Whenever the FUMCFW Outdoor Retreat Ministry hits the road, our compass always points to good adventure in the great outdoors. From destinations deep in the heart of Texas, around the Beavers Bend in Broken Bow, and across the Great Plains to Canada, we’ve been all over the map — in our neck of the woods and beyond!
On Sunday, June 26, however, you only have to travel a few steps outside our First Church front doors to join the Outdoor Retreat Ministries for our annual 5th Street Celebration. We’ll be camping on 5th Street from 9:00 am – 12:30 pm with all the usual suspects — from RVs and tents, to backpacks and Dutch ovens, to our very own cargo trailer! As always, we’ve got it covered when it comes to outdoor gear, shelter, and cuisine. All you have to bring is yourself to help celebrate our growing ministry with an insider’s tour of this unique experience of community and fellowship. A few of our happy campers will be on hand to share stories from past retreats. Here are just a couple of sneak peeks.
Peter Canning: from loner to groupie
Longtime FUMCFW member Peter Canning has been boating and camping as long as he can remember, though often alone. When he heard about our Outdoor Retreat Ministries, he says that he considered the fun of going with a big group. Peter’s first retreat met at Mineral Wells, where he first shook hands with “the towering, affable Chuck Graff.” He recalls that right off the bat they were moving boxes and coolers of food while trading stories of fishing, past camping adventures, and places they planned to go in the future. As Peter describes it, “That evening, we all talked around the campfire dipping slabs of sourdough bread into a titanic pot of homemade beans swimming in cilantro, jalapeños, and chorizo. We kayaked and fished the next morning on the lake, and all afternoon watched the red-tailed hawks spiraling in the lift of a nearby cliff.” By the end of one trip with this group, he was convinced that this was the way to go — whenever and wherever possible.
Peter says that the best part of this ministry is the beauty of nature and enjoying it with others, as he poetically portrays in the following memories from past retreats:
An evening at Broken Bow when the temperature changed and clouds of mist swirled on the river next to our camp.
A hay ride wrapped in an alpaca poncho, bumping along while the autumn sunset lit the trees and soft green valley below us in gold.
Lake Caddo — staring through the mesh canopy of my tent into the towering conifers lit with silent blinking fireflies, and stars beyond them.
A park ranger standing in the dusk with a speaker blaring a barred owl call which was soon answered and we all stared as a huge owl flew into a near tree, leaned over, and menacingly answered call for call, until it was too dark to see.
A knot of kids squealing with delight as a park ranger rescued a group of raccoons trapped in a dumpster. The ranger slid a two-by-four into the open lid of the giant metal container and took several steps back. A single file line of chagrined fur balls appeared marching along the board, hopping to the ground, then skittering off into the woods. The kids went wild.
Peter admits that between all the gear, food, and logistics, camping can seem daunting. However, our Outdoor Retreat Ministries offer an opportunity to camp with others who are experienced. “The infrastructure they provide is invaluable: they can lend you gear if you need it, bug spray, water, binoculars that you forgot,” Peter explains. “Often, we have watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, or a small sailboat that you can try out.” Plus, there are many levels to choose from for shelter. “You can camp in a tent, shelter, RV — heck, some people go to the town nearby and spend the night in a hotel,” Peter adds. “With that many options, what’s not to like?”
Dan and Beth Cooper: the friendly couple
The Coopers have been involved in many areas of FUMCFW since the early 1980s. They even met each other here while playing volleyball in the Justin Building with the New Horizon Singles Sunday School class. What led Dan and Beth to our Outdoor Retreat Ministries was their friendship with Rev. Chuck Graff. Beth supposes you could say they were “charter members.” Their first retreat met at Benbrook Lake with a handful of RVs plus some tent campers. “I remember that we did some geocaching, and I had a nice walk and visit with Len Delony,” Beth recalls. “The Sunday morning Communion services in an outdoor setting are always very special.”
From there, the Coopers continued to meet many more friends through retreats, which they say is their favorite part of this ministry. “We have met so many different friends — different ages, different backgrounds,” Beth says. And as she points out, these are friends that they might not have met by simply attending FUMCFW as they had in the past. “We just LOVE to get together at every retreat. We visit, we talk, we share life experiences, we hike, we hang out — great times!” Beth exclaims. “And of course, we are blessed to get to spend some quality time with our leader and friend, Rev. Chuck Graff.” According to Beth, it really is a quality experience and she encourages you to give it a try. “Time to unplug and unwind and make new friends — it’s just the greatest,” she adds. “I promise you will be refreshed!”
Come meet Peter, Dan, Beth, and the rest of the group at this Sunday’s celebration. Word on 5th Street is that it’ll be a great trip! As Peter says, what’s not to like? Plus, see below for our upcoming events and retreats. For more information, contact Rev. Chuck Graff (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 817/339-5065.