I always wanted to be the young people's leader in all the churches I served. Sometimes it clicked and sometimes it flopped. But I do so enjoy being with jr. and sr. high young people. Truth be told I enjoy all ages.
Well my story today is about youth group I enjoyed in Modesto sometime between '74 and '83. I decided we ought to go tubing down the Stanislaus River. There are no rapids to maneuver and it looked like a perfect day's outing for the group. The problem was that I had no experience. I didn't think it required experience to float down a river in old inner tubes. What's so complicated about that? Have you any idea just how meandering a river can be? By my estimation we should be in the water by nine and at the bridge by mid-afternoon at the latest. No one corrected me. If someone expressed doubt I plunged ahead with a leader's confidence. "Follow me!" You know that a leader should exude enthusiasm to engender the confidence from his followers that he needs.
We passed one home that I recognized, and I was alarmed to think how near the beginning of our little outing this home stood. Families began to express concern. Little Ruthie got snagged on the branch of a submerged tree, and I rescued her. It didn't appear to be a life threatening situation, but she was very grateful nevertheless. As sunburns were brewing and parents were pacing it became apparent to all of us that something was amiss about my calculations. There didn't seem to be any neutral stopping places along the way. All we could see were the back yards of bordering estates. Joel was bold enough to stop along the way and approach one of those homes, and knocked at the back door. When no one answered, he walked in and borrowed their telephone. Remember those were the days way before anyone had a cell phone.
Now at least thanks to Joel's bold home invasion and phone message all the folks at home were aware of the fact that we were safe and floating. I think it was nearly nine o'clock in the evening before the last of us tube adventurers was fished out of the Stanislaus River. We all ached for a couple days, and even laughed about the whole trip. It was a memorial monument to the foolishness of their fearless leader, but they loved me enough to just laugh and not hold it against me.