For ten years God has poured out His blessing on the Lamplighter Guild. This was by far the most life-changing week we have ever experienced. How fitting for the 10th year anniversary celebration! The day before the Guild about half of our students arrived. Our staff was still engaged in last-minute details, but we all felt a great sense of anticipation and expectation of what God was about to do here.
We began with a tour of the bindery, printing operation, bookstore, auditorium, and beautiful gardens and ponds at our campus extension at Overbrook, followed by Bible study and worship. Soon it was time for orientation—the Guild had begun! The auditorium was packed, and I prayed that the Lord would protect everyone. We had stepped out in reasonable yet radical faith and needed His protection. Students arrived from all over the country and were eager to participate and learn. They were like thoroughbred horses about to be released from the gate!
For the first time our dramatic art students were able to attend all of the classes. Script writing, voice acting, sound design, stage acting, and music design classes were filled with creative ideas that were like seeds about to bear much fruit. Classes flew by, and it was soon time for the Willow City concert. What a time we had! The last song brought the house down! Willow City is comprised of two students who attended the very first Guild ten years ago! Then, after a very full day, it was time for more classes! The students and teachers loved our first day. We ended at 11:00, ready to get some sleep before morning reflections in the Word—but as usual, students stayed up into the morning hours getting to know their new roommates, sharing the excitement of what God was doing in their lives!
Morning reflections are a time when our students get up early and walk to Overbrook to meet at the stone dam for morning devotions. This is my favorite time of the Guild. Something unique happens early in the morning. Picture a hundred students and teachers dotting the hillside, overlooking a pond reflecting the rising sun. The beauty is breathtaking, which only adds to the Biblical insights that would help to start their day. Following devotions, we had a lovely breakfast then on to our first session of classes. Noah Sanders, our horticulture instructor, kicked off the week with four essential truths to live by:
Do things on time.
Do things with the highest standard.
Do things with minimal waste.
Do everything with joy.
What great truths to practice. These truths have already influenced my life and will be guiding principles for our upcoming college.
This year we included more time for fun in our schedule. The leadership training exercise was the best one ever. Students were challenged to build the fastest and nicest-looking boat out of cardboard, sticks, tape, rope, and sheets (oops! I didn’t realize those were good sheets!) We had a blast. Some of the boats were buoyant and some were made to sink! The students learned that a successful team needs a visionary, a manager, a technician, and a supporter. They learned the importance of unity and yielding to one another. This was Monday, but it felt like we had been together for a week already.
On Monday evening we enjoyed a bonfire and special time of worship, with Willow City leading music. But first we decided to get our blood flowing with a triathlon featuring kickball, badminton, and volleyball. No matter how many times I changed teams, I was on the losing side! But what great fun it was.
As the music began, the Lord prompted us to share testimonies, and the Spirit of God was clearly at work among us. How could a revival break out this early? After a long night of classes, I noticed one of our student vans parked on the side of the road. So I pulled over to check on them. Sure enough, they were laughing, crying, and just overwhelmed with what God had done that evening. It had been a special time filled with prayer and praise and the experience of God’s redeeming love! As I’ve said in jest so many times, I’m so theologically conservative, I’m almost dead! But what God does at the Guild is my real theology. Some “touch the hem of His garment,” some stand on holy ground and experience a burning bush, and some have their eyes opened to see the host of God’s army and the chariots of heaven! What is experienced at the Guild is real and life-changing, and no one walks away doubting that they’ve met with the living God—the creator of the universe—the same God who lives within us!
Tuesday started earlier than usual, but at least we had the coffee ready! We headed out at 6:00 for a special outing to Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East which was voted as the #1 state park in the country. At a scenic overview of the canyon I shared Psalm 19, when God spoke His creative language throughout the world nine times. From a Hebraic perspective, nine is an unusual number to use. In Psalm 19, there are nine words that describe God speaking to mankind. His power and wonder are demonstrated on nine occasions. But this is unusual. There should be ten descriptive words. So where is the tenth? It is found in the last verse of Psalm 19. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable, oh LORD my strength and my redeemer.” We are the tenth word! God is giving us the opportunity and responsibility to be God’s voice on the earth to draw lost people to their Creator-Savior.
After another full day of classes, we were looking forward to our keynote speaker, Eric Ludy, and he did not disappoint. Eric preached a powerful message on manly valor. God had our attention, and each of us received new “assignments from heaven.” At the end of his presentation, all stood in solidarity of our commitment to Christ Jesus our Lord. This was the most powerful message I have heard this year! Listen to the message here.
In this morning’s devotion we studied three miracles in the book of Matthew—the miracle of the blind, the deaf, and the possessed daughter of the Syrophoenician woman. If we’re willing to humble ourselves and figuratively eat the crumbs from off the floor, He will heal us, as well as our children. In this devotion we also learned what might be the three most important words in the universe—“LORD help me!”
After a delicious breakfast at Overbrook, students made their way back to the auditorium to hear Eric Ludy speak on the subject of humility. Wow! He was refreshingly transparent, giving us courage to be more vulnerable. What a perfect segue into what would take place next.
Classes were in high gear. Battle stations would be a better description. Students had only two days to complete their projects. Scriptwriters were busy trying to finish scripts for 3 five-minutes dramas, 6 commercial spots, and 5 illustrated books—all in two days! In real life there are deadlines and stresses, and our students learned that the key to completing impossible deadlines is with prayer and perseverance. What a week! Listen to their finished and unfinished audio projects here: Link. Keep in mind that most of the commercial spots are without sound design or music.
In the afternoon we had the privilege of hearing from author Chuck Black. Chuck has been a friend for the past decade and graciously gave our students an inside look at what it takes to become a successful author while working a full-time job and raising a family. When God calls us to do something, He provides the means to get it done. “Faithful is he who calls us who will also do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
Wednesday evening was a highlight with David and Karen Eubanks and their three teenage children. Please watch this short trailer and you will understand why this was such a powerful, life-changing experience for each one of us. Watch trailer.
I will never forget Karen’s response when I asked about putting their children in harm’s way while saving other children on the battlefield. “Mark, when God gives us opportunities, we can either stall and ask the many ‘what if’ questions, or we can seize the opportunity before us by faith. Yes, there are risks, but the reward of following our Savior into some of the most difficult situations has brought our family great joy. What greater protection could we ask for than His promise to never leave us nor forsake us?” Their family was an incredible inspiration as they described what it was like to dodge bullets while rescuing women and children from the clutches of ISIS. What an evening. What an incredible family! What a Savior!
It was a very late night tackling our projects. Much needed to be done, and tensions were mounting. A film needed to be produced, oil paintings completed, hors d’oeuvres prepared, scripts written, photos edited, lines memorized, sounds created, music designed, and herbs planted. One discipline depended on another, and as projects were developed with a high standard of excellence, we experienced joy, satisfaction, and a great sense of accomplishment as everyone worked together. It was like a symphony!
This was the last day to complete our projects. We all knew it would require everything we had. So the day started with more students attending devotions than we’ve ever had on a Thursday! Wow! They could have slept in this morning. Instead they all were able to be challenged and inspired with Ehud the Benjamite. Through planning, preparation, and a willingness to risk it all, Ehud delivered an entire nation because he approached obstacles with the highest level of skill and determination to do whatever it takes to serve God and bring redemption to his people. As a result of his willingness to escape through the sewer, God used him to break the bondage of their oppressors.
In light of perseverance and determination, next on the Guild agenda was Joni Eareckson Tada! This was no doubt another one of God’s divine designs and perfect timing. Joni spoke to our group on the merits of suffering slowly. Her joy was contagious. And her understanding of God’s truth about suffering simply blew us away! There wasn’t a dry eye in the packed auditorium. As Joni shared how suffering made room for God in us, she sang one of her favorite hymns, “Man of Sorrows”:
“Man of Sorrows,” what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
After singing in pure Joni style, she invited us to join in. In beautiful four-part harmony, even the angels must have peeked in to see what was stirring. It was a “burning bush” experience, and we all knew it. God had chosen his faithful servant to lead us into the most intimate moments of worship, relationship, and knowledge of God. How could anyone be the same after this?
That evening we watched the Free Burma Rangers film. I was spiritually numb. All I can say is that you must watch this. Our trifling stresses and discomforts are nothing when we consider what others are facing as they serve our Savior. This is a must-see for anyone who desires to radically serve Jesus and others. You can easily find it online under Free Burma Rangers film. I believe it won many awards. After the film, I wondered if I should ask for students to respond to what they just witnessed. I didn’t need to—students were already in tears, forming prayer groups, and crying out to God. What a Guild, what a Savior!
By the end of the week we were exhausted, but it didn’t matter—we had met with God in a special way. Truly, we had experienced the fulfillment of the Guild’s mission: a renaissance of creative excellence that inspires us to know God intimately, proclaim Him passionately, and enjoy Him infinitely!
To view culinary, photography, horticulture, and a glimpse of our entire week, click here.
If you attended the Guild, I hope these highlights will encourage you and compel you to become partners in His divine nature, adding to your faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If you would like to take what you learned to the next level, our advanced internship will begin in September.
If you are interested in studying biblical theology, business leadership, and more of the arts, please contact Sarah@lamplighter.net.
Blessings to you all. It was a privilege to serve you at the Lamplighter Guild!
I hope to see you again some day.
Dr. Mark Hamby