By Stephanie Jenkins
“The term “Ashram” throws people. It is eastern in origin and a word E. Stanley Jones felt mostembodied his vision for teaching the love and word of Jesus to those in all stages of Christian faith.Essentially, it means“religious retreat.”
The Texas Christian Ashram has been my home for 35 years. For one week every summer, I reunite with this wonderful group. At the end of every year, some will share what they gained during their week at the TCA. The one word that seemedto be in everyone’s testimony was “JOY!
In a world where things are uncertain and scary, this camp gives us all a place to feel welcome, unjudged, and joyous. I’ve napped when I needed, prayed when I needed, shared when I needed, learned when I needed. I soaked in the babies, elementary kiddos, and older youth learning about Jesus and feeling his presence in a way that speaks to them. I watched them do crafts and play games and make lifelong friends (just like I did). I listened to adults of all ages discuss and pray, all with one goal: to know the love of Christ.
This place is the Kingdom of God in miniature. Without a doubt, this is the hardest day of the year. Knowing I need to return to “life,” knowing I’m going to spend the next year desperately seeking the community I have with my Ashram family.
Over the past 7 years, I have watched my oldest daughter, and then now my youngest, find the same home. Find “their people.” I spent yesterday comforting them when they struggled to understand why we couldn’t stay. And today, I’ve listened to both my girls sing praise songs non-stop, and play “Ashram” with their Barbies, and talk about the Bible stories they learned, share their crafts with me, and want to look at pictures to reminisce.
On the last day, I overheard someone who was attending for their first year say something that I’ve heard from most people who attend their first time: “My friend has been asking me to come for X years. What took me so long?”