Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts on the passing of a friend

The 121st camp meeting assembled at Grand Junction, MI just as it has since those earlier days when D. S. Warner and company fished in the waters of Lester Lake. Stories have become legend reporting the passage of small groups of Trumpet Workers making their way from the Church of God Saints embryonic publishing plant in Grand Junction, walking north along the railroad track, and then hiking that sandy trail over through a thick grove of huge trees, skirting the little farm and trekking down to water’s edge at Lester Lake for a few hours of leisurely meditation, fellowship – even a little fishing. It doesn’t sound very spiritual but they might take back a few dozen, or perhaps a-hundred fifty tasty fish. Noah Byrum even reported that non-religious but eventful day when George (I think it was) Cole reported a five-pound Bass flopping out of the water and into their boat. I’d like to have seen the look on his face, except this was NO urban legend.

Lester Lake and Warner Memorial Camp were the kind of places Ed and Nonie Schweikert loved to visit. It was little surprise to arrive this year and discover the Schweikerts already inhabiting this Church of God encampment. I’m not sure who all they had in their company, but I visited with both Nonie and her sister and we revisited scenes from the past in their Ohio days. I watched Silver guide her family about; she was one of our talented youth  when I first met her. I was in company with longtime friend Bill Miller and we were headed to Ontario, Canada camp meeting where Bill would serve as a liason representing the Church of God in Michigan. We were sharing the good fellowship in Thamesford, where I would make many new friends. Bill had brought Silver for reasons beyond my challenged memory. What I most remember is that it was a trip I would joyfully repeat several more times before I retired.

I was never much of a camper, but Ed was, as I suspect a lot of  Ed’s youthful friends would agree. The only time I was ever in Ed’s home, I recall my amazement and pleasure at viewing his A-frame home in Owosso. I envied his knowledge and building skills. It was always a pleasure to encounter Ed or Nonie at Camp Meeting, and whereas I could often be seen sitting in some solitary place just pondering the status quo of things; any time you saw  Ed he was either in a huddle of hilarious adults, or he was overwhelming you with his latest “Did I tell you about . . .?”, or he could be seen in the Dining Hall or out under the trees with a small group of enthralled children showing them one of his disappearing card routines, or some other mysterious act that he was so talented at inventing.

This year was no exception; Ed was just Ed … a little slower … obviously a little older, but he was in circumstances that he loved, among people with whom he had shared much of his life; and he was doing things for which he has long been noteworthy. Thus, we all found it abrupt, confrontational, and shocking when the leader of that evening service informed us that Ed Schweikert had suddenly left our company, fled our laughter and hilarity at his jokes, leaving children still marveling at his mysteries now stunned at his quick departure – Ed had gone to his final resting place, THAT PLACE for which he had been preparing assiduously throughout more than fifty years of Christian Ministry.  Oh, we talked among ourselves, as we covered up our shock and talked about the necessary grief of the family. He had touched us one and all. Someone described Ed preaching his final sermon last Sunday, at South Haven, and the fact that because the regular sound person was at camp meeting instead of being at home, they had not recorded his sermon.

Be whatever that may be; Ed preached his final sermon this week at Warner Camp. It had a lot of different components to it. It left out no one, and it included all, from the oldest Saint on the grounds to the youngest grandchild. It was Ed spending his last days at a place he dearly loved, with its side trips over to Lake Michigan and whatever else there might be. He was with people he loved more than life itself, doing things he most enjoyed. It was almost reminiscent of an earlier day when our fearless Camp Director privately confided to some of us  that he would be leaving us before camp broke-up that week--a few years back. It happened just like Ray said it would, leaving a safe-deposit vault full of memories and valued experiences. We were equally shocked when Ed left us too suddenly. We feel the pain of that sudden separation, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

We rejoice in the hope of our Lord’s promises. We feel some of that separation the family currently feels, but we rejoice in the beauty of the circumstances. We all face that final appointment when we step around that unseen corner of tomorrow—from which there is no return. But, we should all be so fortunate as to be in such a great company of friends and family, and in such loving, fun-filled, and meaningful circumstances as last week’s camp meeting. We all learned a lot about Christian Living from Ed Schweikert and we can learn a few lessons on how to spend our final days before death overtakes us.


Thanks Ed, for your company, and your valuable lessons; we rejoice in your promotion … So-long, for now … from Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner.blogspot,com