Finding Strength for the Journey in 2017

August 24, 2017

by Karen Benson

Karen Benson is an Oregon teacher, camp program staff veteran, mother of three, and wife to Alton L. Collins director and United Methodist pastor, Rev. Dan Benson. The family recently moved from Madras, Oregon, to live at the retreat center in Eagle Creek. Here, Karen reflects on the difficulty of itinerant ministry for the family and finding awe and wonder: not only in an incredible journey to witness the eclipse, but in being welcomed with open arms by a traditionally marginalized community.


I think it all started with moving guilt.

My kids were semi-heartbroken that we would be moving away from literally the best place in the country to view the eclipse, only two months before it happened. So what's a mommy who is already feeling slightly guilty about making her babies move and leave behind friends to do? Find a place where we can watch totality happen.  I called Jane at Suttle Lake Camp and asked if there was space for us to stay on Sunday and Monday.

Two things, however, were looming over this decision.

First, I hate traffic. Hate it! I did not want to get caught in whatever "they" were predicting.

Secondly, I was tired. The last few weeks (months?) have been really tiring. So when I was faced with the thought of driving home after rafting (5-6 hours) on Wednesday, and then driving back down to Suttle Lake on Saturday (2.5 hours) added with possible traffic, I did not want to do it.

So I talked with Jane and asked if I could come a day or two earlier and were told to arrive whenever we needed. Relief!

We arrived at the camp Wednesday night, pitched our tent, and stayed to volunteer.

I wasn’t planning to be part of the event.  I was going to wash dishes, help around camp,  and watch the eclipse.  But Strength for the Journey doesn’t let people just sit on the edge.

They welcomed me, embraced me, and made me a part of their community.  All of the SFTJ campers are living with HIV or AIDS.  Most have been marginalized by society, sometimes even shunned by their own families. At camp they are welcomed as they are and encouraged to be who they are.  They are loved.  This love is reflected from the campers back to the staff and volunteers who are blessed to work with them.

They carry the love and strength from this week back to their lives, and share it with those around them.

I was blessed to be part of their community.  It was one the most humbling grace-inspiring experiences I have been a part of in a long time.

Oh, and the eclipse was pretty amazing too!


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