When I was a senior in high school, I began developing close friendships with peers who shared my own religious beliefs. While I had a lot of great friends in my school, I was discovering how much fun I could have when there was no pressure to try stuff like drinking and drugs, which some of my school friends were getting into.
As I got to know my new friends, I learned that there were summer camps for Christian Scientists, and that many of these friends were having exciting adventures at camp—rafting, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing. They were also developing deep friendships with other young Christian Scientists, and that sounded great to me.
When summer approached, I really wanted to go to camp. But the one that most interested me was located several states away, and the tuition and travel expenses were beyond my family's budget. After all, there were four kids in my family, and my folks couldn't do the same for my brother and two sisters. But I really wanted to go!
I wasn't exactly a star Sunday School student, but I was beginning to feel that Christian Science offered the best way to deal with life's challenges. My parents had consistently relied on prayer for our family's well-being, and earlier that year I'd been healed of impetigo through Christian Science treatment.
Because I was beginning to feel closer to God, I had a growing faith that our lack of funds for camp could be overcome. I don't remember exactly how I prayed, but soon someone in my church anonymously donated the money for my camp tuition. To this day, I don't know who that generous person was, but the experiences I had that summer, and the people I met there, have had a huge impact on my life. In fact, that camp experience changed my life forever.
One day, I hiked with a group of campers on an all-day climb of Mt. Yale (part of the Collegiate Peaks in the Colorado Rockies), which tops out at over 14,000 feet. It's not a technical climb—one where you need special equipment and skill—but both the ascent and descent require careful footing through snow packs and boulder fields. During our descent, a fellow climber lost her footing in a boulder field and tumbled quite a way down a steep slope. Along the way, several large rocks were dislodged, and she got caught up in a rockslide.
I was the first to reach her, and what I saw scared me. Crouching next to her, I could tell she was breathing but was unconscious, and she ws pretty roughed up with cuts and bruises from the falling rocks. Initially, I felt completely helpless. But I knew that the method of prayer I'd been learning in Sunday School could bring healing to the situation. Still, I thought, why couldn't someone more experienced be there?
I began saying out loud "the scientific statement of being" from Science and Health (p. 468). In Christian Science Sunday Schools, students often memorize this powerful statement, which explains the reality of Spirit and the unreality of matter. But because I was feeling so anxious, I couldn't get past the first two sentences: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all." I couldn't remember the rest. After two or three attempts at remembering more, I finally just sat still and made myself calm down. I know now that I was obeying the Bible's message to "be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10).
As I comforted the injured camper as best I could, I looked out over the magnificent scene around us, and noticed how all the elements of nature worked in perfect balance. In the stillness of that moment, I could hear a creek flowing down the valley and the wind whispering through the pines. Although the term ecosystem had not yet found its way into the public vocabulary, I could sense how everything worked together as part of a larger system—how the melting ice pack provided measured water flow throughout the summer, and the trees and underbrush held and nourished the soil so important to the animal and plant life.
That magnificent landscape became more to me than a merely physical phenomenon. I realized that what I was beholding only hinted at the real, spiritual universe created by God, who was right there with us. I'd learned in Sunday School that God's universe is spiritual, composed of His eternal ideas—each one always perfect, whole, and complete—and that these ideas work in perfect harmony with one another.
Along with this epiphany (one of those sudden leaps of understanding that come through spiritual intuition), came the realization that the accident scene before me was completely inconsistent with the naturally whole state of God's universe. I saw clearly that accidents and injuries were not part of God's perfect harmony and balance, presented as beautiful peaks and valleys.
By now I was genuinely calm inside, and once again I began saying "the scientific statement of being," even though I still didn't know if I could finish it. As things turned out, I didn't need to. My hiking companion immediately awoke and revived, and began finishing it for me. Other campers arrived on the scene, and seeing the need they began singing hymns, which brought added comfort and peace to the situation.
Within a few minutes, the downed hiker said she felt like standing. We helped her up, and she began walking, slowly at first. With assistance, she made it all the way down the mountain. When I saw her later that night, I was in awe. She showed no evidence of scrapes or bruises from the fall. She took part in the evening activities, fully healed. On the last night, when we were sharing our gratitude for camp, she told everyone about her healing experience on the mountain.
While witnessing that healing was impressive and instructive for me, I've never forgotten that amazing moment when my whole sense of life and the world was transformed, enabling me to see a deeper reality than I'd ever before perceived. My experience was consistent with Mrs. Eddy's statement: "Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul" (Science and Health, p. 269).
Among the biggest lessons I learned that summer was that God provides what we need, when we need it, where we need it—especially when we get our thoughts calm and listen quietly. We don't need to be stressed by thinking we're not experienced enough to handle a situation through prayer. As we pray with what we do know, God will supply the ideas we need. It always helps to look past the material picture to see the deeper spiritual reality. Then we'll find the needed strength to pray effectively.
The way I got to camp became a milestone in learning how to pray about financial resources. This lesson served me well later on, when I had to deal with the costs of tuition for an expensive private college, with providing for my family as a young father, and naturally, when we needed camp tuition for our own children.
I returned to work at that same camp over the next five summers. During those years, I witnessed countless examples of God's care, in everything from comforting a young camper who felt alone and homesick to helping an older camper deal with a fall from a horse.
I've remained actively involved in supporting summer camps, and repeatedly have seen families experience wonderful effects from relying on prayer to overcome the many challenges involved in getting kids there. And I'm especially grateful for the generous souls who provide financial assistance to their families, as someone so thoughtfully did for mine 38 years ago. |
Todd Herzer lives near Mt. Yale in Nathrop, Colorado.
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