Photos by Joshua Pedroza

June 1, 2020

Timber Ridge Camp | Indiana

Zachery, his brother, Timothy, and his dad, Ethyn Vassar, have been regulars attending Timber Ridge Camp for many years. Zachery has been diagnosed with a developmental disability that makes it very difficult to interact with others around him. As a result, he is mostly nonverbal; when he does communicate, he is hard to understand. In frustration, he exhibits outbursts and moments of anger. 


This last summer, one of the family campers had a conversation with Ethyn. He came to realize that because of the demands of raising a special needs child, Ethyn is not able to have personal time or spend time one-on-one with Timothy. He offered to care for Zachery so Ethyn and Timothy could spend special one-on-one father/son time. Ethyn told me afterwards that many people give words of affirmation, which he appreciates, but very few really give him what he really needs — time away from the constant, wearing strain of caring for his special needs son. 

Many times over the years, Zachery would walk around during campfire, sometimes even up on the stage. On Wednesday night while I was doing my Director’s Minute, a time during campfire where I sing a silly song or we all recite: “Flea, flea fly, flea fly flow . . .” (a TRC favorite), Zachery came up on the stage. He was carrying a dinosaur mask. I stopped and said “Hello.” He gave me the mask and motioned that I should put it on. Without even thinking, I did as he asked. I wish you could have seen the joy on his face!!!! Again without thinking, I began reciting “Flea, flea fly, flea fly flow . . .” Voilà! Every time my mouth moved, the dinosaur mouth opened. It was a moment of pure joy and acceptance! It was a moment in time when this young man — so distanced from normal human interaction — was connected. There was a oneness, a sense of community, a God moment!  

Zachery left the stage and walked to where a group of boys were sitting. He showed them his mask, reached out and touched them, and smiled like I’d never seen him smile. In his way, Zachery was saying, “You are my friend.” 

Friday night is the best moment of the week at any Adventist summer camp. TRC is no different. This is the night we give campers the opportunity to give their hearts to Jesus, join Jesus’ family through baptism or rededicate their lives to Him. On Friday night, as I was telling the story and preparing to make the call, Zach came up on the stage. That night he had a simple Spiderman mask. He motioned that I should put it on. I thought, “This is not the night for this,” but felt impressed that I should put the mask on. Everyone chuckled. Zack sat back down with his family and I pulled the mask up off, and went on with the story and then the call. 

That night Jesus touched that young man’s heart. He felt the Holy Spirit speaking to him and he came forward to give his heart to Jesus. There was not a dry eye at that campfire. We serve a God who reaches out to us no matter where we are, no matter what condition we are in. Praise God for His love! 

I received a call in January from Ethyn. Zachery had made a big decision. He wanted to be baptized and he wanted me to do it. After a bit of conversation, Zach, his dad and I felt that there was no better place for the baptism than Timber Ridge Camp! This summer, after our Sabbath corn roast picnic on the beach, Zack will enter Timber Ridge Camp lake. He will be baptized and become part of Jesus’ family. Jesus has begun a work in Zachery’s life that will not be completed until we all get to heaven.  

I look forward to the day when God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death. Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things shall pass away (Revelation 21:4 NIV). I can’t wait to see Zachery as God intended him to be. I can’t wait to see Jesus! 


Charlie Thompson, Indiana Conference Youth director