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Ron Bartlow, Director of Camping and Retreat Ministries

I was witness to an incredible image not too long ago, akin to the words of Hebrews 12:

“So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2a, CEB)

I was visiting one of our churches in Nevada when it occurred, and to give context for what I saw, let me share about both my visits that morning. (This was the first weekend I had visited churches in my new role as our Director of Camping and Retreat Ministries.)

First, at Green Valley UMC during a moment of witness I shared about the impact that an invitation from Shirley (Ramsey) Wells, then a diaconal minister at Dayspring UMC, had on my life. I was just entering high school at the time when Shirley saw something in my interactions with the youth of our church. Shirley’s invitation to serve as a Cabin Assistant opened new doors in my spiritual journey with Christ. That week of camp began the process, broadening my vision of the church, from my myopic view of our local UMYF to the inspiring visage of our United Methodist Church and its impact worldwide. It initiated within my heart and soul receptiveness to hearing a calling from God to go into vocational ministry.

Later that morning I was blessed to attend worship at First Henderson UMC, where the church was celebrating Confirmation Sunday, welcoming nine youth into the Church. It was during that celebrative worship that we bore witness to an inspiring visual metaphor of the Church.

Rev. Jim Robinson invited nine confirmands and two adults joining the church that morning, to come forward. Then he invited their families and sponsors or prayer partners in the church to come and stand with them. Almost half of the crowded sanctuary went and stood behind the youth and adults, making their commitment and confession in Christ.

It immediately occurred to me that this! this is the Church! It is all those who stand behind, beside, and before us, who join with us in different ways and at different times of our spiritual journey toward salvation and wholeness in Jesus Christ.

I am pleased to be a part of the Church who nurtures and encourages children, youth, and adults in Queen Creek, Las Vegas, and beyond, throughout our desert southwest and out into the world. I am grateful for the Shirleys in my life as well as the Bobs, Freds, Carolyns, Sharons, Kathys, Michaels, and many, many more who have mentored me as a disciple of Christ. And I am blessed to be invited for a season to be part of the team creating and overseeing our conference camping and retreat ministry. Not only have I personally born witness to the impact camping can have on a life, but I was pulled aside by a mother at Green Valley just this weekend, who raved about how Potosi’s “Counselors 4 Christ” program has made such a positive impact on her daughter’s life!

May God bless us as we all stand before, beside, and behind one another in the wondrous body that is the Church of Jesus Christ!

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