July 25, 2007


This is the week that Peniel camp is being held in Conneautville, Pennsylvania. If you have read my previous entries, you will remember that this is the camp that Jeff talked so much about last summer. My brother, Tommy, posted an entry about the service that was recorded for Jeff last year. In that service, the congregation sent their best wishes and prayers to Jeff since he was unable to attend. My family began attending camp in the early 1970's, and has just become a part of our summer each year. It becomes more and more difficult to make it up to spend the night, but my mom, Olivia, and I have made it a tradition the last few years to go on the first day. The camp is over a hundred years old, but I never get tired of going. There is something about making the drive out, and turning into the gates, and going down that gravel road. Familiar faces look to see who has just pulled in. This is usually the only time we see each other throughout the year. It's like a second family and camp is our holiday.

This past Tuesday, a Memorial Service was held in remembrance of those who passed away in the last year. The tabernacle, made of wood antique pews, has definitely seen it's share of the years. This year, it looked a bit more renovated, holding its own with a new roof and a fresh coat of paint. (go to www.penielholinesscamp.com to see pictures and read more). The floor still creaks in the same places, and it still has the same familiar odor. I had been anticipating this particular day with a bit of apprehension. I still have such a hard time saying Jeff's name out loud. I haven't been able to go back to the cemetery since the day he was laid to rest there. Seeing the tree planted at Sunny Lake has been hard enough for me. Jeff had so many friends and memories from camp, just like the rest of my family does. I sat down in my seat, waiting for the service to start. As soon as the music began, I had to bite my lip to stop it from quivering. There hasn't been a day gone by that I have not had to fight the tears... most days I do not fight them. I still hold onto the fact that Satan will never steal my joy because if he does, it will mean he has won. But I am human, and the hurt the events of the last year are real. I try as much as possible to keep my tears between me and God, letting him help me work things out. Monday night, I sat down to write down what would be read at the Memorial Service. This is what came out:


2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing..

Jeffrey Alan Rhinehart passed away on September 30, 2006 at the age of 35. Diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2004, Jeff lived the last two years of his life with amazing faith. He was born on December 15, 1970 in Ravenna, Ohio to Charles and Marie Rhinehart, and was the oldest of their four children. He grew up in Streetsboro and was saved at the age of 7. He graduated second in his class from Streetsboro High School in 1988. He also graduated from Malone College in 1994, and married his wife Gwen later that same year. Jeff was a member of the Southeast Nazarene Church where he stayed involved teaching Sunday School and participated in the choir as well as performing solos. He had been a 6th grade teacher at Valley Christian Academy for 10 years, and a teacher for the Ohio Virtual Academy for 3 years. He was involved with coaching intramural sports and many of his students remember him by his Bible classes and the way he lived out what he taught.

Jeff attended Peniel camp as a young child and spent his first year on the youth plan in 1983 and continued every year after. Even throughout last summer, Jeff was still making us laugh from telling stories of all the memories he had at camp over the years.

Jeff is survived by his wife Gwen, their three children Kaylee, who is 11, Josh, who is 10, and Nathan, who is 8, His parents, Chuck and Marie, his brother Brian, his brother Tom and his wife Jenn, and their daughters Olivia and Emily, his sister Amy and her husband Mike. Tom and Jenn’s daughter Emily was born on what would have been Jeff’s 36th birthday just 2 ˝ months after he passed away.

It has been said that “all men die but not all men live“. Jeff was a man who truly modeled the way he lived after Jesus. He loved to run and the race talked about in 2 Timothy was no exception. He was still running when he crossed the finish line on September 30. Jeff loved his family and his Savior, Jesus Christ, more than anything. He will be missed by many.

Jeff's tribute was the second of four to be read. By now, the tears were rolling down my face. It is such an odd thing to hear about Jeff talked about in past tense. So many people spoke about the impact Jeff had on them and other family members. His smile was mentioned. His gentle spirit. His wisdom. How kind he was. His love for his family. His love for Jesus. I was so thankful that God gave those individuals strength to stand up and share their memories. I am not that strong. Later that afternoon, my mom and I were talking to a friend about Jeff's singing ability. She mentioned not ever knowing Jeff could sing until hearing him perform "I Can Only Imagine" at a funeral a few years prior. I had made reference to this in one of my entries as well. We have cassette tapes from when we were little with all of us singing Bible songs, and Jeff is loud and clear on those.  But the first time I heard Jeff really sing was on a video tape from graduation of the first 6th grade class he taught at Valley Christian Academy back in 1995. I will never forget that performance. I watched  it over and over. He sang "When You Are a Soldier" by Steven Curtis Chapman. I listened to that song when I got home from camp last night for the first time, probably since 1995. I just closed my eyes, and imagined when Jeff sang it. After reading through some of Jeff's journals, I can understand a little better the passion he had for his students. He would write about how much he cared, and how much he wanted God to help him impact their lives. Jeff was only 23 when he started teaching. He had such a passion so early on. I wanted to post the lyrics to the song he performed for his students. The words, although I am sure Jeff did not know it at the time, would be very fitting for the last two years of his life.

When You Are a Soldier by Steven Curtis Chapman

When you are a soldier I will be your shield
I will go with you into the battlefield
And when the arrows start to fly
Take my hand and hold on tight
I will be your shield, 'cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier

When you're tired from running
I will cheer you on
Look beside you and you'll see you're not alone
And when your strength is all but gone
I'll carry you until you're strong
And I will be your shield 'cause I know how it feels
When you're a soldier

I will be the one you can cry your songs to
My eyes will share your tears
And I'll be your friend if you win
Or if you're defeated
Whenever you need me I will be here

When you're lost in darkness I will hold the light
I will help you find your way through the night
I'll remind you of the truth
And keep the flame alive in you
And I will be your shield
'Cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier

Jeff fought like a true soldier. I can't explain it any other way other than that Jesus was there to hold his hand, cheer him on, carry him, be a friend, help him find his way, and keep the Flame alive in him. God shielded Jeff. He was the best defense Jeff had.

My heart has been very unsettled lately with where God wants to use me. I know He wants to use me... I cannot think of another reason why He would keep me here. His timing is perfect, and I am waiting to answer His call. I continue to pray that I will be able to use my life to help someone who needs it.

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