One of my favorite places to worship is at Camp Suwannee in Dowling Park, Florida. This beautiful campground is situated on the Suwannee River in North Florida and is adorned with huge cypress, oak, pine and plenty of Spanish moss. But what makes this place so special is a retreat weekend that is held there twice a year, called North Florida Tres Dias.
I made a Tres Dias weekend in October 1989 and have served on several weekends since…all of them at Camp Suwannee. The campground has several buildings, including a large gymnasium with windows across the back wall that allow a majestic view of the river’s meandering black water. At that end of the gym sits our makeshift chapel.
Imagine evening chapels at sunset, moss-draped live oaks silhouetted against an orange and purple sky, vibrant colors bouncing off the ripples in the river bend. It’s more beautiful than any painting.
In this surreal setting, 150 men gather to offer scripted and unscripted prayers, to meditate, to sing hymns and spiritual songs and to simply spend time with God. Miles away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, we’re offered this special place in which to worship our Creator.
Not only does the beautiful, natural setting inspire worship, but the almost tangible presence of God does so even more. We can thank the prayers of many saints for that. During a Tres Dias weekend, people of faith from all over the world are lifting up prayers on our behalf. Many men and women from our own community, mostly North Florida and South Georgia, plus others from far away lands, like Brisbane (Australia) and Florence (Italy) and points in-between. I believe that the massive amounts of prayer coupled with the spirit of service among the men present are what truly usher in God’s presence on the weekend.
Sadly, very few “houses of worship” I’ve attended had this same atmosphere. It just goes to show that you can “have church” anywhere that you have a gathering of faith-filled people, but the natural ambience, the prayers of the saints and the right attitude also help a lot.
To find out if there is a Tres Dias community in your area, visit www.tresdias.org.