By Holly McCray
At the base of the forest trail that rises to the large cross at Camp Egan, Jesus relaxes on a park bench. There’s room for you to sit with him.
"Come to Me" is the name of this life-size, bronze representation of the Savior, dedicated March 8 at the camp near Tahlequah. It is a gift from Tom and Barbara Naugle of Tulsa and artist Stephen LeBlanc.
"What touches me is that Jesus is relaxed," said Camps Director Randy McGuire, viewing the sculpture. "Our goal at Camps is for campers to get away from the hubbub going on in the world, find a place to relax, and find Jesus.
"I think this Jesus is the picture we want our campers to go home with: a Jesus that I can sit with, that I can talk to."
Senior Pastor Bob Feist of Tulsa-Christ UMC led the dedication ceremony. He read Matthew 11:28-30 ("so very fitting for what this statue represents") and Mark 10:13-16.
Men of Christ UMC were at Egan for their seventh annual retreat there. Among them was Tom Naugle.
Naugle said he began attending Christ Church more than a dozen years ago when a stepson invited him to a Sunday evening program there. He volunteers for Upward Basketball, Meals on Wheels, and Tulsa-St. Luke’s Redemption UMC meals.
However, he insisted, "I’m a behind-the-scenes guy." He offered as an example picking up chairs after the basketball games.
Originally from Garber, Naugle earned degrees in chemical engineering and business administration. Most of his work career has been in management and has included international assignments.
Today he describes himself as "mostly retired. I’m through being a general; I want to be a private."
At NatureWorks, a Tulsa art show, Naugle first saw a miniature of the sculpture now installed at Camp Egan and met artist Le- Blanc, of Colorado (www.leblancsculptures.com). "Have You Talked With Me Today" was the title of the desktop piece.
The artist told him about a life-size version in a church. LeBlanc had learned that children run to it after Sunday School and declare, "Jesus, look what I painted today!"
The Naugles and LeBlanc collaborated to place one of the life-size statues at Tulsa Boys’ Ranch.
Last year, Naugle met Camp Egan Director Josh Pulver through Rev. Feist, during the Christ Church men’s retreat.
Naugle wondered if the sculpture would be meaningful for campers.
"I started to have a feeling about this camp," Naugle said. "I thought Jesus on the bench would be a good thing to have out here."
The Naugles’ deep love for children and youths and passion for helping them "is very apparent through everything that they do," said Pulver. "We are very thankful they allow God to work through them to bless so many people."
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