When change happens–to a campground or to a conference–God can act in new ways.
REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministries, West Michigan
Almost 40 years ago I went camping at the Platte River State Park just northwest of Beulah, Michigan and a few miles south of Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park. We played miniature golf at one of the two courses there by the bridge, ate ice cream from the canoe livery store and, of course, canoed down the river, across Loon Lake and eventually arrived at Lake Michigan.
Imagine my surprise when just a couple of years later I returned only to find the park “closed for construction.” “What?!” Bulldozers were leveling trees, making new roads and construction crews were building new facilities. The park area was nearly unrecognizable. The miniature golf was closed and in years to come the signs of the course were removed as was the old KOA campground. It took a mighty court battle and time but the canoe livery and store were able to remain. It looked as though the beloved camping region would never be the same and had been destroyed of all the beauty and memories that it held. The region was now part of the National Park System, no longer a “state park”.
This past week my wife and I were able to camp a couple of nights there in what has continued to be “our favorite campgrounds.” If you had never camped there in the 1970’s you would believe it has “always been this way.” The trees are tall, the paths established, the gates weathered and the birds are a chorus of God’s early morning creation. We watched the sunset over Loon Lake, drove through the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. We had a picnic and sat and listened to “tourists” from a variety of countries express their “wow” and “oh, my” as they looked out over Lake Michigan from the 400-foot dune overlook for what was their first time.
I am reflecting back on the actions of the 2015 and 2017 Annual Conferences. We chose to create a “new thing” and then outlined the structure, rules, district formation process and various policies that will guide our future. For some it may feel like the “park they always knew will never be the same.” My hope and prayer are that as the years move forward, we will look back with gratitude and joy and see both how much has changed and how much has improved to an even greater new reality. I believe our actions have the potential to have set in motion life-changing ministry and mission which will be the next generation’s new legacy of forgiveness, healing, hope, love, and grace.
We approved in June of 2015 the creation of this new conference. Just a few days later, that same June our oldest daughter was hospitalized as a result of life threatening pregnancy issues. Weston Roy was born ten weeks early and weighed just two pounds and four ounces. This weekend Weston will be here with all our family to celebrate his second birthday! He runs everywhere. He communicates with a vocabulary of key words and expressions that tell every detail of his excitement, disappointment, and love. “God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine,” records the author of Ephesians 3:20.
I have seen this biblical truth demonstrated in Nature season after season. I have seen this biblical truth expressed in the life of an infant, turned toddler, preschool grandson. I have experienced this truth in my own life in so many grace-filled moments.
I look forward to what God continues to hold in store for us as the people of the Michigan Conference called United Methodists as we open ourselves to the reshaping, guiding, inspiring movement of Gods’ Spirit among us.