The current uncertainty and precautions left several Midwest brethren without a feasible destination to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. Earlier in the year, a facility was contacted for a possible satellite site but was unavailable. As states and venues shut down, opened and shut down again, the facility at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch near Rochester, Minnesota became the destination we called, “Simply Wonderful!”
It became possible for 33 of us to keep God’s Feast in a physical setting that had the beauty of a painted landscape. This region of the country has many gorgeous autumn colors. We hiked on the trails through the woods and enjoyed the trees in their full array. The daily temperature was perfect for campfires with sing-alongs, hot cocoa and even s’mores in the evening hours. The Ranch and facility buildings were designed for use by individuals with physical challenges, and powered chairs and riders were rented for five members who took advantage of the no-barrier opportunities. These machines allowed them to independently explore and participate to the fullest. It was hard to keep up with their enthusiasm and speed. Over the years, UCG has benefitted from this special place known to the locals as Ironwood. It has been used for our preteen camp, winter socials, a young adults’ weekend and the regional ministerial conference. Nurturing an environment that quiets the noises of life, Ironwood Ranch was built as a safe place where people can gather and build relationships, provide hope and support one another. This is what took place this Feast. The physical circumstances that brought us together were replaced with the knowledge of our spiritual future in the family of God.
Having so few of us at the large facility allowed for physical distancing required by the state of Minnesota. Temperatures were taken before daily services with masks on and lots of extra room. All of this space did not deter the wonderful fellowship time we had. We all gathered in the dining hall for lunch and evening meals prepared by 2-3 Ironwood staff members to help reduce possible COVID-19 exposure. Most of us stayed in the Miracle Lodge but one couple camped onsite. On our last evening together, we enjoyed a wagon ride through the winding woodsy trails, ending with a campfire cookout.
Despite the circumstances that brought us together, God used them to His advantage to help grow the family relationships He desires for us. Our days were spent together, starting with a cup of coffee and rousing conversation, then daily worship services, meals and activities. Everyone willingly served according to their individual talents. We also put three work parties together to clean windows, stain the logs on the outside of the chapel and split wood for the fireplaces at Ironwood. Everyone agreed this was the best Feast ever. As we said goodbye, it was evident in our relaxed faces and big smiles that our time together had been “Simply Wonderful.”