Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For Vance Crowe

A couple of weeks ago at our midweek worship, Waypoint, we looked at the life of Martin Luther and last week we heard the story of Rosa Parks.  These were significant people who have left major marks on the world.  It’s highly unlikely that any of our stories will be captured in the annuls of history.  In fact, most of the men and women of faith through the ages have lived their lives without leaving even the smallest record for posterity.  Yet, that didn’t mean that God didn’t work through them.  Though their names may be forgotten now, in their own time and place, they may have made an impact that is still rippling out across the pond of time and space into eternity.  Though God at times uses extraordinary people to accomplish his will, more often than not, God works through every day people doing every day things.   

I've been blessed by a number of mentors through the years.  I've learned from ministers and other members of various of churches I've worshiped in.  Many of my school teachers and coaches have had a tremendous impact on my life.  I continue to look up to so many of my college professors, from both my undergraduate and graduate studies.  I've worked in ministry with several amazing colleagues, both older and younger than me.  And obviously, more than anything else, I've been formed by my family - my parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. 

In addition to all of these mentioned above, one of the most impactful people I've ever had the privilege to know is Vance Crowe.  Vance was the director of Camp Blue Haven from 1987-2003 (17 years).  My first summer to attend camp was Vance's first summer to direct it.  My first summer to teach Bible class at Blue Haven was Vance's final summer to direct.  I camped under Vance's leadership for 10 summers, I worked for him as the dish room manager for one summer, and I was blessed to serve as one of his counselors in 2001.  There are countless Christ-like men and women who've had a hand in making Blue Haven youth camp the amazing ministry that it is, but no one has done more through the years than Vance and his wife Amy.  Though he passed from this life on Saturday, May 14, 2016 – his legacy will continue to impact thousands upon thousands of people!

I have so many fond memories of Vance, it would be difficult to try to recollect them all now, but I want to share a few.  In 1991, during 2nd session, I joined dozens of other campers on the all-day hike to the top of Elk Mountain (11,661 feet).  Vance led the hike and it was the first time a group from Blue Haven had attempted to make the 13 plus mile round trip journey.  We had no problems making it to the snow crested peak of the mountain, but as we descended, Vance decided to take a short-cut that turned out to be a long-cut.  What should have been around 13-14 miles turned into a 26-mile marathon of mythic proportions.  We slept out under the stars and didn't get back to camp until the following morning.  But during the entire journey, no one ever doubted that we'd get back to civilization in one piece.  Vance remained calm, cool, and collected and owned up to his mistake, while simultaneously assuring everyone that we would all be okay.  Later that summer, he had t-shirts printed up and sent to all of us on the hike.  The shirts said, "I survived the Elk Mountain Lost Hike."  I think they must be collector’s items by now.  I certainly lost mine somewhere along the way.

Though he got lost on that occasion in 1991, Vance knew his way around the Sangre de Cristo Mountains like no one else.  In fact, it sometimes seemed like Vance would just appear out of nowhere!  When we used to have devotionals out in the woods, you would look up and there would be Vance!  Where did he come from?  Then you'd look up and he'd be gone again.  It was both comforting and a little alarming – he seemed to be Omni-present around camp.  Our fear of and respect for him kept us all out of trouble. 

When I was a junior in High School in Marble Falls, we asked Vance to be the speaker at our annual youth rally.  The rally was held on a Saturday and I had a basketball game the night before in Belton.  The Crowes made the trip early and came along and watched me and a couple of others on our team who had attended camp.  It was so encouraging for the director of Blue Haven to take the time to watch one of my games! 

Maybe that's what I remember most about Vance Crowe.  He was always an encourager.  I delivered some dreadful devotional talks through the years while attending Blue Haven as a camper, but I remember always being encouraged by Vance.  In part, his encouragement gave me the confidence to pursue ministry as a vocation.  One of my fondest memories comes from my final night as a counselor at Blue Haven in the summer of 2001.  He hugged me and then whispered these words in my ear, "Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you so powerfully this summer."  Those words were few, but coming from such a mentor in the faith, they meant a lot and have stayed with me to this day. 

When I attended his funeral, I discovered many other ways Vance had blessed others.  For instance, he and Amy had fostered dozens of kids through the years.  I only knew him for one small slice of his life – a few weeks out of the year at Camp Blue Haven.  And yet, he got up, day after day and went to work for God in his Kingdom.  While speaking with Karl Jones, the Burleson pulpit minister, a couple of years ago, I discovered that Karl knew Vance from his days of ministering in Oklahoma.  In fact, while Karl was preaching in Davis, OK, Vance had hosted a gospel meeting at the Davis congregation.  So many others in Oklahoma and other places knew the Crowes and were impacted by their Christian service.  Who knows the length and breadth of their impact?!!!   

I could go on and on, in fact, I could write a book about Vance, but I'm not the one to do that.  There are many others who were closer to him and knew him far better than I did.  Certainly, one or some of them should write a book about this fine man's life.  I'd love to read it!  He will certainly continue to be missed, but as former Blue Haven counselor, Jon Camp posted soon after Vance’s death, our cloud of witnesses just got bigger!  And that part of Hebrews really sums up who Vance Crowe was.  He was one who fixed his eyes on Jesus and humbly followed his Master and Savior.  His life and example inspire me to want to do the same. 

Vance, was just an ordinary guy.  And yet, God used him in extraordinary ways.  We all are just ordinary people, but God can do so much through each one of us.  And God has given us this great cloud of witnesses to spur us on to love & good works.  Most of these witnesses are very average, like we are.  Who makes up your cloud of witnesses?  Maybe they are still living, or maybe they’ve passed from this life into eternity.  Either way, we should follow them as they have or are currently following Christ.  And let’s not forget, though we may feel small or insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe, we still have an important part to play.  God has placed at least a dozen or so people within our sphere of influence.  Maybe more?  So, let’s play our parts well.  And as the writer of Hebrew tells us, “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” - Shay 

No comments:

Post a Comment