I was so blessed to get to go with the Pine Valley United Methodist Church Travelers to Lake Junaluska, NC. I had decided last spring I would love to go meet this group. I missed the sign up time so I was on the wait list. By the time I got on the wait list my mother had joined PVUMC so I added her. What a neat way for her to get to know other members! There is no better way to feel a part of a church than to get involved with smaller groups! I was blessed to reconnect some old friendships and make lots of new friendships!
We had 46 Travelers on this trip - two buses. We stayed at the Lambuth Inn in Lake Junaluska which was a treat because I always stayed in an old lodge/motel with the youth. And we didn’t eat in the mess hall - we ate in the dining room! We ate more calories than we burned with the buffet breakfast and dinners! And we were driven everywhere and not expected to hike up the hill like I have had to do in the past! In fact, Craig was sweet enough to drive a few, who could not walk down to the cross, to see the cross lit up at night! Thanks to our drivers, Rick and Craig, and to our planner and captain, Oakelee! Everything was attended to and we were spoiled!
Lake Junaluska is in the Blue Ridge Mountains and many Methodists have been there for retreats throughout the years. I had been as a youth and again as I helped with youth. It holds lots of special memories for lots of people. The two things that stand out in my mind about Lake Junaluska are the singing and the cross. Every night we would all hike up the hill to the cross that is lit up and shines over the lake. Our youth group would always get our picture made around the cross. We would also have people sing on each side of the lake and it sounded like a round with the echo’s. When I came as a youth leader we still did the same thing.
We got to take the Great Smoky Mountains railroad Tuckasegee River excursion from Bryson City to Dillsboro, NC. We rode through the quiet mountain countryside along the Tuckasegee River to the quaint town of Dillsboro. We saw lots of farmland, creeks and rapids. We rode through the manmade Cowee Tunnel made in the 1800’s, and we saw the wrecked bus and train from Harrison Ford’s movie, Fugitive.
I went on this trip to write a story about this group at our church. We had a great time seeing Lake Junaluska, riding the Great Smoky Mountain train to Dillsboro but that was not the high-light of the trip! The high-light was the fellowship with new and old friends with God’s beautiful mountainous artwork in the background! It is the laughs that we shared, the talks that we had, the meals that we shared. So many new friendships formed over those three days! Pastor Barry’s devotionals were based on 1 Corinthians 13 and especially verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” These three days were filled with faith, hope and love!
While the train trip may not be discussed next year,the things that WILL be discussed are things like Rick stopping to ask a lady directions and she walked up the steps into the bus and said “thanks” and sat in the front seat. It took us a while to realize that she thought we were a bus that stopped at the trolley stop around the lake at Junaluska!! She thought we were picking her up. A block down the road she said thanks and got off. Or while on the train they were telling us we were passing Shelton Farms who grow all of the tomatoes for all of the Ingles grocery stores. Pastor Barry heard England instead of Ingles and he was amazed that they ship those tomatoes all the way to England! Psalm 126:2, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.” Laughter is a significant part of the friendship experience.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down. one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” God puts us in church communities so we will have fellowship that we need in order to grow and thrive. We cannot expect our faith to thrive alone. Being part of a small group at PVUMC is a wonderful way to grow and thrive!
1 Thessalonians 2:8, “so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” I believe the reason Christians refer to each other as brothers and sisters is because they share a kinship. This kinship is more deeply rooted than any physical bloodline. When we gather with these brothers and sisters and do life with them we learn from each other. These times of fellowship are sweet and encouraging. Maybe that is how Paul, Silvanus and Timothy felt when they told the Thessalonians that they “were delighted to share not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
I like the way Eugene Peterson describes the fellowship community of God. He says that the church community is “a grouping of persons whom God has called together, whom God will keep together, and who will survive by God’s grace.” Take time this week for prayer and fellowship with other Christians. You will savor and grow from these times together.