1.After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua: 2 “Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, 3 and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priestsare standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.”
4 So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, 6 so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.” – Joshua 4:1-7 (HCSB)
Last night, my good friend Micky and I traveled back in time. Well, not really…but kind of.
You see, each year (for the past 188 years), people have descended upon the Poplar Springs Methodist Campground just outside of Canon, Georgia during what always seems to be the hottest week of July for revival services. For those not familiar (which I assume most arent), The campground is about as barebones as you can get. Little wooden shacks where families have stayed for generations decorate the landscape, barefooted children (and adults) forsake the Ipod for horseshoes and crafts, the creaking sound of countless porch swings fill the air as folks try to beat the stifling heat of each cabin (NO A/C allowed) with a good swing, ice-cold lemonade and meaningful conversation. It’s the sights and sounds of days gone by that arrest your attention as you first “experience” camp-meeting.
But at around 7:15 a sound fills the air that drowns out all the others. A child is selected to stand at the Arbor in the center of the camp and blast a call on a Rams through the July evening heat and toward each direction the cabins (called tents) are sitting….calling them to worship. If you’re not familiar with the sound it may be best described by my friend Micky, who traveled there with me for his first “camp-meeting” experience. He remarked that it sounded like one of those crazy horns that European Soccer fans blow throughout their matches. I think it’s more akin to a struggling tugboat. Either way, it gets your attention and if the sound doesn’t work, the sight following the sound will. As the horn blast people drop their horseshoes, put down the lemonade, hop of their swings, grab their Bibles and head to the Arbor.
There’s really nothing fancy about the place of worship at Campmeeting. It’s just a massive covered meeting place. There are old church pews to sit in, sawdust/wood chippings on the floor, old school hymn books galore and a plethora of those “funeral home fans” littering the seats. They have worship services in the morning, evening and generations of people have met at a particular “tent” for prayer each day to petition God to move amongst them….and He’s answered their prayers as countless people have come to Christ and made other spiritual decisions. I can’t say that the structure in its entirity is the original one (dating back 188 years) but it sure looks like it and that’s impressive to me. It’s as “yesteryear” as it sounds (and the trustees do a great job of keeping it that way).
I have really enjoyed camp-meeting over the years. My mother’s side of the family still has a “tent” there and my Grandpa Millford helped to build one as well. I grew up a United Methodist and our church choir sang almost every year. I’ve heard many men of God faithfully bring the Word at Camp-meeting and have witnessed 100’s kneel at the altar. I have moved away from good old Franklin County in recent years and don’t get to attend faithfully any longer but the Polar Springs Camp-Meeting will always be a huge deal to me…and here is why-
My life completely changed there.
Yes. Completely. Changed.
11 years ago (almost to the day), Annette, myself our baby girl Kaylyn to Camp-Meeting to sing with our church choir. Truth is, for the first time…I had gotten really serious about my faith and God had been dealing with my heart for sometime and all though I couldn’t discern as to what He was doing in me, I knew it was a big and possibly life altering thing and I was scared to death. We sweat through the service (as you always do there) and tried to listen as best I could but about halfway through the message the voice of the Holy Spirit grew much stronger than the voice of the preacher.
I was being called into the ministry of Gospel preaching.
You know that moment when something hits you in a way that literally takes your breath? Maybe even causes your heart to stop? Leaves you unable to speak? Causes bullets of sweat to break out and your legs go limp?
Yeah, this was one of those moments.
I’d love to say that when I had realized God was calling, I answered the phone. I’d love to say I had the faith of Abram and simply walked in obedience instantaneously. But I didn’t.
Though God had made Himself clear, I began to reason it all away.
I’m delirious. Must be getting sick. It could have been the effects from a bad egg roll at lunch…heck, I even tried to put this whole thing off on satan who was obviously messing with my mind.
As I attempted to talk myself out of following Gods VERY personal call, He would not let up. He was relentless. He began to press me on the issue so fiercely that it hurt.
I had NEVER experienced something so intense in my life and didn’t know if I could take any more. I can’t describe the experience so I won’t try, I just can say that there was a battle going on within that was bigger than me and more complex than I could comprehend. By the time the preacher gave an invitation and opened the altar I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed Annette by the arm and pulled her along (I’d love to say I was being a strong male, spiritual leader here but the truth is…I was so weak in the knees at this point, I thought I may need to prop on someone and she was closest). As I approached the Altar (with scores of others), there was older man there who had asked if anyone needed to be prayed for and I jumped in his line.As he came down the line, laying hands on each person and praying for them, I impatiently awaited my turn. I don’t know that I was looking for answers as much as I was looking for at the very least..a measure of relief. I got both.
As He made his way to us with closed eyes and a bowed head, he placed his hands upon my shoulders….then stopped everything.
He looked at me with strange curiosity and stared at me for what seemed like hours. Then the curious look was replaced with a countenance of understanding and joy. At that moment, God confirmed through the man what He’d already burned into me.
“Young man, it’s time. Now…Go preach the Gospel”.
Got it. (now it was Annettes turn to freak out, but that’s another story for another day).
That day changed the game for me.
Praise God 11 years later, He’s still using my-very imperfect-self to advance the Gospel, HIS Gospel. He’s so faithful.
For me, Poplar Springs Campmeeting is a place where I heard from God. A place where everything changed. A place of blessing.
It’s a “stone of remembrance”.
Visiting again last night reminded me of that and today my heart is grateful.
How about you? What are some “stones of remembrance” in your lives? What are some places that stand as a memorial to amazing things God has done.
Re-visit them. It’ll bless your socks off.
Soli Deo Gloria! – Pastor Kyle