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 a number of 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 Vance as the dish room manager for one summer, and I was blessed to serve as one of Vance's 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, his legacy will continue to reach into the thousands!
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, Vance 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 collectors 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 to know Vance seemed to be Omni-present around camp. The fear of and respect for Vance 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, TX. Vance and Amy 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 more fond 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.
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! Vance will certainly be missed, but as Jon Camp recently posted, 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 inspires me to want to do the same. "Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..." - Shay