BINFORD, N.D. – I had never been to Red Willow Bible Camp before. Now I’m convinced I’ll never forget being there. How lovely is this dwelling place just a few miles northwest of the quaint little town of Binford which is about 88 miles mostly west and some south of Grand Forks.
Red Willow, founded in 1926, is believed to be the oldest, continuously-operating Lutheran Bible Camp in the United States. I was honored when Becky Goetz, camp co-executive-director with her husband, Denny, invited me to speak at the Quilters Appreciation Dinner last Wednesday evening (Aug. 24). The dinner is the precursor of the annual quilt auction which takes place Sunday (Aug. 28). It’s the 24th annual auction and the camp’s major yearly fund-raiser.
Sunday looks like this: silent auction, 9 a.m.; worship service with the MOOS bluegrass band, 10 a.m.; MOOS band concert, 11 a.m.; children’s activities begin at 11 a.m.; buffet lunch, 11:15 a.m.; pie baking contest, noon; live quilt auction, 1 p.m.,; raffle quilt drawing, 3 p.m.
Wednesday looked like this: Most of the 75 in attendance previewed the 200 quilts to go on the auction block Sunday. The lower level of the Retreat Center is a maze of color, design, and loveliness.
I spotted a table in the dining room that had one empty chair so I asked to join the ladies seated there. Most welcoming were Judy Rusten, Becky Brudvig, Sandi Chapman, Donna Rickford and Margaret Tharaldson, all from Ottawa Lutheran Church of Aneta, N.D. I sometimes had to stick up for Donna because Becky gave her such a bad time about not eating vegetables. Apparently Becky was used to it as she smiled the entire time. I enjoyed these gals immensely and today I was so pleasantly surprised when in the mail I receive a sweet note from Judy and a gift – a copy of Ottawa Church’s 125th anniversary cookbook. Judy will be receiving a note of thanks from me.
The cooks and servers did an extraordinary job on the pork dinner. Josh Silbernagel, program director, told me the food is always that tasty at Red Willow. “With their budget,” Josh added, “they do more than a world class chef could do.”
After strawberry dessert, we all headed for the chapel just a stone’s throw away.
I spoke on the metaphors of life: life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get; life is a roller coaster, ups and downs; life is like a river, constantly on the move; life is like a game of basketball. You take shots. You make some, you miss some, but hopefully, you don’t give up and keep on shooting. And finally, I mentioned, our lives are like quilts, bits and pieces, joys and sorrows, stitched with love.
As I wrapped it up, I asked all to join in the singing of a song I learned as a child from The Golden Book of Favorite Songs titled, “The Quilting Party.” With Theresa Fiebiger at the old upright chapel piano, hearing the 75 or so voices moved me deeply.
I closed with these words, “a quilt is so much more than a ‘textile sandwich,’ A quilt can be read as the diary of the maker, full of her hopes and dreams as well as her sorrows. It remains her legacy for the generations the follow. But, there is another beautiful characteristic of a quilt: it has warm tangibles that make the person sleeping under it feel sheltered from the cold and the harshness of life, just as God shelters and promises to be with us in the valleys and on the mountaintops of our lives.
If you’ve never been to Red Willow Bible Camp, Sunday would be a good day to visit. You’ll see that the people there live its mission statement. It’s this: Red Willow exists to strengthen and serve the church in its gospel mission and ministry with and through Jesus Christ to every generation.”
And when the day is done and night is drawing nigh, you’ll see this as you drive away: