Disaster on the River by Cheryl Rogers

Chet has to know. If he’s going to take his third trip into the Florida backwoods with a group of preteens and teens, he has to hear from God. On the first trip, 13-year-old Zack went missing in the middle of the night. Then a hurricane headed their way! On the second trip, two boys left the trail to explore – even though they knew very well what happened to Zack. Then a forest fire struck!

Chet’s a city boy. While he is no longer a newbie at camping, he wants to be absolutely sure it is God’s will for him to return to the backwoods for his most ambitious adventure: A two-night canoe trip.  One of the members of his youth group, Jeff, loves canoeing and has been begging for the group to go. Chet’s lined up a canoeing lesson from a wilderness expert. Now he needs to know if you want to join them (virtually, of course).

We talked with the fictitious youth leader Chet about his wilderness Bible Camps -- and what he has lined up for the next trip.

Q. Are the boys from church eager to return to the backwoods for another retreat, Chet?
A. I have a core group that’s very interested in these wilderness retreats. Zack. Jeff. They always rope in Chang, although I suspect he’d rather have a video party. Then there are the younger boys, Alfonso and Sammy. They are ready. The parents, however, have been somewhat of a challenge. No one wants his boy to go missing like Zack did on the first trip. They need to be convinced. I need to take as many precautions as is humanly possible. And I need to be sure to seek God, to be sure I am in his will. That’s why I’m reaching out, to ascertain the interest in what I’m doing.

Q. What’s the idea behind the Bible Camps?
A. Camping is an integral part of growing up for some kids. They love it. And it gives me an opportunity to teach them about God, amidst his creation, and encourage them to surrender their lives to him.

Q. Spiritually speaking, it seems your Bible Camps have had an astounding amount of success. Can you tell us what God has done?
A. I am always glad to give glory to God. I owe him everything. He picked me up out of a New York gang and turned me into a youth fellowship leader. There was a time when I never thought people would trust me with their kids, at all. Now, I’m wondering if they’ll trust me with their kid in the backwoods. God is so good.

Well, the first year, Zack had a beautiful encounter with God’s love and mercy when he ignored instructions, and wandered off in the middle of the night from camp. It was a traumatic experience, I am sure, and Zack sought God like he was taught to do. In his desperation, he surrendered his life to God, and was born again in the Spirit. This was a major breakthrough, not only for Zack, but for the group. Zack began praying for others and sharing God’s love with them.

Then, the second year, God demonstrated his ability to heal through a woman named Sandy.  The boys found her camping far off the beaten trail to avoid electricity.  She was born again, and healed. The boys got to pray for her and witness her miraculous recovery from an incurable disease, Environmental Illness. I expect to see great things happen this year – if God does indeed want us to return to the backwoods.

Q. Tell us how you prepare for these trips.
A. Well, a lot goes into them, actually. It’s easier, in some ways, to plan because we’ve been there before. But we still need to recruit and sign up the boys, get the permission slips signed, collect the money, buy/rent supplies, train them in outdoor skills, and pray. I learned with the first trip you can never pray too much.

Q. What about canoeing? Why canoeing this trip? Is the group ready to boat with alligators on the Crooked River?
A. I don’t think I could ever personally be ready for that. Children are bait for alligators. Our core group of boys, however, are not little anymore. If they were, I wouldn’t go.  I would never do anything to jeopardize their welfare. The experts from Florida tell me alligators are no problem. We just need to stay clear of them and they will stay clear of us.

Because I don’t believe an overnight canoe trip is advisable for inexperienced canoers -- including myself, by the way -- I have planned for a canoe lesson prior to the trip. That way everyone who wants to accompany us can have some real canoe experience beforehand. We also will have our canoeing instructor, a wilderness expert, accompany us on the trip.

Q. It sounds like you are well prepared. What should our readers who want to accompany you on the trip know?
A.  Get ready for an adventure! We want everyone to have a great time. Every one of the male characters in the book will have a canoeing buddy, and they’ll be plenty of time to chat and visit, swim in the river, cook over a wood fire, sing and praise God. As readers, and virtual participants, they’re along for the ride – without actually facing the mosquitoes and bugs, or whatever else we encounter.

Q. Why should they sign up for this retreat?
A. Every one who signs up will be among the very first to read the third Bible Camp Mystery, and they’ll get a free e-copy.  The 50th person to sign up will receive an autographed copy of the upcoming trilogy: The first three Bible Camp mysteries, slated for released in print sometime next year.

Q. Where can people learn more about the Bible Camp Mystery series?
A. Hop over to www.newchristianbooksonlinemagazine.com, which features some exclusive interviews from some of the series’ characters. The magazine is published by Bible Camp Mystery author, Cheryl Rogers.

Q. How do readers sign up?
A. If they’re ready to sign up for my third expedition into the backwoods, they should visit www.newchristianbooksonlinemagazine.com/signup-for-virtual-bible-camp/  Registrants receive a free copy of Disaster on the River, scheduled for release this November. Remember, you’re not obligating yourself to actually face snakes, alligators, or summer rainstorms in the Central Florida backwoods ... but, you’ll enter their world through the book. Hope you can join us!