Wednesday, June 19, 2019

2019 Tour - Day 2 Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 

This morning when I looked out of my window, I saw that “Sunny Buck” was living up to its name. The sky was overcast with ominous looking clouds. I had been jolted out of a sound sleep by a slow moving train rambling by my window on an adjacent track, blowing a whistle. Not really a whistle, but a long, mournful wail, much like a sound an injured Beluga whale might make. Good morning world! 

Some very adventurous youth (I saw Connor and Cole) were already outside having a game of frisbeeMaxwell & Phillip Donaldson and Troy Moskowitz  had already run a shirtless, barefoot 100 meter around the track. The rest of the youth were already at breakfast as I made my way down to the dining hall, chatting happily and enjoying cereal, eggs, sausage, pancakes and baked goods. It had already started raining. Our plan today was to spend the day at a local state park, swimming and picnicking. Would that plan have to change? 

One of the first college dorm lessons we all learned last night is that you need to take your key with you when you walk down the hall to the bathroom. The door will slam shut and you will be locked out if you didn’t make sure it is completely unlocked. Yes, the security guard came to our rescue several times last night. 

Before we loaded onto the bus, I had enough time to walk around the campus and take some photos of the beautiful campus. It has a park-like setting with spacious areas of green grass and large sprawling oak, spruce and dogwood trees, as well as lovely laurelsrhododendrons and other shrubbery. There are many buildings of Georgian architecture, giving the campus a connection with it's past. The most prominent feature is the Wesley Chapel, which is an absolutely gorgeous building.  A large statue of John Wesley looms at the entrance. 

Tom was confidant that the weather would clear up once we left Buckhannon, so we joined our faith with his and loaded onto the bus, heading toward Clarksburg WVA. Tom and Polly looked adorable in matching Wesleyan sweatshirts (a Fathers Day gift.) The first business of the day was to choose our morning Greeters – Dee Robertson and Phillip Donaldson. Emma Baldridge, our drinking water coordinator, was busy filling everyone's water bottles. I saw her carry 10 water bottles at one time! After our concert in the hot church last night, the CWS were warned about staying hydrated. Someone on the bus came up with slogan, “Hydrate or Die - trate!” Clever kids. Emma is definitely doing her part to keep everyone hydrated. 
Then it was time for fork stories. Fork stories are a tradition on choir tours that goes back for many years. Bryce  Taylor came up to explain to the newcomers what a fork story is: a funny, entertaining, true story about something that happened to you the day before. The funnier and more entertaining the story is, the better. The chosen winner's coveted prize is a decorated fork 

Our fork story prize winner for the day was Jonathan Works! He told a hilarious story about being locked out of his room last night not once, but twice! The first time it happened, he accidentally walked into a stairwell and became trapped. His friend Maxwell freed him after being awakened by a text from Jonathan. Later that night around 2:00 a.m. he left the room to go to the bathroom and the door locked behind him again! This time, he just went down to the lobby and slept on the sofa. As Polly presented the fork to Jonathan, she told him that he could use it to pry open his door the next time he gets locked out. 
We approached Audra State Park, located on the Middle Fork River, and suddenly realized that Tom's prediction held true. It was cloudy but it was not raining. The park was beautiful, with lush trees surrounding hiking paths and flowing mild rapids with swimming areas. It was a fun afternoon. Most of the youth immediately went swimmingEven the kids who hadn’t brought a bathing suit and were hesitant to go in ended up taking off their shoes and socks and wading in when they saw how much fun everyone else was having. A group of boys broke into a rousing rendition of Take Me Home Country  Roads, which seemed so appropriate being surrounded by the trees, rocks and bubbling water. As the day went on, other activities were enjoyed, such as hiking, playing on a nearby swing set, playing games with the balls and an intense cribbage game. Our food crew, Karalee Turner- Little and Jonathan Colborn, went shopping and brought back a picnic lunch  for our entire group. Sandwiches, chips, veggies, fruit and cookies, with special attention paid to our members with dietary needs (Thanks Karalee!) were enjoyed by all. As we were packing up to leave in the late afternoon, almost on cue, it started to rain. 

Back on the bus, we headed toward Clarksburg, WVAwhere our venue for the evening was located. Our afternoon Greeters were Lydia Turner-Little and David Hembrough (who looked quite dashing in his pink sunglasses.) We stopped for dinner in a strip mall area with lots of restaurants to choose from. Julia Beall, our bursar, handed ten dollars to everyone as they disembarked and then clusters of kids took off to their favorite restaurant. We met back at the bus at 5:30 and headed out. Our evening Greeters were Paulina Kaganzev and Jacob Edmonds, who did a fabulous job greeting everyone. 

Our venue for the evening was the WVA Veterans Nursing Facility, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the state. All of the residents there are veterans. Most of them were in wheelchairs and many of them sported caps that identified which branch of the armed service they had served in. I felt proud to be there and we knew that every one of them had a story to tell. Our group met in a lobby area to organize music and rehearse. I was politely told that I would not be allowed to take photos during the concert when the residents were in the room, but I could take photos in the lobby area. There was also a surprise waiting for us in the lobby. Autumn and Sharon Fritts had arrived! Autumn would be singing in our concert tonight!  
We parents sat in the back row to enjoy the concert. I was able to look around and watch the faces of the residents as the CWS burst into song. Their bodies may have been feeble but the smiles on many of their faces were strong. I saw several swaying to the music, tapping their hands or feet, or nodding their heads. One gentleman was staring with an enraptured look at Steve Kalnoske's fingers flying across the keyboard of that old piano. Another gentleman sitting behind Polly was imitating her directing gestures. Another gentleman tried to sing along. And then a strange thing happened near me. There was a recessed section of wall  that had a large wooden cabinet filled with a dozen tiny finches. I started to notice that when the singers would sing loudly, particularly the sopranos, the finches would wildly chirp. When the singing stopped, so would the finches. It happened time after time, as if they were singing along with our choir, always chirping louder and louder until the music stopped. It reminded me of verse in the Bible that says the very rocks would cry out to praise our Lord. Why not birds too? Yes, the spirit of God was in that room. 

After the concert, some of the kids greeted the residents and then it was time to go. We stopped to take a group photo in front of the sign outsideWhat a happy sight they were! Have mentioned what a great group of kids we have this year? Mr. Rocky was patiently waiting for us by the bus as we found our seats and started to drive back to Buckhannon. Our final Greeters for the night were Anna Mae Black and Benny Vanderham. As the sun was setting I noticed misty, smoky clouds hanging near the treetops of the Appalachian mountains. How beautiful they looked! Karalee remarked that those smoky looking clouds is how the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee got their name. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. They were so ethereal looking and mysterious. I guess that’s how God is, appearing in places that we aren’t expecting, quietly and mysteriously. He was certainly with us today. We just had to look for him. 

This is your friendly neighborhood blogger Sue Constantinides, signing off. 

Click Here for Photos from Day 2