Sunday, October 12, 2008


I haven't posted to the blog this weekend because I was on a retreat in the Middle of Nowhere, Indiana. Actually, Wasatch Lake is almost all the way to Terre Haute -- a little over an hour west of Indianapolis. The camp itself is beautiful. I'll sprinkle some of the photos from the weekend throughout this entry, if I can. (Pics provided by Ron Sinicki.)

About 40 of us from St. Luke's United Methodist Church's Stephen Ministry program went out to Wasatch for a Friday-to-Sunday retreat on Forgiveness. I arrived at about 7:00 on Friday evening, just in time to catch a glimpse of the lake, which looked like this, only sunsettier:

Also, I got to meet Orville and Wilbur, the two pot-bellied pigs who call Wasatch Lake home:

Because not everyone was going to be there until Saturday morning, we decided that Friday night would be Octoberfest! We brought brats (poetic!) and pretzels and sauerkraut and German chocolate cake. And to complement our German food, a movie with a German (Austrian) connection: The Sound of Music! (Which you can get from the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library! Which I did!)

Somehow, we made it to the camp WITH a dvd player and projector but WITHOUT a projection screen, so we found some clothespins, reallocated a bed sheet and did it The Old-Fashioned Way. Air-popped popcorn and cold drinks mixed with our my sing-along antics as we I Do-Re-Mi'ed and Lonely-Goatherded our my way through the first act of the film.

Did you know that The Sound of Music is, like, eight hours long? My God, they made movies long back then. We didn't even get to the second half; we stopped at Intermission, just after Maria left the Von Trapp household during the big party, on account of that jealous bitch, Baroness Schrader. I can only assume that Maria ends up living a sad, yet content, existence as a nun in the convent, never to see the Von Trapps again. (Just kidding. I've seen TSOM, like, a jillion times -- "Edelweiss" is my parents' song -- and I know there's a happy ending.)

Anyway. We spent most of Saturday talking about Forgiveness, with a session in the morning, a session in the evening, and a trip in the middle to Terre Haute to visit the CANDLES Holocaust Museum.

The CANDLES Museum is the work of Eva Kor (pictured, right), a Holocaust survivor who, at the age of 10 in 1943, was taken from her Romanian home and sent to Auschwitz, where she and her twin sister Miriam joined hundreds of other twins/multiples as the subjects of the inhuman experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. Mrs. Kor and her sister survived the experiments and, nine months after they were brought to Auschwitz, they were liberated.

Eva Kor's story is the heart of the documentary film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele. In the years after her horrific experience and subsequent liberation from Auschwitz (which she described in great detail for us and the dozen or so other folks who joined our tour), Mrs. Kor came to find forgiveness in her heart -- first for one individual Nazi doctor and then, ultimately, even for Dr. Mengele. Watch this:

Mrs. Kor founded the CANDLES Museum to tell her story and the story of 6 million Jews (and more than 5 million non-Jews: Gypsies, homosexuals, the handicapped and others) who lost their lives in the Holocaust. She also shared with us her own personal experience of forgiveness, and gave us a lot to think about.

Later Saturday evening, after dinner, we came together around the huge fireplace for really meaningful worship led by the grace-filled and loving Rev. Marsha Hutchinson. Here's a picture of me singing that song that I mentioned a while back:

This morning, we gathered to hear another story of folks on their own forgiveness journey. Eric and Marilyn Behrman's 19-year-old daughter, Jill, disappeared while on a bike ride in May 2000. Her whereabouts remained unknown for nearly three years. After the ordeal of Jill’s disappearance and the ensuing trial and conviction of the man who took their daughter’s life, the Behrmans helped to found Jill’s House, a residence for cancer patients and their caregivers near the Proton Therapy Center in Bloomington, Indiana, and they also started the Jill Behrman Emerging Leader Scholarship to recognize Indiana University students who show outstanding leadership in recreational sports.

The Behrmans shared with us their own experience through the process, with various reflections on forgiveness along the way. I shared with the group that I was really grateful for the Behrmans' honesty -- for their sharing that it really is a struggle to figure out what role forgiveness might play in their experience. I was afraid that they were going to come in and say they'd forgiven the guy who killed their daughter, and then there I'd be, holding onto my own petty resentments while the Behrmans AND this Holocaust survivor AND all these other "afters" we heard from had forgiven the biggest atrocities ever committed. But the Behrmans were a "during," and their story helped me to be OK with the struggle.

I'm not sure that I moved any further along my own forgiveness journey, although I think I did. The retreat was a terrific experience for me, and I'm proud to have been one of the leaders/helpers/organizers. I'll definitely be heading back out to Wasatch for a personal retreat in the future, and I'm looking forward to spending some more time with my fellow Stephen Ministers again soon!

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