If you’re not familiar with it, Pioneer Plunge is unlike any other Young Life camp. Nestled high in the mountains and hidden away at the top of Windy Gap (another Young Life camp), Plunge consists of only 3 minimal cabins, a pond and a garden. There’s no electricity or amenities of any kind.
The purpose of the camp is to provide young people with a chance to live in the wilderness for a week and discover God’s calling unhindered by any distraction.
Kate and I met as Young Life leaders and look for any chance we can to give back to the ministry. We never had the chance to visit Pioneer Plunge when we were leaders so when the chance came up to participate in a Work Crew weekend at the camp we jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately we didn’t see the camp in all it’s glory. In August of 2014 the main cabin at Pioneer Plunge burned down in a tragic accident. No one was hurt by the fire and it was miraculously contained to just the one building.
Still, it was clear from talking to the staff at the camp that the loss of the building was a painful blow.
The staff members all shared their deep personal connection to the building at Plunge. They had attended camp there as students years ago. It was in that building where they made memories and decisions which shaped their life and laid the foundation for their faith.
As I worked with the staff shoveling dirt and listening to their stories, I started to wonder: Why would God allow such a special place to burst into flames and burn to the ground? Why would He let something so terrible happen in the story He’s writing?
A beautiful story went up in flames. The legacy and the memories of this building at Pioneer Plunge were burned to the ground for seemingly no good reason.
It wasn’t too long afterward when the answer hit me:
If the fire had never happened at Pioneer Plunge, chances are Kate and I would never have had the chance to visit and work at the camp. Because of the fire, we were able to experience the camp in a special way and write our own Plunge story.
More importantly, part of the Pioneer Plunge experience for students is getting the chance to work on various projects around the camp. Because the rebuild of the cabin will take 3-5 years, hundreds of campers will get a chance to rebuild the Plunge cabin as part of their story.
Because of their work thousands more campers will then have a chance to have their own Plunge story years down the line. It’s almost as if God meant for it to happen this way the whole time.
As a post on the Pioneer Plunge Instagram page put it, “The richness of Plunge is not found within the logs of the cabins but in the presence of the Lord in the community of people living in it.”
The story of Pioneer Plunge didn’t end because of a terrible accident. Instead it got a new beginning.
It’s hard to see past the smoke when a fire disrupts the story you’re telling.
But when your plans go up in flames and you wonder why something like this is happening in your story, remember: the story isn’t over.