Dear Friends through Christ:
Sixty-five years ago, at the age of two months, I made my very first journey to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In 1956, Myrtle Beach was a dot on the map, with a population of 10,000. Today, she has a population of 400,000 and provides memories to over 20,000,000 vacationers annually. Wow! What happened to Myrtle Beach?
My father, Rev. Floyd Columbus Trexler, passed his love for the ocean directly to his son at an early age. Every single year for the first eighteen of my life, the Trexler clan packed their bags on top of the car, piled in with four kids, whatever dogs, drove from wherever we happened to live, and went camping at the Ponderosa Campground in Myrtle Beach, for the entire month of July. (July was a slow time for the church even back then.) Mom and dad in one tent, my two sisters in another, and then me and my little brother. From the time I can remember—ages eight to eighteen—I would be up bright and early with my dad. Basically, every day for a month, we would venture into the back waters, netting tons of shrimp. Then spending the rest of day at one of the most beautiful sites in God’s good creation, the point where the inlet meets the ocean, catching fish after fish. You name it, we caught it. My job after a full day of fishing was to scale all those fish. Dad would carefully filet every single one of them. Later that evening, my mom would fry up a mess of fish, basically for anybody in the whole campground, until they were gone. Over time, dad became known as the Mayor of Ponderosa Campground, at least for the month of July.
These are some of my fondest memories. It was like, “Heaven on Earth.”
Every year, for the past sixty-five years, I have returned to Myrtle Beach with my ever changing family for that same pilgrimage and much needed vacation, putting aside all the worries and cares and spending quality time with those who matter most—at least for a week.
Yet this beautiful virgin beach from 1956 is not the same. For starters it is no longer a campground, but a beautiful eighteen story luxury resort, surrounded by homes, starting at prices I can only dream about. Much of the marsh land my dad and I explored are now some of the most unique shopping and dining experiences, actually built on stilts, sitting right on top of what used to be our endless supply of free bait. Sure it’s not the same.
But even today, when I go to the point where the inlet meets the ocean, when I stand in the same spot my mother held me as a newborn, stand in the same spot I fished for hours with my dad, and I look out on what is still one of the most beautiful sites in God’s good creation, my Lord and Savior creates new fond memories, and once again it is like, “Heaven on Earth.”
While I am a firm believer that everybody needs at least one good vacation each year, I am even more passionate about setting aside one day of rest each and every week, a mini-vacation, where we put aside all the worries and cares, spending quality time with those who matter most, God and family. This one day a week, reflecting on the beauty of God’s good creation, returning to the point of the Cross, through Word and Sacrament, gives me the comfort and strength to continue my journey, with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face, regardless of the circumstances.
Sure the church has changed and she is not the same since the pandemic, but I’m not too worried about her future, because sooner or later people will return. We as a human race can take only so much before we need a vacation, a break.
What better place to be refreshed than to stand in the exact place where your Creator held you in His arms and named you as a child in the waters of baptism? What better place to spend time with your Heavenly Dad, looking out on what is still a good creation, with new fond memories created? What better place to explore and get a weekly glimpse of “Heaven on Earth?”
People will eventually return to church, because she is still one of the most beautiful sites in the world, a place where God and humanity meet. In the meantime, let’s return to the initial question of “What happened to Myrtle Beach?” And folks, it is so very simple. Myrtle Beach offered a wonderful place to take a break from the rat race of life. Then people, just like myself, took those beautiful memories and shared them with others, and that dot on the map became one of the nation’s top vacation resorts.
And you know what? We can do the same right here at Peace Lutheran, because everybody needs a vacation, eventually.
In Christian Love,
Pastor David Trexler