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    I’m going to tell you three things about myself, and ask you which one is the hardest to believe.

    1. I’ve spent half a year sleeping out in the woods in all seasons, including a few nights at minus 15 degrees.

    2. I grew up living in a commune for a few years of my childhood.

    3. I have performed a variety of tricks on a flying trapeze and can ride a unicycle.

    Which one is toughest to believe? It’s the commune, right? I mean, who does that? It’s weird!

    Some of you know enough of my back story to know I spent several years guiding backpacking trips for groups, so 6 months sleeping outside makes sense. Or you may know that we had trapeze as a program activity here at Sandy Cove for 3 summers, (and still have a full circus program out at Camp Sandy Cove!) and naturally I would need to test it out. Quality control is important, after all!

    But yeah, in 1973 (the 70s—of course!) when I was 2 years-old, my parents moved to Erie, PA, to join a community of Catholic Charismatic Christians. There were maybe 400 people involved in this community at its peak, and besides holding some rip-roaring prayer meetings each weekend, they also operated a Christian school, which was a huge appeal to my Montessori trained father who came on board as a teacher. For several years, our family lived in “The House of Judah” which was a big Victorian brick house that the community owned and the teachers lived in.

    Single guys lived in the basement, single women on the 3rd floor (they mostly all ended up marrying each other—who could have seen that coming?), and families like ours tucked into areas on the 1st and 2nd floors. I believe there were 26 people total living in that house, taking turns cooking, sharing meals in the dining room, and riding around together in an enormous turquoise and white Dodge van. (It was the 70’s, remember?)

    Does this make me more qualified to share a few thoughts on the idea of community? Maybe not, but I am going to share anyway, and include some ways I see community in action at Sandy Cove.

    Community is messy - It always has been, and it always will be—because it involves people! We all bring our own baggage filled with expectations, past wounds, pet peeves, personality styles, and preferences. It is hard work to accommodate this baggage in others, and for them to put up with ours.

    Community is necessary - God is the one who said that living in isolation is not good, so I am not making this up. Even without becoming a hermit, we could be surrounded by people and still keep them at bay, refusing to engage. But then our baggage stays the same, and we become more deeply entrenched in our own viewpoint, ideas, and perspectives. God often uses other people to help unpack our own bags, showing us areas that He wants to change and heal.

    We actually put community in our mission statement at Sandy Cove as one of the things—along with God’s Word and His creation—that helps us be transformed to look more like Jesus. And yes, that can happen in ways we have already talked about—when God uses other people as “sandpaper” to smooth out our rough edges of self-centeredness and invites us to love our neighbor like He does.

    Community connects us with God and each other - There is another aspect to the “temporary community” that forms here—whenever someone says the words “me too.”

    “You ride a Harley? Me too!” “You grew up in Philly? Me too!” “Yeah, my husband is also deployed . . .” “I’ve had cancer myself, so I get it.” “We have a prodigal daughter too.” “You know you love each other, but can’t stop making each other crazy? Us too!” “You grew up in a commune? Me too!” (Ok, I’m still waiting for that one, but one of these days . . . )

    We find out we are not alone in our struggles, joys, or challenges; and we experience an empathic expression of the body that Jesus called us to be.

    God is with us—through His people—and it's a good thing.

    Nate Ransil
    Nate joined the Program department at Sandy Cove in 2003, and transitioned to director of that team in 2014. Nate graduated from Houghton College with a double major in Communication and Outdoor Recreation (yes, it is a thing) and got to know his wife Evelyn while co-leading backpacking trips for at-risk youth. Hopefully not as at-risk are their two sons, Caleb and TJ, who have spent all their summers at Sandy Cove, Camp Sandy Cove, and The MARSH! Nate enjoys being outside, being inside, being handy, the beach, snowboarding, roller coasters, training aardvarks, bodybuilding, contributing to quantum theory, and making up fanciful, if not entirely accurate, biographical details.
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