Thursday, September 17, 2009

"It Only Takes A Spark..."

Some people step into your life and are there for many years, through many adventures and stories. Others pass through your life life a Roger Clemens' fastball- you barely see them, yet the impact is significant. For me, Jan Osborne was one of the latter. You can read about her impact tomorrow. You can laugh about her today!

Jan succeeded Wallace Sills as the Youth & Christian Education Secretary of North Carolina Yearly Meeting in the late 70's. Those were big shoes to fill, and she had the disadvantage of not being well known among Carolina Quakers. She had many gifts in CE, but was a little shaky when it came to being with youth. Part of her job was to direct high school and junior high camps at Quaker Lake, and this was a challenge for her. She was not all that comfortable being in the great outdoors. But she gave it all she had for the couple of years she was involved.

In the summer of 1979 we were just finishing a 6th, 7th & 8th grade camp, which those of us on staff always thought of as a very tough week. There is a great deal of difference in maturity- physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally- between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. But this week had been relatively smooth. On Friday night, as we always did, we waited for night to fall and then headed deep into the woods for our closing Campfire Circle. After sharing in the silence and the words of campers and staff recounting the week, we did our ritual candle lighting. Everyone carried a lighted candle securely tightened into a small wooden base as we marched through the woods, across the Rainbow Bridge and around the lake to the dock. The dock was "H" shaped in those days, and the entire camp walked out on the dock with candles lit. Jan said a few words explaining the significance of each person now sharing their light with the world. She was explaining that in a few moments we would all place our candles on the lake, where the combined light was always a wondrous sight to see. As she leaned over to demonstrate, the sleeve of the flannel shirt she was wearing as a jacket got too close to the candle next to her...and Jan was on fire! Joseph Neal helped her get the burning shirt off and stomp out the fire as everyone looked on in shock. Jan was fine, and determined to give this week of camp the spiritual ending it deserved, so she went right back to her speech. She told everyone to place their candle on the lake, and then asked Martha Ratledge to lead us in singing Pass It On, a camp favorite. As we stood on the dock and admired the candles on the lake, Martha began to play her guitar, and the first line was sung: It only takes a spark, to get a fire going... I don't know if I laughed first, but I laughed out loud, and so did many others. The moment was gone. Suddenly everyone there was doubled up with laughter. Jan tried to restore some dignity, but it was too late.  I am sure someone closed with a prayer, but I don't remember it at all.  And that is the last thing I remember about Jan Osborne and Quaker Lake.

Jan may have set herself on fire and been caught in the spotlight while using the toilet in the woods (see my earlier post but even this "blur" in my life made such a significant difference in who I came to be. God so often blesses things and people to change our lives when we least expect it.  And Jan was about to set in motion events that God would use to change me forever.  As a matter of fact, you could say that Jesus was about to set me on fire...

Because of Jesus,

1 comment:

  1. Great story. I'm thankful God placed it on your heart to share. Thank you. :) And thank you, Jan. ;)


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