Herb Bloomquist was in good spirits the morning of March 8, 2015. As the executive director of Shamineau Ministries, which runs a Christian camp and outfitter ministry with two locations in Minnesota, he was used to feeling tired on the tail end of a retreat. This Sunday, he thought, would be no different from any other. After a hot brunch with a group of hungry guys, the men would all pile into a bus and head home, spiritually refreshed.
He reached for a platter of eggs and slumped toward the buffet table. He was having a heart attack. Two men standing nearby caught him before he face-planted on the table. The camp, located in the middle of Minnesota on a lake, was far from any major hospital, so a few staff members fully trained as EMTs started doing CPR right away. The other men, shocked by what they were witnessing, circled up into prayer groups.
Herb's brother had died from a heart attack just six months earlier; and his close friend, a retired fireman, was one of the first to respond when Herb was having one as well. Another man, a board member for the camp who was also on hand, called for the ambulance. Program director Jeff Cueva and facilities director Kyle Strickland administered CPR and rescue breathing. Herb was out cold, and he stayed that way for two days straight.
He was airlifted to a hospital, and when he finally regained consciousness — after multiple surgeries repairing most of his broken ribs — he looked up to see his former pastor and three camp interns smiling at him. I asked Herb to explain what this was like. "You need to understand that these guys are spiritual giants; and physically, they're mountains," he told me. "They would be an intimidating group in any crowd, and I remember waking up and seeing them and thinking, I am safe. Knowing the spiritual authority of these guys, I thought, "There's not a demon for miles and miles around this hospital that would dare approach this place."
Herb recovered slowly. Eventually, his wife started a Caring Bridge site for people to express their thoughts. At last count, it had recorded 25,610 visits and hundreds of comments. One local business owner found out that Herb and his wife, Debbie, liked M&Ms and gave them a six-month supply. When Herb returned to work (after a six-month recovery), his staff rallied around him, asking him constantly if he needed help and offering to fill in for him around the camp. "I'm humbled to say that they love me and that this impacted them. For a while, they thought a family member (me) was being taken from them. I have inadvertently scared them several times since," he recalled from the incident. "If I'm down on my hands and knees weeding a garden or scrubbing a toilet and they happen upon me, they panic and come running thinking I've collapsed from another heart attack. It's funny now; but the first few times I really did see panic in their eyes, and it moves me that they love me. I do not think I deserve it."
Herb now thinks he has a form of spiritual amnesia regarding the incident. All he knows is that the community at the camp — the EMTs on staff, the men at the retreat, the interns and local pastors, even people like me who knew him only as the boss for my own kids who have served as counselors there — were praying for him and supporting him through the entire ordeal.
To me, that's a community with lifeblood flowing through it. It's one reason I wrote part of this book at Camp Shamineau in the dead of winter on an island by myself. It's one reason I still visit the camp on occasion with the middle school youth group at my church. All my kids have served at the camp and have made lifelong friends there. (My oldest daughter met her husband there.) When a Christian community thrives, there is nothing quite like it.
You can imagine the support Herb received when those men caught him near the buffet line and then when others spoke prayers on his behalf. Most of us don't like to be carried. We want to be self-sufficient. Yet our pride only takes us so far. Lifeblood in community means we don't rely on our own faculties. We rely on a group of believers, similar to what we experience at church but with a wider net. Many of the Camp Shamineau staff are trained as EMTs, not because they like the high-tech walkie-talkies and free helicopter rides that go with the role but because they want to be tied closely to the local community around them. It's an intentional act.
Communities form when multiple people have the same vision and goals, and this is always God ordained — even when unbelievers are involved. As humans, we are a glimmer of the eternal. We are designed for connection with one another. When Christians become part of a community, we demonstrate what God wants to accomplish through us on this planet and what He has already accomplished through the Trinity, a spiritual union unlike any other. We might call it a spiritual geography. This is one reason the idea of a hometown exists, a place where we belong and feel closely connected to others. Lifeblood is, in the same way, the spiritual link that forms between believers.
Book excerpt is copyright 2018 by John Brandon. To read more, click here.
John Brandon is a well-known reporter and columnist for Inc. magazine, Fox News Network, Christianity Today, Relevant magazine, and many others. For 10 years, he worked as a corporate manager in the Information Technology field. After 9/11, John's employer (who became nervous about the world economy) fired him. At the advice of his wife, he became a writer and has since published over 12,000 articles in 17 years. Over 10 million people have read his thought-pieces on leadership, productivity, mentoring and technology for Inc.com. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Rebecca, and has four children, two sons-in-law and three grandchildren.
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