Sabbath, August 31 was a special Sabbath program, led by the youth, and hosting both the Austin Anchors Adventurer and SAIL Pathfinder club investiture programs. The theme of the service came from 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. Both Saul and Goliath thought David was incapable of the great task before him, because he was only a youth. But David’s trust in God, built up over years of spending time with God, gave him the confidence and strength to overcome. But the story is more than just one about the ability of youth to be strong in the Lord, it also highlights the role each of us has, as adults or youth, to provide encouragement (David’s brother, afraid himself, tried to discourage David’s actions, as did Saul, who tried to place on David his armor, understanding only the traditions he was used to, not the full power that God delivers, nor the willingness to try different approaches to traditional problems). David stood strong for God, for himself, but also for the people, never criticizing the rest of the Israelite army for failing to face up to Goliath, but rather simply taking the task upon himself.
After the induction service, we held our annual new Pathfinder and Junior Unit overnight. The focus for the weekend was waterfalls, building off of our broader theme this year of water. We visited several of the waterfalls along Bull Creek, and although they were nearly dry, in that they offered us an opportunity to see some of the features of waterfalls usually hidden behind the veil of flowing water. We also had a chance to observe some of God’s creation, in the delicate beauty of the dragonflies and damselflies, in the songs of the birds overhead, in the skittering of the Texas Spiny Lizard, and in the mighty Sycamores that draw their waters from beneath the nearly dry stream bed. We also found a Blotched Water Snake, although he was sadly dead. And there were many tiny frogs hopping all around - a reminder that even in the drought, life continues to spring forth.
In the evening, we continued our study of waterfalls, watching some of the amazing creatures around the Iguazu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border. The Pathfinders learned a tasty lesson about stratigraphy, and the hard and soft layers of stone that allow for waterfall formation, making edible “rock” layers. We also made word searches and crossword puzzles about major waterfalls around the world, learned about the many different types of waterfalls, and discussed some of the spiritual lessons the Bible provides using water as a motif. The Pathfinders also made dinner, our SAIL Club signature Pizza Tacos, and learned the proper way to set up and maintain tents for camping.
In the morning, the Pathfinders made a large breakfast, with pancakes, eggs, potatoes and fruit, broke “camp,” and spent some time learning and practicing marching. They also made posters illustrating the Pathfinder Pledge and Law, and learned and practiced basic sewing skills by sewing on the Waterfall patch that they earned over the weekend. Finally, we practiced building various edible campfires - with pretzels and queso instead of sticks and sparks. Despite the heat outside, it was a wonderful weekend, a time to make new friends, get reacquainted with old friends, and spend time with God in fellowship and in nature.
We had a wonderful experience during our spring backpacking and camping trip this past weekend. The Senior Unit hiked the 13 miles of the Lake Somerville Trailway while the Junior Unit camped along the shore of the lake. The Junior Unit worship theme centered on what they were thankful for, and included a photography hike to identify things in nature for which to give thanks. They also worked on astronomy and spent time canoeing. The Senior Unit began the Trailway trip in the evening, and had to put in a few more miles the first night than planned, as the initial campsite was closed for renovations. Awakening to the sound of birds at daylight, we finally had a chance to see out surroundings, and what a sight it was - wildflowers everywhere. Senior Unit worship focused on the lessons to be drawn from Israel’s loss of the Ark of the Covenant, and the subsequent recovery. We also drew inspiration from the nature around us, encountering butterflies and skinks, deer and wild boar. Sunday morning the two units finally met up at the lake, cooling our feet in the water, and sharing tales of the weekend’s adventures.
The SAIL Pathfinders held an Easter weekend retreat way out near Oatmeal. As usual, it rained, but this time not until we were already packed up and about to leave. The theme of the weekend was to understand more about Easter, about the resurrection and what it means for us. We talked about traditions, about beliefs, and had a discussion on how a seed can be seen as a parable of Christ, dead in the tomb and yet ready to bring forth life. We also had a physical challenge this weekend - to build a bridge. The staff worked on various rope bridges, while the Pathfinders lashed together a bridge over a (not-so-raging) creek. We learned a lot about what not to do - like the risks of tying off a rope bridge to a rotted tree and the weaknesses of certain types of bridge supports - but through creativity and teamwork both the Pathfinders and even the staff accomplished their goals, and we all managed to cross to safety (fire ants notwithstanding). With the burn ban off, we also had the opportunity to cook over the campfire again, something we haven’t had much of a chance to do here in Central Texas over the past few years. Nature also offered us a show, from the daylight-bright rising moon to the calm pastels of the sunrise, from the blossoms of the wildflowers to the scaly reptiles visiting the campsite. And the Birds provided a constant backdrop of song and color. Oh, and did I mention there were horses?