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Monday, September 10, 2012

Attention! Draw Your Swords!

Some of you will know where this is going, just from the title. The rest of you will have to wait and wonder.

I have to share one unrelated picture before starting my story, just because it's so great. This is the dining hall as I remember it. It comes from the LeTourneau Christian Camp website, but it might have been plucked right from my memory banks with one exception. Meals for 150 kids were all family style- once they got us seated we stayed there, with the exception of one designated runner from each table who could go get refills.

camp dining hall

Each evening there was a meeting in the Tabernacle. The campground was built on the style of many of the great camp meeting houses of the era. It was designed for summer use- all wood, no insulation, with wooden benches. They had backs, but they weren't dignified enough to be called pews. I can't remember if the building had a cement or sawdust floor. Here is a picture of the inside, filled with people, that I found at the website.

LeTourneau Christian Camp Tabernacle

Each evening all us kids filed into the Tabernacle at 7 pm. There always seemed to be extra adults who came too, but we didn't pay any attention to them! Each year there was a different theme for the week. Each camper had a booklet. About half of the book was words to songs, and one page had both words and music to the theme song of the week. We began the evening by singing the theme song and a lot of other songs as well. There was always something special. It might be special music of some kind. This was a bit early for even Christian camps to accept guitars, but the organist played a little more like roller rink than choir anthem style. We loved it! Sometimes someone played a trumpet or other instrument.

My favorite special events were the chalk talks. If you are under 50 and weren't brought up in church you probably have no clue what I'm talking about. They were like the digital media light shows for the 1950s (and earlier). An artist would place an easel on stage and begin drawing a picture with huge chunks of colored chalk, while telling a story (that always had a spiritual moral, of course). At the end of the talk, the picture would appear to be done, but then... the artist would turn on a blacklight (ordinary people didn't even know what they were called back then), and the picture would magically transform to something else: maybe a deer in the woods at sunset, maybe Jesus returning in the clouds. I was fascinated, and always tried to improve my skills at watching the strokes that didn't seem to accomplish anything to see if I could figure out the secret picture before it was revealed.

In our workbooks there were also pages to fill in for the required Bible lessons of the week, and a centerfold page with a picture which could be brought to life with stickers which you earned for completing lessons, learning verses, etc. I always got all the stickers.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I liked to win. In fact, if I had to characterize my personal view, as a child, of what other people were for, it was so I could have someone to beat. Pretty much at anything. I know, not a great attitude. But there it was. That was me back then. Each year, as part of the evening program there was a Sword Drill. The winner each evening competed on the last night to be the all-camp winner.

OK, OK, I'll explain a Sword Drill. Each person has a Bible. The leader says, "Attention!" Everyone gets ready and focuses on the leader. It's like "on your mark." Then the leader says, "Draw Your Swords!" At this command everyone lifts their Bible high in the air. No cheating! Get that arm all the way up.

Then the leader says a Scripture reference, like "John 3:16." Except they would never use a verse that virtually everyone should know by heart. Everyone repeats the reference back to the leader in unison. Then comes the pregnant pause. It's like not knowing how long Nick Cannon will take to reveal which act made it through the voting on America's Got Talent. But you have to concentrate. Eventually, the leader says, "Charge!"

On that command, each person whips his or her Bible open hunting for that verse. When you have it you leap to your feet and begin reading it, loudly. Don't stand up before you have it or you'll look silly at best, or maybe get called for a foul. There were usually spotters to judge who was first, in case things got close.

When there were several individual winners those people would have a play off. Sometimes it was sudden death, and sometimes the last one to get the verse would have to drop out until there were just two people head to head. At Bible Club camp we did the latter.

There was one boy... his family was somehow part of the leadership. He won every year. I wanted to change that. Really bad. I no longer remember which year it was. If I had to guess, I'd say 1960. I won one of the evening Sword Drills. Yes! That put me in the playoff on Friday night.

For the playoff, there was no balancing our Bibles on our knees. We nightly winners stood on the stage, in front of everyone and flipped pages based on our knowledge of the location of books in the Bible. Finally, there was no one left on the stage except me and that boy. I remember he was older than I was, and was wearing a suit. I'm sure I was wearing a dress. Girls probably had to for meetings.

Attention! Draw your swords! Ruth 2:15. "Ruth 2:15," we said, and then waited with sweaty palms and shaking knees. I knew my Bible books, no problem there. But could I get there faster than my rival? "Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Just after the Pentateuch," I thought. I knew right where to go.

Charge! I opened my Bible and flipped over a couple of pages, "And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not:"

I had won. The all-camp Sword Drill. Whatever his name was politely congratulated me. He said he hadn't even known where the book of Ruth was. I was stunned at his lack of knowledge and his willingness to actually admit it. And what did I win? You can see for yourself.

Bible Club Camp banner

It was in better shape 50 years ago. And all-wool felt is susceptible to moth damage. No matter, I was the winner that year. I was in better shape then too, but I think I've improved in some ways. I no longer HAVE to be the winner to be happy. But I can still say the Bible books in order.

See Memories from Bible Club Camp
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vanilla said...

We are beholden to you, dear losers, for without you we could not be winners!

(Oh. Congrats on the win!)

Secondary Roads said...

Good for you! We didn't do sword drills at the camp I attended, but we did them frequently in Sunday School.

Ann said...

Well isn't that interesting. Bible verse competitions. :)

Sharkbytes said...

vanilla- Ah! Do I detect a similar desire under your mild-mannered exterior?

Chuck- I still think they were a great way to get people to learn where to find Scripture references

Ann- One of the many competitive ways used to encourage learning how to use our Bibles.

RNSANE said...

What wonderful memories. I wish I were more familiar with the Bible books...I never made it to a camp of any kind but, when I was a senior in high school, I played in our annual Powder Puff football game which took place in the city's main football stadium - no high school locale for that one. I was number 74, a left tackle.

By the way, my senior year, I was the southeast women's judo champion!

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