Fire’s Burning

Fire’s Burningkootenay lake fire

Draw nearer.

The words of the old campfire song take me back to Camp Koolaree, where I first learned them around a fire, singing with the 7 and 8 year old campers I’d come to be chaplain with, during their three nights and four days at camp.

This year, returning to the week of teen coed camp in early July, they took on a special meaning, as the mountain top above Duhamel and Six Mile sent out clouds of smoke and flame. At night, the trees candled and flared, highlighted against the sky across the lake from the camp, I looked at our cabins filled with young, bright, joyful souls, and wondered about the ironic value system we have unleashed upon them.

Over our week on Kootenay Lake, watching safely from the swimming dock at Koolaree, we saw water bombers, helicopters and fire fighters fight to contain the threat to homes below, and trees above. It must have been an incredible cost. Balanced, of course, by the saved homes and trees and the cost of replacing them. But still, a lot of the provincial budget is consumed in fire.

Not that we’ll run out of funds. No matter how difficult the season, we continue to fight fire, until the weather turns and cool air blankets the province. That’s when the irony occurred to me.

All of the kids at Koolaree are wonderful. All of them. Bright lights and sparks and dancers. Joyful singers, energetic swimmers, thoughtful thinkers, artists, game players. I could not begin to compile a list that comes close to describing them, and their capabilities, and their potentials. All of them are greatness and wonder.

Some of them will run into difficulty. Some will wander down a path with unintended and unexpected consequences. Some will be hurt, some will be harmed. Some may end up on the thin margins of our social system, forgotten on the streets of the downtown East Side, or heading up a family as a minimum waged single parent. They may languish in a care home, or toil long hours for small pay in hopeless occupations.

There will be fires in some of these lives.

Will we fight along side them, throwing every resource we have into the fray until the rains come and the cool air soothes, or will we hit a ‘budget wall’? Will we shake our heads regretfully, and speak longingly of a day to come when the world is a better place and we’ll be able to do all we wish we could?

When, I wonder, will our children (no matter their age) command the same attention from the provincial budget and the budgets of our hearts that is given without counting the cost, when the trees candle against the skyline above the hills?

Fire’s Burning.

Draw nearer.

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About Keith Simmonds

Born and raised in the middle north (Kitimat BC and Flin Flon MB), I've worked 30 years in Mining/Smelting and the Pulp industry, while engaging in political action, community organizing, and union activism on the side. In and Out of Spiritual Being, my faith journey is through a Christian context, although I honour, uphold and am fascinated by other paths to the mountain. I began my training in diaconal ministry with the United Church of Canada in 2004, and began serving as a minister in Rossland, Trail, Beaver Valley and Salmo BC in 2009. My family and I moved to Duncan BC in August of 2013, where I serve as part of the ministry team. My partner, Laurel Walton, and I have five children between us. Liam attends Cow High, Jonah lives and works in Duncan, Brenna resides in Courtenay, Amy and her partner, Craig are in Vancouver, and Wade is in Calgary. My parents and siblings live in Kamloops, BC.

4 thoughts on “Fire’s Burning

  1. Great article Keith. I pray that our young people will take with them the “fire” of Christ’s love on their journey through life. Where best to see evidence of that than at Koolaree! Thanks for caring :)

    1. Thanks Shirley, Nice to hear from you. I think we’re helping them gain a sense of their presence and care in the Creator’s abundant Love. Trying to anyway, this was my best year planning worship with cabin groups ever. Good thoughts, great input, and lots of creativity. I really appreciated being there.

  2. Well, to answer your question from my perspective – from the government never. They only respond to immediate fires that capture our attention.

    But from our hearts, not until we Christians learn that we are about nothing more or less than self-sacrificing love. Until enough of us get enough relationship with the Kingdom, we will always “burn out”when we try to be fired even a little bit for this. Being “re-membered” to the ultimate mystery (think communion) is the only way to be constantly filled enough to let ourselves be “burned through” until we are finally burned out and get to go home. Believe it or not, this is great fun most of the time.

    1. Thanks Ken, I’m hoping we’ll do a tad better as government whilst working towards ‘enlightenment’. Funny, I don’t think I ever understood the term in quite the same way as it comes to me now. Must be something to do with the conversations we’ve had about kenosis, or was that re-penting? Anyway, I yearn for a time when we might return to values I am convinced we once shared and lived out. Can we achieve a collective space that makes room for individual experience of self as one?

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