Well . . . it was bound to happen! When you go to Winter Camp year after year sooner or later snow is going to be a problem. In my 25 years of being a youth pastor in Santa Barbara we have never missed a camp due to snow . . . until now. All week Southern California was facing a blitz of weather events. By Thursday before camp the roads to BIG BEAR mountain were clear. Friday morning the cold rain moved into Santa Barbara. I knew where it was heading . . . east and directly toward the mountains where it would turn to white stuff.
With a four day camp I chose to not leave until late afternoon so our adult leaders would only take one day off work. Leaving then would not put us at Pine Summit Conference Center until at least 10pm under the best of circumstances. When we left at 5pm the roads to BIG BEAR were clear and passable. By the time we got to Pasadena, 2 1/2 hours into the trip, we heard reports that chains were now required. We kept going with the hope the roads might be good by the time we arrived at the foot of the mountain. Finally we reached the decision point and the warning sign flashed, "Chains required in all mountain areas." Facing a 41 mile journey, 4 hour trip, with chains on a charter bus full of students on a cold, wind-swept night up two lane mountain roads forced a decision I didn't want to make but knew best to make: turn around.
Thankfully God had given me the wisdom earlier in the week to start preparing youth and parents of this possibility. When the possibility became a reality their response was as good as you could expect.
This one stop (at a McDonald's where I spent $89 on McFlurries and fries) 8 hour bus trip turned into a memory we will all remember for some time to come. It ended with our arrival in Santa Barbara at 1:45am and a sleepover on the church floor.
By 9:30am all youth had been safely deposited with their parents and I went home. I felt displaced and tired most of the weekend. For a few seconds I wondered about my decision. After all, many of the other 300 campers made it up there on Saturday around noon. I felt sad for our youth, our leaders and I knowing we were missing a great experience with God in His creation with His people but I also was affirmed many times by many people on a safe decision.
Later in the weekend God further affirmed the decision when another big storm came through closing the roads to BIG BEAR before camp had even ended. Even if we had gone Saturday we would have departed again on Sunday, just 24 hours later.
Just as God provided wisdom and safety I know He will provide another opportunity for coming together in His time. This ministry belongs to God!