I was invited to help out with a Catholic young adult gathering at Lake Pomme de Terre, about four hours south of the monastery. When I told people the name of the event, they just started laughing. It was called “Nature’s Call.” I’m sure the original campers had fun with coming up with the title. However, Nature’s Call, a fantastic camp out, has been taking place for 20 years now. It always occurs on Labor Day weekend. It drew groups from Kansas City, Maryville, Jefferson City, Columbia, Missouri, and even from Oklahoma.
I arrived in the area Saturday morning. It is near Flemington, Missouri (a place I have never heard of before). The directions were excellent, but it was still difficult to find, because it involved driving down a grass/dirt/gravel road, heading straight when the paved road forked to the left and right. Fortunately, I knew a few of the people who were attending, and I called one of them for assistance.
As I arrived, participants were setting up their tents, clothing lines, and hammocks. It was a beautifully wooded area right on the lake. I have to admit that I am not much of a camper or outdoorsman, but I like being outside. It is just when it comes time to go to sleep, I prefer a bed and a strong roof over my head. The four priests who attended were housed in simple cabins about a quarter-mile from the campsite. We were available the entire weekend for Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and spiritual direction. Of course, we were able to relax, visit, and hang out with the young adults who attended the weekend gathering.
It was interesting to see what everyone prepared for dinner. Most simply cooked over a fire, but some had gas grills that they lugged up to the remote location. One evening a couple guys were cooking steaks, and they said they had plenty for me. I was not going to pass that up.
During the day, we enjoyed the water. I swam along the shore for exercise. Others played Frisbee or bean bag toss. On Sunday, there was the “greased pig competition.” They divided the men into two teams in the water. They greased a watermelon with lard and threw it in the water. The two teams competed against each other in trying to advance the greased watermelon to the other teams goal. If you got it across the goal line, you scored. This event was definitely a first for me. In the evenings, people played music on guitars and bongo drums and sat around the fire.
Monday morning, around 4:30am, there was a severe thunderstorm that rolled through the area. The rain came down in sheets and many people packed up early and headed home. Some braved the weather and regarded it as another element of the camping experience. Again, I was just thankful to have a roof over my head.
When I returned to the Abbey on Monday afternoon, we had our annual Labor Day Picnic. The seminarians concluded their Day of Recollection (a day of silence and retreat) in order to join the monastic community for a picnic outside. The weather was perfect for such an event. Everyone enjoyed the delicious food and visiting with one another.