For 58 years, Brothers and Sisters have met for a weeklong Bible School at the Idyllwild Pines Camp in the San Bernardino National Forest near the town of Idyllwild, California. Although the camp lies in a perennially dry area prone to Forest Fires, the Bible School had never been affected by this concern.
On Monday, July 15, a fire started in Mountain Center near Idyllwild. By Thursday, July 18, the fire had grown to over 10,000 acres, and the two roads to Idyllwild were closed. The Bible School was scheduled to begin on Sunday, July 21, and by Saturday the fire had grown to over 25,000 acres, and the roads were still closed. So the Bible School Committee Brethren decided it best to cancel the Bible School at Idyllwild Pines.
It was a hard decision to make, as 375 people had registered and were looking forward to attending the school. After much prayer and discussion, it was felt best to make alternate plans. The turning point was when we were informed by the Camp that the roads probably wouldn’t open for several days, and there was concern about the water supply being damaged by the large amount of ash falling. Alternative locations were contacted during the week, but no suitable location was available. July is the peak of the summer camp season, and every other suitable location was fully rented.
Several local Ecclesias were then contacted to see if there would be a suitable location available amongst the Brotherhood. The challenge was to find a facility that could handle an estimated 150 adults, 75 teens and 25 children. The Simi Hills Ecclesia was able to make arrangements with an evangelical church across the street, and it was felt that we would be able to handle the group between the two buildings. We explained our situation to the Pastor of the church, and they graciously offered their facility for us to hold the Teen Classes. This worked out well as 95 young people ended up attending.
Brother Joseph Palmer graciously agreed to postpone his classes to 2014, and it was agreed to only have two speakers for four days. Brother Ron Cowie presented six classes for the Adults the first two days, while Brother Mark Alfree gave six classes to the Teens. For the second two days they switched, with Brother Mark leading the Adult studies, and Brother Ron teaching the teens.
As many had prepared youth classes, we were able to host four different groups of children for all three periods as well. With favorable weather, we were able to set up an awning outside to provide enough rooms for all of the classes.
Within hours offers from Brothers and Sisters in all Southern California Ecclesias began pouring in offering housing for visitors. Soon we had more spaces available than requests from those who needed housing. So many offered to help with youth classes, piano playing, crafts, etc. that the work was spread well among many.
The Committee assumed that this really wouldn’t be a “Bible School”, but would more resemble a Study Day. But, those attending had other ideas! A grassroots effort rose quickly to add many different activities and some of the beloved Bible School traditions back into the schedule. Before long, the Sister’s Tea, Ping Pong Tournament and Boutique Sale were back on! In addition, we added several swim days, a zoo trip and some morning golf.
Facebook played a valuable role in helping to communicate the fast moving changes during the week. 325 Brethren follow the Bible School’s Facebook page, so it was easy to communicate the status of the firefighting, and the eventual cancellation. A Facebook Group was created to organize events during the week and quickly share that information with as many as possible. This allowed for several to enjoy time together during the week.
By the end of the week, those in attendance were able to enjoy two excellent series of studies and a unique fellowship experience. In actuality, many Brothers and Sisters who were unable to attend Idyllwild were able to enjoy many of the activities at “Idyll-Simi-Wild.” There was also a striking and helpful benefit for the Members of the Simi Hills Ecclesia. Like many Ecclesias, we struggle with the stresses of everyday life impinging on our Member’s efforts to live spiritual lives. Rising to meet an “Emergency” like this brought out the best of our Brothers and Sisters.
Like the Brother who smoked 80 pounds of Beef for Sandwiches on Tuesday, the Sister who opened her house to 12 teenage boys, or the couple who had 100 people over to their house for swimming and Dinner; so many Members rose to different challenges and showed Christ like hospitality. Working together towards a common Godly goal is a great way to bind together a group that is often splintered by individual challenges.
One Brother relayed to me a story that I feel best sums up the experience for many of our Members. On Saturday it was announced that we would not be attending Idyllwild, and his entire adult family was having Dinner together as they had all gathered for Bible School. He acknowledged to them that they were all sad about having their plans cancelled, as they had all attended Idyllwild since children. They decided that instead of simply being depressed about what was not going to happen, they would work hard to make sure that what WAS going to happen would be as great as it could be.
That same positive spirit was readily apparent by all those who worked hard to make this week a success, as well as by the many that attended and enjoyed the Fellowship.
Jeff Gelineau: Registrar, Pacific Coast Bible School
(Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA)
Some thoughts from attendees:
thank you Bible school committee
service from our host ecclesias w/o a whimper
home brotherly/sisterly love manifest
many hands making efficiency
can-do with Father’s blessings
wonderfully inspiring youth evening songs with smiling enthusiasm
many faces seen though not registered for Idyllwild
new acquaintances, older ones lovingly renewed
well fed by the WORD — thank you Bre Ron and Mark, and younger class teachers shoring up our children —
tomorrow’s brethren by God’s good grace
warm, generous, thoughtful, silent sacrificing hosts to so many homeless without an Idyllwild bed
farewells from curb and airport till the Kingdom, or another school……
much love in our Lord and many thanks,
Tom Zunker (Denver, CO)
Idyll-Simi-Wildwild at the Simi Hills Ecclesia
An amazing week full of unexpected blessings! It was apparent that we were all disappointed that we would not experience the Idyllwild Bible School that we all love, but we wanted to be together and share in fellowship around God’s Word. That in itself is always a beautiful experience. Everyone was willing to drive, host people and help in any way possible to make the week enjoyable for all ages. One thing is for sure, we should never take our faith, our brotherhood or our time together for granted.
Christian Russel (Verdugo Hills, CA)