Madonna House

We Were Cana Kids

by the Shingledeckers, Mara, Ruth, John, Rose, Ross, and Elanor

These brothers and sisters were all together recently and, having read our request for Cana Colony memories, they started reminiscing.

Weeks of packing and strange phone calls. Why are there so many problems with getting ready?

It’s a long, long, long car ride—even when the car doesn’t break down. Arriving in one piece is a blessing.

We lounge in Adirondack chairs. We memorize the names and ages of the kids in the families that are coming.

We anxiously wait for them to arrive. Let’s pray that none of them are early risers. Which family will bring the gift of music?

Bare feet hurt on the gravel path as we walk to the lake. The water chills us as we swim to the slimy rocks and dive from the cross-marked cliff.

We have fishing stories: a giant bass, a favorite lure. The rowboat tips and it’s, “Man overboard!”

Is it time to climb the mountain yet?

Weeklong rain and countless games of Uno. Endlessly crying babies and sand-filled diapers. One night we washed every last dish in the back cook shack.

Campfires, marshmallows, a heaven of stars.

Total darkness lit by the soft glow of a lantern.

First impressions change in one short week. The talent show, the potluck supper, decorating signs for next week’s group. The last-day photos seem to take hours. It’s hard to say good-bye.


Our parents went to Cana 21 times, many of them as a host couple, over a 28-year span. There were only two of us kids the first time, and each of us attended a different number of weeks. As you can imagine, Cana was a big part of our lives. Even today, the sight of an A-frame church or the smell of mosquito repellent takes us back.

So here we are, years later, all of us together, fondly remembering the fun and friendships.

And still we wonder: what on earth did our parents discuss at those “secret” afternoon meetings?