I received my calling, met my future wife, and had a rite of passage into manhood as 15-year-old volunteer staff member at Spring Canyon.
In late summer 1988 I was a long-haired, gold-chain-wearing, mouth-full-of-braces, shy, rising High School sophomore who was in the middle of a PCS move from the D.C. area to Denver. My parents encouraged me to work at Spring Canyon under LTC (Ret) Tom Hemingway’s leadership for a month. Since that sounded better than hanging out in a new location with no friends, I agreed.
It was my first time away from my family for any decent length of time. The needs of the camp at the time kept the boys staff outdoors doing “manly-man” work. We’d depart Spring Canyon after breakfast with a bevy of chainsaws, travel 30 minutes away past Cottonwood Lake, stand in ice-cold water up to our waists cutting down dead trees, drag these trees through Cottonwood Creek and up a muddy bank 100 yards to “Molly,” the old dump truck the camp used to have that would transport the trees back to the log pile where we’d cut them up later for the 30 cords of wood the camp would burn through each winter. We’d get back to camp with just enough time to clean the chainsaws, wash up in the old Pioneer cabin, and then sprint in to dinner. I didn’t know it at the time, but this type of work, plus a few other experiences that month, was fundamental to my progression from identifying primarily as a boy to seeing myself more as a man.
At the same time, there was this pretty 15-year-old girl named Amy who had a strong identity in Christ, warm and engaging personality with a great sense of humor, and I found myself drawn to her. She didn’t really give me the time of day (see self-description above, plus romantic relationships were off limits), but because she was my assigned secret prayer partner that month, she had to inform me at the end of staff. This led to three years of being pen-pals, and mutual prayer partners, before we started to date… as senior staff at Spring Canyon (discrete romantic relationships were allowed for senior staff). We married 7 years after meeting and are blessed to have recently celebrated our 20th anniversary.
But during that month in 1988, in part frustrated with that beautiful 15-year-old’s lack of attention, I walked one night down by the ponds. Venting a bit to the Lord, I heard His voice clearer than I have ever heard it in my life before or since. He told my where He wanted me to go to college (had never really heard of the school before), and what my calling in life was to be. That walk that evening, and the manner God spoke to me, influenced nearly every decision I have made since then.
And now the circle has made another revolution—our firstborn has worked at Spring Canyon twice as a volunteer and when she chose to be baptized, wanted to do it with all her family present at the ponds, just a few yards away from where I received my calling. All our kids consider Spring Canyon “home.” As we leave camp under the archway I helped raise in 1988, the talk in the car is always about how much it hurts to leave and “when can we come back?” I often think about advice I received over the years as a young man from the “giants” of the faith and OCF—whether through speaker’s sessions or over meals where much of our ministry happens. I can’t adequately put to words how deeply God has used Spring Canyon in my life and that of my family.
May He continue to be glorified through this wonderful place!
—LTC Colin Wooten, USA