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Christian Effervescence Dominates Wyoming Camp Meeting »
The sound of the Sage Creek Gospel Band, a perennial feature of every Wyoming Camp Meeting, is a call for participants to be ready for another session of the annual spiritual convocation on Casper Mountain’s Mills Spring Ranch.
Smiles abound, and clapping is part of participating in a joyful Christian experience. And year after year, participants have had a chance to learn a new song, including the 2017 gathering of some 200. As before, the recently-held event featured “It’s Still Jesus,” a song-theme of the camp meeting written by Ron Hughes.
The music was so captivating that visiting speaker Dr Philip Samaan invited himself to join the band. Not proficient in any instrument, unlike his wife Sheralyn, a harpist, he was given an egg shaker. Recognizing the challenge to keeping the rhythm, the band continued with smiles and raised brows, but stayed on course.
“I am not a drummer, but I am an egg shaker,” Samaan confessed. The use of salt became a theme for one of his presentations. “Salt takes the initiative. One does not put one’s food on salt, but salt on the food,” he said. “We are to live our lives so close to Jesus that we bring out the best in others.”
Before long, Samaan was officially invited to be part of the Sage Creek Band. To prove his place, he was presented with a cowboy shirt embroidered with the band’s name. Ed Barnett, RMC president, made the presentation.
The band’s leader, Dennis Pumford, who pastors the Casper congregation, said of Dr Samaan’s first performance that “it was an experience. It created a lot of good humor and rapport with the congregation. That’s the best we can say.
Ron Hughes, a guitarist and composer of theme songs for Wyoming camp meeting recollected that when Dennis came along, he changed everything, so we’ve had a lot of fun since he’s been here [in Casper] and they’ve asked me to write songs for each camp meeting and that’s what I’ve done.”
On writing songs, Ron explained that “usually, they give me the idea. They say, "This is the theme of the camp meeting. Can you write a song for it?" I say, “No, I can’t, but God can.”
He continued, “Gotta’ give it to God. I tried writing songs before I became a Christian and they were terrible. They were secular songs and nobody wanted to listen to them. When I became a Christian, I started writing about what I cared about -- Christian country music. [Actually] the genre of the music is country gospel, southern gospel. Yeah.”
Dr Samaan’s presentations included practical applications presented in the teachings of Jesus. “He put Jesus right into our daily life,” said one participant.
“Let us not be defined by the world, but let Jesus define us,” he said.
In an engaging Sabbath School presentation, Chuck Gadway, pastor from Sheridan, challenged the audience to stay on God’s mission. “We are so busy doing our mission that we forget about God’s mission,” he said. “What do people see and hear when they come to our churches?” Gadway asked.
Pastor Gadway is working on invitations to speakers for the next five years. Next year, Dick Stenbakken, a former director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, and a well-known presenter is scheduled to speak at the 2018 convocation.
We need to get the word out as “Iam not sure everybody knows how good a camp meeting is,” Gadway commented.
“The facilities have been improved to be more welcoming to visitors,” he added. The changes in the auditorium were coordinated by Dennis Pumford, a soon-retiring pastor of the Casper Church. He acknowledged the work done by many people to make the improvements.
Those who expressed their appreciation for the musical part of the Wyoming Camp meeting were also noting Pumford’s musical contributions to the “one and only Gospel band we have been enjoying over the years,” as stated by one of the participants.
Gadway did not hesitate to express his take-away from the event. “This was a great spiritual blessing to those who have been here.”
The Sabbath afternoon program included a celebration of Robert Walker’s baptism. He lives on the mountain and was baptized by Eric Nelson, RMC vice president for administration, a friend from school days.
Dr Samaan sensed that, for him, the camp meeting displayed “a spirit of fellowship and Christian comradery. People felt at home in associating with each other here. I believe that when Jesus is uplifted, He pulls people together as when the disciples were of one accord. Because of that, the Lord blessed them with one Spirit, and this is what I sensed about this camp meeting.”
Text and photos by Rajmund Dabrowski--top 2--and Linnaea Swayze--bottom]