During one of our weekends, we returned to our old stomping grounds of Brandon, Florida. From there, Lil Jan traveled with three of her friends to attend the Women of Faith conference in Atlanta, Georgia. For her 50th birthday, I surprised her with the tickets for her and her buddies. She said the conference was wonderful and uplifting with great singing, comedy and even a few tears. They enjoyed catching up with each other’s lives and having some good, quality “girl-bonding” time!

Lil Pace Setter
Lil Pace Setter

And Finally…“The Talk”

When we arrived in Brandon so Janet could go on her ladies weekend in Atlanta, our friend, Jaye Trovillion, was kind enough to let us stay at her house for the night. Upon arrival, Sam, her really cool, 81-year-old father, offered to give me a tour of the 160-acre ranch. Sam is a really interesting fellow and entreprenurial type who has done all sorts of interesting things, like running golf courses, owning restaurants and telephone/telecommunications companies, and raising cattle. He’s the only guy I’ve known who has had 15 head of cattle killed in a lightning strike…a story you can read about here… http://www.tbo.com/brandon/lightning-kills–head-of-cattle-in-lithia-78182

Charlie...El Jeffe
Charlie…El Jeffe

We got in his pickup truck and he drove me all over the ranch, explaining the layout, facilities, farming equipment, and cattle operations in general. As a person who has spent 50 years in mostly suburban settings, I was taking it all in and learning a lot.

He had me open a gate and we drove onto a sprawling pasture and through a herd of cows. They seemed to recognize him and his truck and were unfazed. We came to a stop and he put the truck in neutral. That’s when, after nearly 50 years of living and fathering two children, I finally got “the talk”. Yes, THE talk…the one that would have been nice to hear when I was 13 or at least before my wedding night. It’s not how I imagined it happening…in the middle of a pasture, with an 81-year-old man I had just met, parked in a pickup truck surrounded by cows. The talk went something like this…

Sam: This farm is all about breeding.  Are you familiar with that?

Big Steve (hesitates):  Breeding?  No, not really. Well…yes and no. I’ve done some…myself.  But not with cows.

Sam:  I hope not.

{a few seconds of awkward silence}

Sam: Recognize the big one over there? That’s the bull.

Big Steve: So he’s in charge?

Sam: You could say that. He services all the rest of them.

Big Steve: The rest are the women?

Sam: We call them heifers…or cows when they get older.  We’ve got 55 of them split up into two pastures, each with a bull.

Big Steve: So that one bull services all 25 heifers?

Sam: That’s his job…to eat and to service heifers.

Big Steve: He’s like a fat Charlie Sheen.

Sam: I suppose.

Big Steve: That’s a lot of heifers for one bull. When does he service them?

Sam (looks me in the eye, and his voice starts to sound like the guy in the Dos Equis commercials): When they are ready…they’ll let him know.

Big Steve: Like with a wink and a nod?

Sam: Not exactly. When the heifers go into heat, they emit an odor.

Big Steve: Like the odor when you drive by a Five Guys? I love that smell.

Sam: Not exactly.

Sam : In addition to the odor, when the heifers are ready, they will start to mount each other.

Big Steve (breaks eye contact and looks out the window): We should probably be getting back now. I bet lunch is ready.

Sam: Okay.

As Sam put the truck in gear, I took a final picture of the Bull (who I secretly named “Charlie”), and we drove back across the pasture. It had been a wonderful ranch tour and a magically bonding moment. I had finally received The Talk, and I felt like a veil had been removed from my eyes. My world would never be the same again.

Big Steve

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