The Angel and a Dog Named Skunk!

CNC-2 icyocincinnati_orgJennifer, Julia and I were once leaders in a summer camp called Sugar Creek Camp. Just the name sounds good, doesn’t it!

Sugar Creek Camp was held at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Conference Center near Marshall, Indiana, not far from a state park named Turkey Run State Park. Often, we would take the children to the state park for horse rides, games, water fun, and hiking.

rocky_hollow2 turkeyrunstatepark_comHiking was especially fun because Turkey Run State Park is full of deep, dark ravines (deep, narrow valleys with steep sides) and trickling streams of cold water. The Park Rangers had marked the trails well. There were easy trails and hard trails, and trails not so hard or easy.

One day it was my job to help a group of about 15 children that had special things about them that made it difficult for them to keep up with other children. Some of them couldn’t walk as well, others couldn’t see as well, and others just couldn’t figure out how to stay on a trail. So, another adult counselor, a teen helper, and I decided we would take them on a short, easy trail.[1]

We started out happily, and everything was going well until I noticed that the trail wasn’t so easy anymore. And then, my helpers noticed that we were lost. I agreed, thinking that I wasn’t sure where we were, or how we got there, or how we were going get back. The children weren’t unhappy because they trusted us as leaders and were glad for the adventure. But it was getting more and more difficult to walk the trail.

maxresdefault hiking turkey run sstate parkWe guessed that we should go down a ravine that had 40-foot-high cliffs on either side but seemed to have smooth walking on the bottom, hoping that we would run across a trail we recognized.

As we started down the ravine a young man and a small black dog walked by, going in the direction from which we had come. We said “hello!” And he smiled at us and said “hi” to us too.

For about 10 minutes, we kept walking down the ravine, when all of a sudden, there was that young man and his dog coming to meet us again. We were so surprised because there didn’t seem to be any way he could have done that. When we first saw him, he wasn’t walking in the same direction we were. And besides, there were those 40-foot-high cliffs!

You know what he said to us? He said, “Don’t go any further up this ravine.” “Why?” we asked. He said, “There is water running over the rocks and the children won’t be able to get across. Besides, it won’t take you to a trail that will lead you out.” I said, “How did you know we were lost?” He said with a smile, “It’s kind of obvious.”

skunkAbout this time, I noticed that the children were playing with his black dog, so I asked him, “What’s your dog’s name?” He said, “Skunk.” “What?” I asked, surprised. “Yeah, he’s black like a skunk, so I named him skunk,” he explained. We all laughed.

The young man then gave us instructions. He said, “Turn around and go back the way you came, when you come back to where you first saw me, turn right, and that path will lead you to the trail out of these ravines.” We did what he said, and because we were traveling much slower, he walked on ahead and disappeared out of our sight.

Turkey Run State Park - Trail 3 Lower LaddersWhen we were on the trail that we knew, we grew concerned again. We knew we were coming to a place that you had to go down two 8-foot ladders – from one rock ledge to another. We didn’t know how we were going to that, because the children we had with us normally weren’t able to do that kind of thing, especially without getting very fearful. Plus, we had too many children and not enough helpers. What were we going to do?

ladders-on-trail-3 tripadvisor_comWhen we got to the edge of the rocks and looked over the edge of the ladders, who do you suppose we saw? That’s right! The man with the dog named Skunk!

That young man knew we were afraid to take the children down the ladders, but he said he would help. So, he stood at the bottom of one of the ladders and I stood at the bottom of the other, and soon we had the children all down those ladders. Not one of them became afraid, and besides as they waited their turn, they had that wonderful little dog to play with.

As we walked back to the parking lot, we began to praise the Lord Jesus.

mtt-lab-chow-spitz pinterestFirst, because He had sent a helper to help us (we thought maybe even an angel [2]), and secondly, because He loved and cared for each of these children with some physical or mental difficulty that He would even send a little dog to give them happiness on their long adventure.

God loves each of us so much, surprising us with good, joy-filled moments even when we feel frightened or discouraged. Moreover, God treats each of us fairly, and He wants us to do the same. He doesn’t want us to treat others that don’t have as much as we do, or can’t give as much as we can, as any less special than the person who can do the most or give the most.

David Ewert

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 (ESV)

[1] turkey run journeyofredisovery_wordpress (2)Trail #6 -This moderate 0.5-mile trail is a short hike where the turkeys once roosted on the ledges. It forms a loop, starting at the Turkey Run Inn, going around Lieber Cabin, along Turkey Run Hollow, and around Overlook Cabin and the Inn Cabins, ending at the road to the Inn.

[2] “Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” Hebrews 1:14 (NLT)





Surprised in NYC

firefighterThe September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City rattled the entire country. The question for Oregon was how we could help, and the response was nearly 9,000 volunteers traveling to New York, many if not most under the auspices of the Red Cross Disaster Relief national effort.

That Red Cross effort took me to the city about a week after the attacks to join others alongside “Ground Zero” at what had been the Marriott Financial Center.  We provided respite relief to recovery workers, police officers and fire personnel working desperately to recover bodies from that deep, awful pile, to secure the area from further injuries, and to begin a massive cleanup operation.  My job on the graveyard shift was to help oversee a kitchen serving donated food brought in from some of the top chefs and restaurants in the city. The supporting staff was made up of volunteers gathered in from all over, and very few were trained in Red Cross mass care procedures.

It was stressful.

After a couple weeks and after a long night of work, a fellow Red Cross staff member from Georgia and myself set out one Sunday morning in search of spiritual refreshment at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. The church is an evangelical, non-denominational megachurch  known for being a light house to its community and a source of vibrant, “real” Christianity to all who stop by. My friend and I had the address, we had become familiar with the subway system, and believed we would make it in time for the second of five services scheduled for the day.

But two hours later…

But two hours later, we were lost in the subways and beginning to feel really, really tired. Trudging down yet another flight of stairs to yet another platform, I suddenly had a brilliant idea. I turned to my friend and asked if it wasn’t time to ask our Heavenly Father for help – to get back to our hotel if not to the Brooklyn Tab. He agreed, and right there we leaned back against the wall out of the flow of traffic to bow our heads in prayer.

There is no pit so deepThe answer God sent was immediate, beautiful, and in itself a deep invigorating answer to our great need for realignment of our perspective on life and restoration of what was being broken within us.

As we stepped on to the platform, there in front of us and turning toward us was a beautiful, African-American woman. Unexpectedly she smiled at us, and immediately I felt courage to walk up to her seeking help out of our predicament. Her answer was amazing: “You want to go to the Brooklyn Tabernacle? That’s my church! I’m just now on the way home from there, but I’ll take you part of the way there so that you’re sure to get in on the afternoon service. We’re about an hour away, but I’m delighted to go back with you so that you can receive what God has for you today.”

“So that you can receive what God has for you today…”

As we rode with her toward Brooklyn, this amazing woman showed us pictures of her grandchildren and shared how God was helping her during the trying times that had come upon the city. Somehow or other, the weariness fell away and we found ourselves once again laughing as we stepped out of the subway system and into the service of her church.

David Ewert

For-since-the-world-began-ear-has-heard-and-no-eye-has-seen alightonmypath_com

Story of kneeling firefighter: The dramatic statue of a firefighter on bended knee is located at 43rd Street near the headquarters of Emigrant Savings Bank. The “Kneeling Fireman” is one of NYC’s 1st memorials to 9/11. New York Post said on 09/20/2001: “A bronze statue of an anguished firefighter was displayed in Midtown yesterday, causing passers-by to reflect, shed tears and pay respect to New York’s rescue heroes. The statue, which needs a permanent home, depicts a kneeling firefighter with his face buried in his right hand.”

THE HUG ─ A Car Story of God’s Amazing Grace

IMG_20190509_085643412Sunday, June 9, 2019

One morning in April our son-in-law Dirk called to say someone wanted to give us their deceased father’s car. We had prayed that God would give us a car, and once again he was moving beyond our wildest dreams to do precisely that. We were told we needed to wait, but the details were being worked out and the car would be ours soon. This was stunning news!

The man who had passed away was a dear friend in our church family whose daughter and her husband had asked Dirk and Jennifer over lunch if they knew of anyone they could bless with the car. Dirk said there was, and he mentioned us. Jennifer spoke of that as an exciting moment of recognition that God was once again moving to meet our needs.

IMG_20190415_093651838This dear couple had decided to pay off a large amount still owing on the car from the estate, amplifying the magnitude of the gift. And with mileage under 17,000, the fully equipped 2016 Honda CRV is like new and still carries a large resale value.

When I was invited out to the country to see the car, I was so overwhelmed with God’s gift that the car seemed too sacred for me even to get into it. And once again two weeks later when we met up with our friend’s daughter at the DMV to finalize the transaction, the sense of awe at God’s amazing, gracious love expressed through this couple came over us as we sat in the car for the first time and drove it home.

IMG_20190415_093017706_HDR“The Hug”

We have named the car The Hug. It is a picture to us of how utterly trustworthy God is, and that he has determined to provide for us as we trust in him. This past Wednesday we returned from a long road trip to Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota. What a tremendous blessing to be hugged all the way there and back!

When the Honda was promised we began to think about getting rid of the 2006 Kia Sedona van that has served us so well for these many years. With 220,000 miles on it, and increasing creaks and groans, it is no longer the car for a road trip like the one we just enjoyed in The Hug. IMG_20190609_104527872_HDR (2)But it does have miles left on it and we discovered that especially with our grandson Tobiah’s excellent detailing of the car, it is still worth approximately $1000-1,200. We wondered if we should try to sell the car, but then God began to impress on our hearts that we should simply give the car away if there was a need for it. Julia and I agreed that we could easily do that – especially considering The Hug.

Matt 18What surprised me as we prayerfully considered giving the van away was how often stories from the Gospels came to me about showing mercy, especially the stories found in Matthew 18:21-35 and Luke 7:40-50. There Jesus spoke of a generous mercy prompted by both the greater mercy shown us personally, and the love for Him now filling our hearts. Recently a loving neighbor told me she could not think of anyone more deserving of that new car in our driveway than us. And our postman, who is a fellow believer, said a workman is worthy of his wages. I know they both meant well and out of love were affirming the kind of people God is helping us to become. Yet, deep in my soul I remain deeply humbled by this gift and feel so unworthy to have received such an amazing hug from God.

The story grows BIG in God’s grace…

IMG_20190609_104610622_HDR~2Friday evening, we were privileged to have our grandsons for pizza and a movie. Afterward, we took them home to share some gifts we had collected on our vacation, traveling in The Hug through the Finger Lakes region. As we were leaving Dirk mentioned that we should think about Randy and Candice Strattman as a possibility for our van.

As Julia and I prayed about it, we were convinced that God was telling us to give the van to Randy and Candice, encouraging them to put any money they might give us into the van so that their family could be safe.Today, following the church service we met with the Strattmans in the church parking lot and were able to follow His voice. There it was our joy to pass on to them this van that has been such a wonderful vehicle for us over the years.

Jackson Strattman in SedonaWhat a blessing to witness the same joy on their faces over the van that we have experienced over the last couple of months regarding the Honda. We drew great pleasure from watching their son Jackson romp around inside the van, and to hear how they could all go together as a family in one vehicle to the outdoor movie theater. Randy used the same words I had used regarding The Hug when he said, “I don’t know how to say thanks.” Candice added on Facebook: “Words can’t even begin to express how grateful and blessed we are. These amazing wonderful people, after being blessed themselves, decided to pay it forward and GAVE us a van!!!!! No more taking two cars everywhere when we have the girls!”

God is so very generous with us, and now we have had the joy of showing his generous love to others. God be praised!

We know that God’s heart is blessed in this, and so we too are greatly blessed.

I mentioned earlier that on the day Dirk took me out to our deceased friend’s home to see The Hug for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sense of sacredness in the gift of the Honda. First, it was being given to us because our dear brother had gone home to the Lord – a sacred moment in itself. Second, it was such an amazing demonstration of God’s provision in answer to prayer!

I said to the three with me standing around The Hug, I felt like David when three mighty men brought him a drink of water from the well in Bethlehem, during a time when they were battling Philistines (2 Samuel 23:15-17). David was so overcome by the sacredness of the gift that he wouldn’t drink the water but poured it out as a sacrifice to the Lord. The response from the three with me was to laugh and say they hoped we would not pour out the gift on the ground. I smiled too, but now believe God has indeed allowed us to pour out that gift as an offering to him by freely giving our beloved van to others.

David Ewert