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Do what’s right, even when it hurts

Twenty-five years ago this past summer, my then-fiancee’ and I traveled with her parents, siblings and another friend to “The Great White North.”

We started out in Petal, just outside Hattiesburg, and drove in a large van and an RV. We headed west, then north, traveling across several states before crossing into Canada and then the Yukon on our way to Alaska.

Yes, we drove. For 10 days, taking our time, stopping wherever we wanted, on our way to visit old friends of my future in-laws in and near Anchorage, where they had once lived.

I remember lots of moments from this six-week long excursion — like how to get along with your future wife and in-laws in cramped mobile spaces — but what came to mind Tuesday night was just how bitterly cold parts of the trip were. As I walked briskly from my car to my front door in the cold wind, noticing the wrapped outdoor spigot and the broken ice by the sidewalk, I remembered the coldest shower I ever took.

I use the term “shower” loosely. It was more of a quick sponge bath with a half-frozen cloth and a brick that supposedly had been a bar of soap at one time, taken while standing on cold concrete in a campground’s public restroom. We took turns using the amenities — all eight of us — and then shivered our way across the open circle of turf in the middle of the campground to the old metal hand pump in the center, that produced the coldest water you’d ever want to drink after a day of crawling through the desert heat.

We borrowed a medium-sized bucket. You see where this is going, don’t you?

We filled said bucket with water from the pump and counted down “3 … 2 …” before pouring down the wrath of the ice gods upon the head of whoever was next in line to wash their hair. A shaking, gasping few moments later after attempting some sort of shampooing, a second couple of gallons rained down their fury.

I remember it clearly.

Why didn’t we wait until we were at another campsite that had real showers and heated water? Because we’d already been driving for three days looking for one. If you haven’t driven through the Yukon, you may be surprised how many hundreds of miles are uninhabited along the Alaska-Canada Highway.

It’s one of several reasons that you can purchase memorabilia in Tok, Alaska (the first town you get to if you’re driving in) that say “I survived the AL-CAN Highway.”

We did what had to be done in order to get the results we needed. Air fresheners only go so far.

As this memory flooded through my mind yesterday, my thoughts skipped along to a friend of mine who was fired earlier in the day by the church that recently hired him as their new pastor. He had filled in a couple of times for them, and they asked him to come on board full-time. He agreed and began serving there about two months ago.

The church members as a whole had a strong belief that only one English translation of the Bible was “authorized” by God for modern use. My friend George did not agree, and felt very strongly that God was telling him to gently but firmly preach against that error of belief. After a lot of preparation and prayer, George delivered that sermon this past Sunday morning. He had asked many friends for prayer beforehand, and for continued prayers afterward.

Tuesday morning he received a phone call telling him his services were no longer needed at the church. He was not surprised, but he was hurt. Those of us who had been praying for him reassured him that he did what he felt God told him to do, regardless of how much it might hurt or how inconvenient it might be.

Sometimes doing what is right can be like taking a bucket full of cold water over your head as you stand half-dressed in flip-flops on frozen tundra in a star-lit campground. Even though you know it might hurt, you rinse out what doesn’t need to stay, and move on, knowing you did what had to be done. You can only cover the smell so long.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.