The trip to Camp Frenda was my first time there. I had my expectations but it was definitely not the way how I imagined it to be. I've never been to a camp this comfortable. However, with all that occurred, the experience reminded me that we should always remember to never take the simple things in life for granted. Power in our houses, water to flush our toilets or even water to have a shower whenever we feel like.
The Sabbath was a blessing and it does make me look forward to next year's retreat. Unfortunately, the weekend met a premature end, which was to the disappointment of everyone. But on a whole, it was a great experience.
It was windy, very windy, and as I packed my bag in the trunk I knew this was going to be a weekend to remember. It was the evening of Friday May 4, and according to Veridian.on.ca, all of Pickering was without power. No stop lights, no Tim Horton's, or gas stations; nothing had power. Nothing except for the ever increasing winds that had begun to rattle the chimes outside peoples homes and swing stop lights as they hung dimmed above growing traffic.
We left the house just as the rain began, and it poured down like a veil obscuring visibility to the point of almost not being able to drive. With wipers set to maximum speed we made our way to pick up Sean, a nearby church brother, and arrived at his home 10 minutes later. The good thing about heavy rain is that it usually stops as fast as it starts, so by the time we got to Sean’s house the rain had stopped. We picked up him up and headed north towards Muskoka, excited about the events of the weekend.
As we passed through traffic and made our way up and out of the city, we noticed just how strong the wind had become with shingles laying on the ground victims of its power. As we drove north, the wind ripped twigs and even bark off a few old trees as it wrestled against my driving, trying to keep me from holding a straight line. I gripped the steering wheel with both hands, as is my custom under these kinds of circumstances, and kept extra distance from vehicles going in the opposite direction. With the GPS as my guide we listened to gospel music as we talked and laughed, hopeful yet concerned about our first Camp Frenda experience.
The view was very relaxing as we passed farms and open fields, quaint little communities, and forest trees lining the road decorating the soft shoulder with leaves forced down by the breeze. This wasn't my first trip to Camp Frenda, and finally after a few hours some landmarks signaled to me that we were near, as well as Google Maps reminding me how far I had left to go.
Soon the turn off from the main street dwindled down to a small road, and then finally the large gate read "Camp Frenda Welcomes You!" and we cheered that we had finally made it. Our celebration didn't last as long as I expected, as we approached the parking lot something looked weird, maybe even out of place. Then I realized what question in my head was missing and answer, ‘why was there so few cars in the parking lot?' We pulled up and parked the car, looking around to see if we could spot any of the early birds who arrived before us. Leaving our belongings in the car we got out and went inside of the main hall, looking for anyone else. No one. We called out, and looked around the main hall and recreation room and still no one.
By this time the sun had started to set and the blue tint of the evening had started to settle on the camp. We got back in the car and drove up the hill to see if perhaps the cabins were where we were staying. While up on top of the hill we saw the new buildings that had been added, but still no one from Ajax. On returning to our parking spot we noticed something strange, the stars had begun to come out and looking over the lake not a single glimmer of light reflected from across the water, or a window glow in the distance. And that is the moment we realized that Camp Frenda, Port Carling, Muskoka had no electricity.
Just outside the main hall a figure was spotted slowly waving. We got out and walked up to discover that it was Sis. Vassell, with news to confirm our suspicions; Camp Frenda was without power. She guided us to a room with the rest of the Ajax members who had arrived earlier. We greeted each other and, using our cell phones and flashlights, made our way to some seats set in a circle in the middle of the room. Sis. Brown handed us room keys, and updated us to the current situation while directing us to the food table in case we were hungry. Quickly the discussion around what we were going to do surfaced. Some considered turning around and going home, but others were still on their way and would need instruction. As the realization of our circumstance was analyzed it was noted that with no electricity, there would be no running water. All bathrooms would only be able to flush once with the water that they had already, hence the reason for us cutting the trip to next day, Sabbath morning.
Spirits were still high as we talked about how best to handle things and waited for all of those who reported to be on their way. Slowly but surely more and more people began to arrive, and we stayed up until the last group arrived around midnight. Tired, in the dark, and a little bit sweaty we finally went to our rooms to rough it out for the night. As we settled into our room, a realization began to spread. We had no electricity to pump water up the pipes, but we still had plenty of water nearby. Grabbing whatever we could find, buckets were filled and toilets were flushed. Despite the really nice bunk beds, now it really felt like camping. I'm sure going down to the lake in the dark to catch water is a Camp Frenda experience not many will get to have.
Through all of this the amazing energy, laughter, and excitement was not drowned by our circumstance, and we actually enjoyed the shared experience as a church family. Luckily, a generator was connected that allowed certain rooms to have a very limited amount of power, enough to charge phones and turn on a few lights. After more chatting and good-nights we all settle in to sleep, but not before being warned that breakfast the next morning was a short windows. We set the alarms on our phones hoping they’d still be on in the morning, and went to sleep.
Ajax SDA Community Church
Photo: Lenoi Hendricks