For three days we camped and hiked around the Chisos Mountains. Since I wound up not taking my usual July vacation this year, it was a well needed study leave for me, a time to reflect on the months ahead and catch up on some reading and reflection. It was also a joy to share such beauty with Cindy and our son, Jevin, who had never seen anything like Big Bend. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, so experiencing the winter desert was an eye-opener. I have to be honest, since my cell phone sits in my pocket or by my bed 24/7 ready to let me know of congregational and pastoral emergencies, when I’m on vacation I tend to enjoy places out of cell phone range—like Big Bend’s Chiso Basin, or Alaska.
On our last day in the park, we climbed Mt. Emory, the highest point in Big Bend at 7,825 feet. At the top we found two surprising things: a radio tower and a solar panel. I wanted some pictures so I turned on my phone to take a picture. Suddenly, we had great cell reception, and the phone went crazy. Voicemail, e-mail, texts, all poured in with their requisite beeps and ringtones. Right there atop the mountain I learned that our beloved Mara Jewell had just died of cancer, and another member had been diagnosed with cancer. I learned that someone’s mother had died and another family was breaking up. There were urgent crises and cries for help. It was the curse of the cameraphone. You don’t get to turn on the camera without activating the phone.
I wasn’t sure if I was glad or sad that I had turned it on. On the one hand, it meant vacation was over. On the other, that I might be useful to others. Maybe you feel that way sometimes when you realize how much “heavy stuff” is contained in our community. Exposing yourself to community means you’re exposed to everything it offers, the joys and the sorrows: The joys of watching children grow and people coming to life around things that matter. The sorrows of loss.
For both, I’m grateful for this ministry. It’s hard work, and I realize all the time how important it is that we share it. There’s much ministry to do together.