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Summer 2019 Update: The Terrible, Awful, No-Good, AWESOME Summer! 

After 14 summers of our team going out for summer tours — weeks on end of location after location and program upon program — as special as each one is, they tend to run together a little bit. Certain events stick out, of course, but the summers as a whole somewhat get lumped together into that general category of “Life History.”

But this summer was different.

The following report is designed to give you a more detailed account of the events of the summer of 2019 to bring praise and glory to Christ. It’s not exhaustive, and it really is more about our personal lives than about the material we were sharing just because we are trying to give glory to the Lord for what He did in our personal lives. 

In many ways, our lives are no different from anyone else’s. We all have jobs to do, families to care for, hobbies we enjoy and struggles along the way. So far we are the same. But we are all different, too. Every life is unique and every season of life is unique. Certainly, our assignment from the Lord to work in a ministry to children using puppetry to share the Gospel and traveling in a caravan of bus-with-equipment trailer and van-with-travel-trailer is unique. But (in general) we love it! 

It should probably first be said that the spring of 2019 was very tiring. A lot of work had been done both within the sphere of the ministry and in our personal lives, and the looming summer season, albeit representing a looming deadline, was viewed as a welcome change of pace. This is pretty common. Although the summers are very busy, filled with travel and daily programs, they are also a lot of fun and afford us time for family that we don’t have in the same way in any other time of year. Swimming, cookouts, games, hikes, new hobbies, nighttime movies and just hanging out are anticipated as part of the fun that we add on to our personal lives alongside the fun of ministry itself. Because the spring of 2019 was so particularly exhausting, the anticipation of summer had come to a fevered pitch. 

However, things did not go as planned and very quickly we realized that, although we are accustomed to “rolling with the punches,” the “punches” we were receiving had a feeling in their voracity not of simple everyday life, but of something more insidious, more personal and more purposeful. It felt like spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

Why this summer? 

Evil doesn’t really need a reason. Evil is just evil. But here are a couple thoughts as to why. Last summer (2018) had its own challenges, but had a very different feel. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t spiritual warfare going on, just that the “heat” was “hotter” in 2019. Our previous series was entitled Psalm Springs, and was an exposition of Psalm 23 and the life of David. That series always leaves us feeling encouraged by the Great Shepherd with the constant reminders of His love and care. This year’s series is entitled Truth Travelers and is a topical exploration of basic, fundamental truths of life as seen through the pages of God’s Word. In a nutshell, it’s apologetics for kids. To compare the two years is to compare defense and offense. Both things are there to help you win the game (our game being to give the Gospel), but the plays are very different. Or, to describe it differently, Psalm Springs is a shield while Truth Travelers is a sword. One thing we can know for certain: Satan hates truth. He is a deceiver — the father of lies — and when our series pointedly attacked his lies by loudly proclaiming and defending truths such as “there is only one God” and “there is a right and a wrong,” it was bringing the fight right to Satan’s doorstep. 

But before we get to the details of the battle, let’s get one thing straight: Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. God was never absent, never out of control and never surprised. He worked His will in our lives and in this summer, and (spoiler alert) He was glorified in the end! Of course, that’s easy to say now….

Week 1: HisAbility at Camp Barakel

This week is a favorite with us as it has been for the generations of GHH teams before us. HisAbility is a week of camp for special needs adults. These folks are such precious souls, full of life and encouragement. The puppets are a grand favorite with them and a large mascot puppet named Barney (made decades ago by our founder Bob Friedl) has lived in residence at Camp Barakel for exclusive use at HisAbility week. (Incidentally, Barney hitched a ride home with us this year, as he needs to visit our shop for a much-needed makeover!) 

The very first chapel of the summer involves Juli and Chris telling the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It’s an exciting retelling with Juli narrating and Chris playing all of the characters. Part way through, the power goes out. Being it is daytime, we can still see, and Juli and Chris just project louder to make up for the loss of the microphones. No big deal. However, it is still disappointing, because we know that at the end of the story, when Elijah prays and God sends fire to consume the sacrifice, we won’t be able to use our striking sound effect of a deafening lightning strike to audibly bring that awesome moment to life. However, Nicole, sits backstage at the soundboard, keeping alert just in case the power should return. She prays, “Lord, I know it’s just a simple little sound effect that’s not really important, but it sure would be cool if You let the power come back on in time for that moment!”  And wouldn’t you know it? At the end of the prayer of Elijah, as the word “Amen” leaves Chris’ lips, the lights FLASH on and the alert Nicole hits the button to unleash the sound effect that reminds us of God’s power. And it is powerful! It’s as if God is reminding us at the very beginning of the summer, “You see that God you are reading about in the pages of Scripture? That’s me. I’m still here, I’m the same as I was then, and just like then, I am in charge.”