Hot, tired, and not a little disheartened, I needed escape from the relentless, 100-degree weather in Phoenix, but with children in college, money was scarce.
"We've got to go somewhere," I finally said to my wife. "A vacation at home is not an option for a pastor."
An understanding smile played on Edna's lips. "Remember that lady in your congregation whose daughter is an Adventist? She told me that we could rent a cabin for $50 a week at the Adventist camp meeting near Prescott."
I was beyond trifling concerns. "I really don't care where we go," I told her.
"Just so the place is cool and inexpensive and has no phones."
A few days later we packed the car, and my wife, daughter Debbie, and I headed for Prescott, Arizona, with visions of relaxing, sleeping late, and en joying the cool weather. When we checked in, we were given a schedule of the coming meetings. I looked through the list. As a Lutheran pastor, I was curious about what Seventh-day Adventists were doing.
Responding to friendly invitations, we joined the group the following morning. We were so impressed that we ended up attending all the meetings! We particularly enjoyed the series of health presentations by Dr. Hans Diehl, from Loma Linda, California. At the first session he invited us to meet him at 5:30 the next morning for a two-mile walk. We were there, along with about 100 other campers.
And so it went. Instead of sleeping late, we joined the early-morning hikes. The rental money we saved on our cabin went to buy new books and health foods. A heat wave brought uncomfortable warmth to our cabin in the afternoons. An emergency developed requiring at least 10 phone calls to Phoenix.
But the week we spent in Prescott has changed our lives. We eat less meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products. My weight is down 25 pounds. My dangerously high cholesterol level of 300 is now to 232, and dropping. I have continued the exercise program I started at camp meeting, walking two miles every morning with my dog. My wife prepares warm, seven-grain cereal each morning for breakfast, and we love it. I feel I have more energy and can even go without a nap on Sunday afternoons, following a Bible class and two services in the morning. And all my clothes fit!
At his last session Dr. Diehl asked the group how many ministers were present who had joined the early-morning walks. My hand shot up.
"Yours is the only hand raised!" said Dr. Diehl. " Would you mind standing up and telling us who you are?"
"I'm Reverend Ronald Blau, from Phoenix," I told them. It seemed that every eye was suddenly focused on me. But the faces were smiling, and people crowded in to welcome me.
I learned later that Adventists do not use the term Reverend for their pastors. My doing so instantly labeled me a visitor. To my knowledge, my family and I were the only non-Adventists attending this camp meeting of more than 500 people.
I still have a way to go. A pastor is surrounded by temptations in the form of travel, dinner meetings, potlucks, home visits with refreshments, and extensive entertaining. But when I do go over the line, I always get back to my healthful ways as soon as possible.
I thank the Lord for the week we spent in Prescott, for the wonderful people we met, and for the worship and Bible studies. I am especially appreciative of the health knowledge that has not only made our lives more enjoyable in the present but will also extend them on this earth.