By 2pm Saturday, all three vans arrived at New River’s Edge, a beautifully serene and rustic lodge just a few yards from the edge of the New River in Pembroke, VA. The group that arrived Friday evening enjoyed a great deal of fun and relationship building including fishing, kayaking, and outdoor recreation. On Saturday morning they took a 4-mile hike to visit Cascade Falls and also a visit to the nearby Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.
When the entire group (minus Harrison C. who will join us Sunday) was together, we enjoyed the river with some kayaking followed by a group tubing expedition which included some gentle (but still quite fun) river rapids. The owner of New River’s Edge, a gentleman named Paul Moody, has been a fantastic and friendly host.
After a dinner of grilled burgers, hot dogs and chicken along with a stack of pizzas, the group gathered for some team-building activities followed by a bonfire next to the river as the sun went down. We spent time getting to know a little bit more about each other and then did some deep reflecting on our mission for the upcoming week and the
opportunities and challenges we will experience as we meet families who might be very different from our own and strive to not only work to make their homes safer, warmer, and drier, but also to connect with them in a way that reflects God’s love for all of us. Paul (our host) shared his faith story with us and how he finds the experience of spending time on the river to be transformative in the same way as spending time in prayer and reflecting on God’s word. Paul built the lodge to enjoy along with his wife and her brother, but they both died in 2004. He found that God was calling him to turn this place that had become empty into a place where he could invite people to “let the river love on you.” Paul concluded by singing a song he had written about the many ways that he has been amazed and blessed by the river. The song, he told us, “could not be set to music, but definitely has a melody.” Everyone in the group was held in complete silence in the dark as we listened to Paul sing while standing in the dwindling light of the fire. Afterwards, I led the group in prayer and invited them to think of everything and everyone who God used to get us here for the
week ahead. We agreed that we will literally “gather at the river” for worship in the morning. My plan is to celebrate communion while standing in the water of the New River as we all remember the waters of baptism that call us to serve and love with both words and deeds.