Each year people from around the Western District gather for a long summer weekend at Mt. Morris Camp in Wautoma, Wis. The annual Plus 50 event is an opportunity for the over-50 crowd to enjoy the experience of being campers.
The group usually numbers 15–25; this year, our over-50 campers came from Minnesota, California, Indiana and Wisconsin. Some folks have been coming for many years; each year there are newcomers as well. Most of us are Moravians over the age of 50, but we also bring friends who can hardly wait to get together with our group each August.
Each year, we sing, walk, eat great food, enjoy campfires, make greeting cards, play card games, build puzzles and relish long chats. There’s also a group of poets who gather at Mt. Morris this same weekend and over the years a joyous tradition has developed: the ‘Poets’ join the ‘Singing Moravians’ for an evening of music on Saturday night.
Music is central to the Plus 50 experience. Jason Pues, choir director at West Side Moravian Church in Green Bay, Wis., serves as our musician. As a ‘40-something’ he’s the youngster of our gathering. His musical skills and winning personality bring a special sense of joy to the group singing. Myrna Peil of Sturgeon Bay Moravian is our delightful retreat director. She organizes the event, handles all reservation details and sets up everything at the camp according to our needs. Rev. Wanda Veldman, pastor of Veedum Moravian Church, Pittsville, Wis., has been the retreat program leader since 2011.
This year our program was called “Something Beautiful for God.” We learned about the inspiring life of Mother Teresa, an ordinary person who dedicated her life to helping the poor and humble. She encouraged people to make of their lives something beautiful for God. In Bible Study we reflected on Matthew 25 and the importance of recognizing Christ in everyone we meet.
Our hearts were saddened that a couple of long time campers were unable to join us this year due to health problems. As we united in one of our hymn singing times (that Wanda always calls “Stump the Organist”) someone suggested that it would be nice to call one of our missing campers on a cell phone so the group could sing a song for her. That missing camper’s favorite hymn is “In the Bulb,” so we opened our hymnals and made the call. She was so delighted to hear from us, and the music made her feel like she was right there with the group.
After that first call, the Plus 50 campers began thinking of more people they wanted to bless with a singing telegram, and our weekend mission project was born. We kept on calling more and more people who we felt could use a lift. In one case, we accidentally dialed a wrong number. When the woman called back, we apologized and told her what we were doing. She thought it sounded like a lovely idea so we offered her a song that she was thrilled to receive. God surely blessed our sharing of the gift of song with so many.
Plus 50 was created for all adults over the age of 50 but those of us who are over 50 are willing to share a few years with anyone who hasn’t reached that milestone yet. Why not join us in August 2015 for the next Plus 50 retreat? We’d love to see you there.
The Rev. Wanda Veldman is pastor of Veedum Moravian Church. At left, this July’s Plus-50 retreat group.