As they entered the bus, everyone was happy and excited to be going home. Even though the four days at The Special Gathering spiritual retreat had been great fun, the members who attended were nearly as ready to go home as the volunteers. Special Gathering is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. We form to evangelize and disciple people with intellectual disabilities. Almost glowing from the time of fun and fellowship, it was the normal chatter that filled the large bus transporting them back to First United Methodist Church of Melbourne, our drop-off spot.
Yet, one young lady began gripping almost immediately after embarking the vehicle. She especially didn’t like the way that I was trying to get everyone quiet so that I could take the final checks, to insure that everyone was on the bus. She mumbled in a loud voice, “I’m sick and tired of her yellilng at all of us!” Her sour face frowned back at me from the back of the bus with every name that was called. From the back bench, The Grumbler had positioned herself so that seven people were directly next to her.
As I drove my car back to the church, I was reviewing the good time we experienced during the four days. So many lives had been touched for the Lord.
It was Ashley’s first retreat. She and her friend, Terri, had stayed up late each night giggling and teasing. They shared boyfriend jokes and laughed at me when I did something stupid. Ashley had come to the altar for prayer when the invitation was given.
Eric came expecting a good time; and the Lord met him. I overheard him asking probing and interesting questions of volunteers. The inquiries seemed beyond his intellectual abilities. But the volunteers kept the answers simple; and he went away rubbing his chin and grinning with satisfaction.
The bus arrived at the church ahead of me. As quickly as I could, I dispersed the medications to parents and caregiver and got on the bus to dismiss everyone. As each person got off the bus, I noticed their tone and attitude had completely changed. There were no smiles. No thank you’s. No one gave me the usual hugs. “I hate camp.” More than one person mumbled. ”I’m never coming back.” I was shocked. Then I looked at the back of the bus and realized The Grumbler stared at me. Her arms and legs were crossed. But now, she was smiling slyly.
Ashley said, “Everyone was yelling and calling each other names on the bus. I don’t want to come back.”
Eric was so completely agitated that he wasn’t able to talk. He stomped and fumed, yelling at anyone who dared to look at him. Of course, the volunteers had come to the church. They anxiously waited to see all the campers for the last time, expected the hugs and warm good-byes we get each year. But this year was different. The Grumbler had made her conquest. Her smile said to me, “I won!”
I ignored her, trying to camouflage my deep disappointment. After everyone left, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Never discount the influence of ONE, for good and for evil.” Of course, we have often seen how one person can pour buckets of ice water on a meeting or experience. But the Lord was saying, “…for good and for evil.”
Driving away, I quietly prayed, “Lord, I’ve too often been The Grumbler. The Spoiler. And, somehow, I felt it was my Right. Help me in every situation to be the influence for good in the lives of others. Let me be the blessing, not the curse.”