The date was July 1, 2021.
I had reached a crossroad. That date was the one I had set to make a pivotal decision about my future. I could stay in my current job and comfortably ride out my remaining time until retirement, and no one would know any different. In fact, I would be applauded and celebrated for my many years of faithful service. Or I could listen to my heart, take an unlikely huge leap of faith that God would have something bigger and better for me at this stage of my career.
Let’s rewind a bit to obtain some context. Camping has been my life’s work. I began as a counselor and eventually became the accomplished and seasoned Senior Director of a thriving, sizeable camp. I was a locked-in veteran, or so I thought. The 2021 summer camping season began on May 15. Other than the continuing Covid struggles, by all accounts it was just another camping summer. But because of a year of many questionable circumstances, I had the nagging feeling in my soul that “this could be it” for me. I suppressed those feelings for a while, but they would only return stronger. The circumstances became increasingly difficult, and on July 1st I felt the undeniable feeling it was time to resign. I held onto those thoughts, knowing that talking about them during the middle of the summer would cause a great disruption to the entire rhythm of camp. So, I was determined to wait until camp ended to announce my departure.
In the meantime, Covid continued to be an overwhelming issue. Every day held the tension of “What it. . . ?” Well, that “what if” became reality about two weeks before the end of summer. In late July, multiple campers and a handful of staff tested positive for Covid, enough that we could not justify trying to complete the camping session, or even finish the remaining three weeks of camp.
Our protocols called for us to notify parents to begin picking up their children, so on a Tuesday and Wednesday we began welcoming parents into camp as they picked up their children. One of my calls was to Tyson and Jacky King. Tyson informed me that they were 14 hours away in Arkansas, but that they would get there as soon as they could. Because of the long drive, Jacky did not arrive until early evening on Wednesday. By that time, only a few campers remained.
Jacky was tasked with trying to coordinate the pickup of several of her children at our two separate camps, and the complicated logistics meant she was parked and waiting for a while. This gave us time to chat. Making small talk, I asked, “Thanks for making the effort and sacrifice to drive all this way. I understand that you have been in Arkansas. What’s going on with you guys?” She responded, “Well, we bought some property and want to start a camp. All we need is a guy like you to come and tell us how to run it.”
Her words landed hard. The rest of the conversation remains fuzzy in my brain. I stammered and stumbled through, as my mind was turning somersaults. I kept my lips sealed tight, but I held onto her words for the remainder of camp as if my life depended on it.
Summer soon ended, and I informed my supervisors in mid-August that I was resigning my position. I left September 15th with little confidence about my next steps. Who would hire an old guy like me? Jacky’s words haunted me. I would pick up my phone to call Tyson, but I could never bring myself to go through with it. I knew I couldn’t present myself well in a phone call, so late one evening in mid-October I texted Tyson these words:
Tyson, Chandler Pruitt here. I hope this message finds you and your family happy and healthy. You may or may not be aware, but I recently resigned my camp job. After 35 summers and 26 years full-time, I found myself at a crossroad.
I am not officially retired, which brings me to the reason for this text. I recall you and your wife discussing your ventures into the world of camping. As I embark on my next chapter, I did not know if you needed any help from an old camp guy like myself to help you get things off the ground.
Just putting it out there for you to think about. You should feel absolutely no pressure here. I am checking out several things right now. Whatever the result is all good. May God bless you in your endeavors.
The next morning, I received this reply from Tyson:
So great to hear from you. Don’t look for anything else until we talk.
Well, after a few days we did talk. Tyson relayed his end of the story to me. He communicated with me how he and Jacky had hosted a fundraising event on the property, and he was quick to express how it had not gone so well. Discouraged, he went home very late after the event and fervently prayed:
God, we need help. If you have someone out there who can help us, please send them our way.
The next morning, he opened my text and responded. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I have come to call such events “Divine appointments.” There is absolutely no way that I have come to work with Tyson and Jacky as what the world would call a “coincidence.” Camp Iron Bluffs is not a “whim” or just “a thing we are doing.” It’s a calling. And I keep seeing time and again how God is weaving circumstances and bringing people into our paths to move our undoubtable calling forward.
But I haven’t shared the biggest Divine appointment in the whole story. You see, Tyson King was my camper in my cabin when I was a young college student. Who would have ever guessed that so many years ago God was planting a seed in our relationship into a place that eventually would grow into Camp Iron Bluffs.
Seemingly everything had crumbled around me. My camping job spanning over 40 years, gone. My paycheck, gone. My self-esteem tattered. My confidence hanging on by a thread. The obstacles were many with others looking on the horizon. What now God? But He cleared a path that only He could engineer. And there was truly “Nothing in my way!”