From Hollywood To Iowa
Back when our kids wanted to travel in the same car as their parents, we journeyed three days to get to a camp in Iowa where I was to speak. I’ve discovered that the best way for a speaker to gain credibility at family camp is to leave his children at home, but ours have always come along. And I think it’s been comforting to other parents to watch our children misbehave.
As we sat at dinner the first night, the children horking down corn on the cob, the camp director, Earl, told us a little about the camp. Located on 660 acres of wooded property in Central Iowa, Hidden Acres had experienced significant growth the last few years. But with growth came the usual structural hurdles and the camp staff had been praying that God would supply enough money for a major project. When the money arrived, they hoped to build a sewer so that frightened campers would not have to hike past bears and wolves to use the facilities in the middle of the night. The staff prayed often. But nothing happened.
One day a semi-truck crept up the gravel road and a man climbed out. “Do you mind if I park my rig here?” he asked, pointing to a hay field on the southern edge of camp.
Earl, as accommodating a Midwesterner as you’ll ever meet, said, “Sure.” Soon the truck driver had another question. “We’re filming a little movie, and there are more of us. You know, trailers and some equipment. Oh … and helicopters, too. Is that okay?”
Accommodating Earl said, “Sure.”
The crew was from a little studio out west called Warner Brothers and they had a few more questions. Could they shoot some scenes on a road west of camp? Scatter a little straw? Blow it around? “We’ll pay you to clean things up,” they promised.
Earl said sure.
Next a helicopter landed in the south field and a bearded man by the name of Steven ducked out of it, with his personal chef. He was producing a little film about a tornado. His name was Steven Spielberg.
Warner Brothers stayed 36 hours on the property filming Twister, paid the staff $1,000 for the three hours it took them to clean up the road, then asked them to put all the trash back on the highway, they needed to shoot the scene again. Of course, Earl said sure.
Before the trucks and helicopters departed, Earl was holding in his hand another cheque. One which made his eyes grow wide. It was for the exact amount they’d been praying for.
A friend rolls his eyes when I mention answered prayer because he is more educated than I, and can put a voice to the “hows” of history. How could a God who answers prayer turn a deaf ear while Hitler murdered six million Jews and several million Christians? How could God watch Stalin kill 60 million without doing something? What about the Middle East and Baghdad and Hiroshima?
I don’t know quite how to respond. There is so much I don’t understand. But late at night I keep circling back to God’s obvious hand on my life in the simple things. I have seen him give joy when there is no plausible explanation. When I’ve been in the back of an ambulance holding the hand of my unconscious wife while nurses cast sideways glances at each other. And I have sensed the peace of knowing His presence though so many things in life do not make sense.
Earl agrees. Ask him if God answers prayer and he’ll smile and tell you a story. And he’ll probably conclude it this way. “When I got that cheque, I knew what we’d build with it. And we’d do it in memory of Hollywood. They’ve built their share of sewers, why not build one out here in Iowa?”