In Kingsland, Georgia, about a mile from the Florida line, there is a quaint campground called Country Oaks that brought me back to my childhood. The lodge across from a scenic lake amidst the trees laden with Spanish moss was a tribute to Roy Rogers and Western history. Relics of America-past were parked on the porch—horse drawn farm implements—wagon, mower, plows. Several rocking chairs to sit and enjoy the view. Inside were many displays, including antique six guns and rifles, posters of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans—a slice of Americana that sadly is becoming a distant memory for many. We also were greeted by Flash, a miniature horse and three mules. But the story doesn’t end there.
There are many types of campers, or what the sophisticated call “recreational vehicles, or RVs.” There are big ones. There are small ones. There are medium-sized ones. It’s a spectrum. Some are as big as Greyhound busses. We pulled our Airstream travel van into our space after taking dinner at a local Bar-B-Q. Next to us was a really small Ford Transit van. Curious, it was. Unlike the other RVs that have electric hook ups and fancy awnings, this van had towels in the windows as shades and an orange extension cord running out of a crack in a window to the electric hook up. On the other side of the van was a makeshift “awning” tucked in a crevasse on the roof and held up by a pole. Another extension cord was connected to a coffee maker. Soon, hobbling out from around the backside of the van was a lady and her dog.
“Hi, I’m Nancy Winchester from Savannah and this is my dog Benjie,” she said. Benjie and our dog Charlie started getting acquainted by sniffing each other. In the next five minutes or so, we heard Nancy Winchester’s story. Her husband died a year ago from a stroke. She, too, had a stroke which rendered her left arm and leg limited. Nancy loved to ride motorcycles, but her Harley now sits because of the stroke. She said she didn’t want to give up on life and just sit around doing nothing. She bought a van she could afford and fixed it up herself so that she and Benjie can travel the country. She comes to Country Oaks from time to time on short trips, just to get away. She loves national and state parks, and has the bumper stickers to prove it. She’s traveled as far West as the Grand Canyon and plans more such trips.
Nancy Winchester from Savannah and her dog Benji have some things in common with the artifacts around the porch, with Flash, who in his mid-20s is very old for a horse, and the three mules, their usefulness on the farm long past. There has been toil, suffering, and replacement, but the vitality of Spirit and life remain. They are all part of what made this country great from the inventions for farming, to the horsepower that drew them, to the rugged individualism portrayed in the Westerns and the perseverance lived out by folks like Nancy Winchester from Savannah, who remains hopeful about her life ahead despite the difficulties. Romans 5:3-4 speaks how tribulation “produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope.” Where there is life, there is hope. And there is much of this kind of life in America.