During my youth, however, I would have never dreamed that less than twenty years later my wife and I would sponsor an evening youth group at our church and even take that group on a weekend ski trip to Massanetta. Well, the Lord taught me to take part in helping children find Him and, of course, there is no better way to attract them to faith than through fun events designed to show that God wants us to have fun, too. It was not going to be long a trip, leaving at the crack of dawn on a Saturday and returning late Sunday. But I must admit, by the time we were back at home Sunday night we were exhausted.
The trip down went well, we arrived in time for lunch in the family style dining room at the old hotel. It had been modernized but still was very similar to how I remembered it as a youth. Afterwards, we took a drive over to the ski slopes, but they were very crowded and they decided they'd rather get an early start on the slopes in the morning before the crowds got there. So, we gave them the rest of the afternoon free but I told them not to leave the camp grounds, a rolling two hundred acre estate with great mountain vistas. They were free to use the game room, take a hike or toss a football or play basketball, but they were not to leave the grounds. I didn't want to be too hard on them but, after all, I was responsible for a bunch of kids who had parents expecting me to be in charge. And they knew I would be out and about, looking around and I guess it intimidated them just enough to not want to challenge me. They knew that I knew all of their parents and they wanted to be trusted.
All went well, then we gathered for supper, after which they were free to use the center facilities until nine thirty.
"Lights out at ten, everybody," I told them. "We've got an early morning tomorrow and when we leave the hotel we'll take everything with us. We'll depart after skiing tomorrow directly back home."
At quarter to ten I started to check on rooms, two campers each, and then went to the game room for any that were still out. Right at ten on the mark lights would be out. They were to stay in their rooms excepting any bathroom needs. A dressing room with individual private showers and toilet facilities were located right out the section front door.
It was laid out well. A former barracks like hall had been sectioned off into individual rooms with two beds each. They were private except that the walls only went up eight feet, with the above area open air to the the twelve foot ceiling. My wife and I had the room right by the exit door, meaning that any campers trying to sneak out or even to use the bathroom had to walk right by my door and I am an extremely light sleeper. That would be a godsend.
Three times during the night I awoke to noise, slipped on my slippers and robe and walked out into the hallway to find campers, in all cases a boy and a girl, trying to sneak out. Now I don't like to talk in stereotypes, but any time late at night a sixteen or seventeen year old boy is found sneaking out with a pretty girl of similar age, it's pretty likely that hormones are involved. So, I was successful in my role but was sleepless much of the night.
The early morning went well, everyone got ready, we attended a short Sunday morning service and enjoyed a quick, but hearty breakfast, packed up and headed to the ski slopes at nearby Massanutten Mountain. We arrived at the ski center and chalet before nine and before letting them sign in I checked their parental forms. All were approved to ski on the signed forms so off they went. Johnny's form warned that he had only been on skis once so I told him to stay off the main slope. They were then free to ski, knowing that we would be leaving at half past three.
I found coffee and comfortable seating in front of a big picture window for my wife and myself and sat down to relax. It was fun but also stressful worrying about other parents' teenagers and figured we finally made it to the place where they'd have fun and it would be easy. And it was until about half past one.
I was watching the skiers at two levels. There was a beginner slope to the left front which merged with the large slope just before the finish right in front of the chalet. Something in my mind told me to keep my eye out for Johnny, but I put it quickly out of mind because if he didn't follow my guidance there was little I could do. He'd been warned.
I watched a number of my group members really looking sharp and noticed Johnny's bright yellow jacket on the small slope. So far, so good. But then, Johnny disappeared from view on the small slope and I couldn't spot him. As if out of nowhere, he appeared on the lift headed to the top. My concerns were validated. I could just feel it in my bones that this wasn't going to turn out well for Johnny's bones.
He disappeared at the top after exiting the lift chair and I just watched the skiers begin their zigzag descent on the downhill slope. Suddenly, one skier started down the slope in a straightaway, no turns and, of course, he was wearing a bright yellow ski jacket. Johnny was rapidly gaining speed until he disappeared into the dip before the final downhill segment. He never came up over the rise.
Looking to the left at the base first aid station, I saw two staff members place a rescue gurney in the back of their pickup and head up the mountain road that paralleled the slope. This did not look good and I knew it was Johnny. That was confirmed within minutes when one of the girls in the group came down the slope and quickly came inside to let us know. She said a rescue patrolman would be down shortly to talk with us.
Well, the medical facility at the resort fixed him up for travel. He had a compound fracture of the lower leg and we all talked with his parents and they blessed everything that was done. He was given some medication to ease the pain and was put in a temporary cast. We were able to stretch him out in the back of the van and that worked fine and the three girls in the van were babying him like he was a wounded war hero. He was loving every minute of it.
But just before we left, I sat down beside Johnny and asked him a simple question. I said, "Why, Johnny, did you go on the big slope when you didn't know if you could handle it in the first place? Why did you do what I asked you not to do?'"
He looked me square in the eye with a grin and said, "Did you see that slope when we first got here. One look and I knew I had to see how fast I could go on it. I just figured I wouldn't fall down. It's all about speed."
And that was that, spoken like a true teenager of his day. Fearless, full of spunk and sure he couldn't fail and now he was paying the price.
We got them all home after dark and when we parked at the church parking lot, we waited while all said their goodbyes and were picked up. And to end the day, as I went to start the van to park it in it's customary spot by the side door, the battery was dead. But that would wait for another day as we were hungry and tired and had a baby sitter to relieve.
Looking back at the experience, I must say it was one and I am glad I took the time to handle the youth group back in my younger years. Teens need to see adults, not just their own parents, who love them and enjoy working with them. They are what we make them and when we get involved in a positive fashion good things happen. But, having said that, I was glad when it was someone else's turn to step in, for they truly need younger adults than my generation.
And that's the way it was back on a weekend in the winter of 1981. I was there.