We just returned from Camp Lawroweld today after spending three days there for our annual pastors’ retreat. Though I always get sentimental about leaving – it is, after all, my second favorite place on earth – it was especially touching today because of who we were also saying goodbye to – at least in the capacity he was in. After nearly 25 years at the camp, today was Pastor Harry’s Sabnani’s last “official” summer camp duties there as its director.
Simply put, I have been going to Camp Lawroweld in one capacity or another since 1994, and this man has been there just about every time. I owe so much to him.
It all started when I abandoned the summer camp I had been going to in my Conference my whole life, and decided to give Camp Lawroweld – in the backwoods of Maine – a shot for teen camp. I fell in love with it immediately – and it was really the catalyst in my love affair for the three states that make up northern New England (you can read a little more about that here).
A few years later, Pastor Harry graciously hired me to work as a staff member – and for the next seven years, I spent every summer working under him, making memory after memory (and eventually getting together with Camille, who is now my wife). At the end of my seventh summer, after graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Theology and without any pastoring job on the horizon (even though I had sent my resume to every Conference in North America), I was three weeks away from heading back to Andrews University to pursue my MDiv in the Seminary. But I’ll never forget it: Pastor Harry came up to me and asked if I had any interest in pastoring in Vermont. He had been talking with the Conference administration about an opening they had, and had encouraged them to pursue me on it.
A couple days later I was all of a sudden being interviewed for the position, and a day later I had a job, pastoring for the Northern New England Conference – and still do.
So it’s not an understatement to say that Pastor Harry has been one of the biggest influences in my life. I wouldn’t be living in Maine right now, pastoring for the Northern New England Conference, married to the woman I am married to (which he, along with my dad, had the privilege of solemnizing), with the kids that I have, if this man hadn’t given me a chance 16 years ago. But, then again, that’s the man he is – the best quality he has: he’s always eager to give a person a chance, thinking the best of them.
Beyond that, there are so many other memories I look back on with great fondness through the years that I cherish – too many to recount. Whether it was playing guitar alongside him during camp (which, due to his rhythm, was always an adventure!); sitting on his couch in Freeport during Camp Meeting, watching the Red Sox and shooting the breeze; or sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for him to say something unintentionally funny, the mentorship and camaraderie he was always eager to provide has paid eternally-significant dividends.
I, of course, am not the only person he has had a huge impact on. Spending a quarter-century as a Youth Director, and Camp Director, produces a wide wake – and he has been equal to the task.
So I’ll be sad the next time I drive into Camp Lawroweld and I don’t see him perched atop the lodge porch, hunched over the railings, with radio in hand, as he quietly surveys the hallowed camp. It’s a scene that is burned into my mind.
That’s his place.
It’s his camp.
Postscript: It would be remiss of me not to mention another significant person who is also saying goodbye to Camp Lawroweld in an official capacity: Pastor Harry’s wife, Judy, who served as the cook every summer. She wasn’t at pastors’ retreat this week, so I didn’t get to enjoy one “last hurrah” with her, but her impact on the camp and on my life cannot be understated. Thank you both for dedicating so many years to young people.