About the Book
Join Jeff, Chang, and their friends from The Boy’s Den for this third Bible Camp Mystery, Disaster on the River. Teens Jeff and Chang become separated from their friends while canoeing in a rainstorm in the Central Florida backwoods. They must cross a large island on an old, snake-infested trail to catch up to the others. The boys’ faith — and survival skills — are tested when a bobcat steals dinner, and the food runs out…
Excerpted from Disaster on the River, Bible Camp Mystery #3, by Cheryl Rogers
Chapter 1: Summer Storm
Jeff eyed the raindrops falling gently from the sky. He’d finally made it to the Central Florida backwoods for an overnight canoe adventure with his friends – and then this had to happen. He looked at the gray sky, wondering what God had in mind for this third Bible Camp.
Fifteen-year-old Jeff was having a hard time focusing on their canoe instructor, Mr. Dennis, a man in his forties from the area’s camping/canoeing consulting firm, Wilderness Adventures. Jeff had been canoeing many times already and was far too excited to focus on anything anyway.
“I assure you a little bit of rain won’t spoil our fun,” Mr. Dennis, told the group of 12- to 16-year-old boys from The Boy’s Den, a youth fellowship of Living Water Community Church. Turning to his youthful assistant, 19-year-old Will, he added, “What’s the weather report like?”
Jeff’s eyes fell on Chet Harrigan, their 31-year-old youth pastor, who was obviously miffed and struggling to keep silent. Jeff almost laughed out loud. No doubt pastor, who was a New York gang leader before he came to know Christ, was remembering how Will got lost on their Bible Camp last year. And who could forget that disastrous hut Will built them? His buddy, 15-year-old Zack, could have done better. He built his own hut in the backwoods two years ago when he got lost.
“Uh, I did a quick check, like I always do,” stammered Will, who frequently volunteered with Wilderness Adventures and loved tagging along with The Boy’s Den. “I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
I’ll bet. Jeff covered his mouth to mask his merriment.
“I consulted the divine weatherman and we are definitely on for this weekend,” interjected Pastor Chet, eliciting a few laughs. “I expect it will clear up soon.”
“All right, then,” Mr. Dennis continued, clearing his throat. “I’ll remind you of the safety rules we studied and then we’ll be off.”
Jeff eyed the eight canoes lining the Crooked River running through the Timucua Forest. He sure was glad he was paired with his 15-year-old buddy, Chang. He wished Zack could join them, but there were only two guys per canoe. Zack got stuck with Pastor Chet, on account of his being a Junior Safety Coordinator. They were supposed to be the last canoe in the group and make sure everyone was okay. In any event, Zack would probably have it easy because pastor was strong and probably didn’t need much help with the paddling.
Zack became Safety Coordinator after he learned what not to do two years ago, when he got lost. He wandered for 30 hours before they found him on the river. Jeff was surprised Zack even wanted to camp again, but he would never tell Zack that. To have Zack’s mom and dad let him return to a Bible Camp was a miracle in itself. Jeff’s parents had their doubts. So did Chang’s.
He tuned his attention to Mr. Dennis as he was finishing his presentation.
“No clowning around. No standing in the boat. You know the drill,” Mr. Dennis was saying.
“Stay close together. Keep the pace,” Pastor Chet added. “We have Mr. Dennis in the front of the group to lead us, and Jeff will be in the second to last boat – if you need to ask his advice. As you know, Jeff’s our most experienced canoer, except for Mr. Dennis, of course.”
“I sure am glad I’m with you. I’ll probably be asking questions the whole time,” Chang grinned.
“Glad to help,” Jeff murmured.
It was the least he could do. After all, he’d gotten them all into this. Not that it was a bad thing. He expected them to have a great time, and learn quite a bit about the outdoors too. But Jeff had been pretty insistent that the group go on a canoe adventure. It was a whole lot more fun than hiking, and swatting those pesky no-see-ums that bit any uncovered skin. Those nasty critters stung!
As the boys packed gear into their canoes, the assistant youth pastor, Gary, a medium-built man with red hair in his mid-20s, was visiting each group to make sure everyone was where they should be.
“Hi, Jeff,” Gary began, checking his master list. “I see you are with Chang. Any questions?”
“No. Not right now,” Jeff said.
“I’m sure I’ll have plenty,” Chang replied amiably. “Thanks for putting me with Jeff.”
“No problem,” Gary replied.
Jeff felt sorry for Brad. He was paired with Gary. Not that Gary was bad guy, but he was an adult. Brad’s mom wouldn’t let him come unless he got paired with an adult. Of course there was a reason. There usually was. Brad bolted from the canoe trail last year and there wasn’t anything his hiking buddy, Chang, could do about it. Sometimes Chang was just too nice.
Twelve-year-old Alfonso got paired with Mr. Dennis. Guess he was lucky to come too; his mom wouldn’t let him come last year because of what happened to Zack. She figured he was old enough now – as long as he had expert supervision.
Sixteen-year-old Danny, another veteran of the first retreat, was in the canoe in front of them with a newbie, Drew, who was 15. The guys really didn’t know him too well because he just started attending The Boy’s Den earlier in the year. Jeff was really glad Danny wasn’t assigned any cooking chores, because he didn’t like to cook any more than his brother Bill. Bill talked the guys into eating raw hotdogs two years ago and that was a painful memory. Nearly half of the guys got food poisoning, including Jeff. And Danny. And Pastor Chet. Somehow Zack escaped. Guess he had enough trouble being in the woods by himself.
Fourteen-year-old Peter strolled over to Jeff. “Hey man, are you excited yet? I can hardly wait.”
“Yeah. Except for the rain,” Jeff replied.
“Well, that won’t last forever,” Peter said. “I’m just sorry my Uncle Carlos didn’t come this year.”
“Yeah, me too,” Jeff agreed.
Peter’s uncle, of Cuban descent, actually liked to cook. He roasted some pretty delicious chicken on their retreat last year. When he went to buy some charcoal, he ran out of gasoline. He spent hours trying to find a gas station. After all that hassle, he decided to skip Bible Camp this year. Peter told him Carlos was embarrassed. What was there to be embarrassed about? Everyone was getting lost anyway. At least he knew Pastor Chet would keep trying to recruit him. He knew Pastor Chet wanted him to do a Cuban-style pork roast.
“Peter, get over to your canoe. They’re starting to leave. You and Greg need to shove off right after Sammy and Will,” Pastor Chet said.
“Sure thing, pastor,” Peter said, rushing off.
“This is great!” Zack told Jeff, as they waited for their turn to leave. “I’m so glad you talked them into this.”
“I wanted to,” Pastor Chet remarked. “There was just always something more pressing.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jeff conceded. “Like Brad and Chang getting lost last year.”
“Except we weren’t lost,” Chang corrected him. “We knew where we were the whole time.”
“Yeah, you just weren’t where you were supposed to be,” Pastor Chet quipped.
He cut off the conversation abruptly. “Okay, you’re off, Jeff and Chang.”
“See you later!” Zack exclaimed before walking to his canoe.
Jeff pushed the front of the canoe through the wet sand and into the water. After Chang hopped into the front seat, Jeff shoved the boat the rest of the way into the river and took his seat in the back, where he could steer.
It took a couple of minutes for the boys to paddle together consistently, but soon they were making steady progress. It was just in time. Jeff felt the wind against his face. The raindrops were falling faster and harder. Lightning crackled on the horizon. Gee. Was a summer canoe trip a good idea after all?
About the Author
Swayed by her love of mysteries as a child, Cheryl Rogers decided to become a writer. After working for many years as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer, her Bible Camp Mysteries series has taken her back to her first love. She enjoys sharing her faith in the mystery/adventure stories involving the Central Florida backwoods and its snakes, gators, and other critters. Rogers publishes the New Christian Books Online Magazine and offers mentoring to new writers at the Mentor Me Career Network.
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