This was originally posted July 26th, 2011.
“Oh?” I can hear you saying. “How so?”
The story goes like this. After a beautiful ceremony and reception attended by close family and friends, Don & Marie left amid cheers and the clatter of tin cans to head off on their honeymoon. Except … they never made it.
According to a newspaper article, their first stop was a Billy Graham crusade in the city.
“Really?” you’re saying. “They spent their first night together as man and wife at … a gospel crusade?”
Yep, and there’s a picture with the article to prove it. Not only were they totally in love with each other, but they were even more in love with their Savior, and were never shy about seeing His message proclaimed.
But their adventure didn’t end there. They spent the night at a local hotel, and then drove north, heading into Muskoka where they had rented a cottage for the rest of their honeymoon. As the sun started to sink towards the horizon, they rumbled along dirt roads, the car’s engine struggling to keep up with a young husband’s lead foot. The car slowly gave up, fighting valiantly to the end, but stranding the young couple on a lonely road somewhere near Port Sydney. And so, they set out on foot to find some miraculous mechanic, or at least a safe place to rest their heads for the night.
They happened upon a tiny little church camp on the shore of Mary Lake, a place where families would spend a week relaxing, enjoying nature, and listening to gifted preachers expound on God’s Word every morning and evening. It was called Muskoka Baptist Conference, and it consisted of a few small buildings then. Even so, a small room for the night cost more than Don and Marie were able to spend, especially with the newly-realized car expenses weighing heavily on their shoulders. Nevertheless, when their situation was made known, a room and 2 jobs were offered as a means to an end.
And so, the newlyweds set aside their travel clothes and instead wore aprons and sensible shoes, Marie waiting on tables in the dining hall, and Don washing the dishes in the kitchen. Family lore makes no reference to how long it took them to save enough to fix the car and make it home, but it was however, enough time to enjoy at least one moonlit swim in Mary Lake, sans swim suits. Eventually they did make it home though, beginning a multi-generational affinity for Muskoka, and specifically for the place we know as MBC.
When I was young, we would go for a week once every couple of years or so. I remember playing with the toys in the nursery during chapel sessions, and standing on the metal slide in Mary Lake, looking for the Sleeping Giant. I remember rainy day drives into Huntsville, petting the animals at Old MacDonald’s farm, going for horse rides, and sitting on vintage theatre seats in the old Fellowship Center. As a teenager, I spent weekends and a summer or two at MBC, putting in 12-hour days waiting tables, holding babies, leading kids in worship, scrubbing toilets, sneaking down the Tunnel to Widji, laying in the field discussing theology while watching the Northern Lights snake their way across the sky, running through the cemetary to Lion’s Lookout, making the annual (or, more accurately, biweekly) pilgrimage to Yog’s in town, and learning and studying and growing. MBC held my first taste of freedom, my first chance to spend time outside of the daily influence of my parents, and my first chance to make pivotal spiritual decisions that would define my own walk with Christ.
And as we embark on another excursion to the grounds, as we continue to introduce the third generation, our children, to the beauty and mystery that exists on conference grounds, I can’t help but wonder if they will see it the way I see it. I expect they will have their own place, as their daddy has his own place, where independence and freedom culminate in the creation of a new and distinct identity. But until they discover their own place, I will continue to bring them to mine.
And that’s why we keep going back to “That Place We Go”.